Loevinger's Ego Development

Brief Background

Jane Loevinger was a developmental psychologist who is most well known for developing the Theory of Ego Development. She was born on February 6, 1918 and died on January 4th, 2008. She earned her MA at the University of Minnesota and PhD at the University of California, Berkeley where one of her professors was Erik Erikson. She spent most of her career teaching at the University of Washington.

The 9 Stages of Ego Development

- describes ego as a process rather than thing

- the conformist, self-aware, and conscientious stages—are the most common for adults

1st Stage: Pre-Social Stage/Symbiotic Stage

- Infancy

- Focused on gratifying immediate needs.

- Attached to the primary caregiver (usually mother)

- Loevinger believes infants in their earliest state cannot have an ego because their thinking is autistic or delusional

- The Symbiotic stage is where the infant’s ego begins to develop. Grasps the idea of objects and relationship towards caregiver.

2nd Stage: Impulsive Stage

- Toddlers

- Ego continues to be focused on bodily feelings, basic impulses, and immediate needs

- They are too immersed in the moment and in their own needs to think or care much about others

- If something or someone meets their needs, it is good; if something or someone frustrates their needs, it is bad.

- Thinking is very simplistic and dichotomous.

3rd Stage: Self - Protective Stage

- Early and middle childhood

- More cognitively sophisticated

- Tend to be exploitative, manipulative, and opportunistic

- Blaming others when anything goes wrong “don’t get caught”

4th Stage: Conformist Stage

- Five or six years of age

- Invested in belonging to and obtaining the approval of important reference groups, such as peer groups

- They tend to view the world in simple, conventional, rule-bound and moralistic ways. What is right and wrong is clear to them—namely, what their group thinks is right or wrong

- Shame peaks because they are so concerned about approval from their group; consequently, the threat of shame is a powerful tool that groups can use to control individuals at this stage.

- On the other hand, as long as their place in the group is not threatened, conformist egos are quite happy

5th Stage: Self-aware

- Adults

- The begin to wander “what do I think” as opposed to “what my parents and peers think about”

- They are appreciating themselves and others as unique

- Creates tension between the “real me” and the “expected me”, which can lead to increased conflicts with family and peers

6th Stage: Conscientious

- Tendency towards self-evaluation and self-criticism continues

- Ego values responsibility, achievement and the pursuit of high ideals and long-term goals

- Violating one’s standards induces guilt

- Experiences one’s own feelings and motives in more accurate and differentiated ways and expresses them in more unique and personal terms

7th Stage: Individualistic

- Relationships tend to be more valued even more

- Heightened sense of individuality and self-understanding can lead to vivid and unique ways of expressing the self

8th Stage: Autonomous

- The autonomous ego cherishes individuality and uniqueness and self-actualization

- Relationships are appreciated as an interdependent system of mutual support

- Both inner conflicts and conflicts between people—are appreciated as inevitable expressions of the fluid and multifaceted nature of people and of life in general; and accepted as such, they are more easier faced and coped with

9th Stage: Integrated

- Wisdom, broad empathy towards oneself and others

- Reconcile a number or inner conflicts and make peace with those issues

- Ego finally has a full sense of identity

- Seeking to understand and actualize ones own potential