Jane Loevinger

Developmental psychologist Jane Loevinger, best known for her theory of nine stages of an individual's development, was born on February 6, 1918. With her mother's encouragement, she left high school during her senior year in order to get a head start in college. At first, she did not take her studies seriously. She studied psychology because the college required a science, and this seemed to be the easiest science course.

In college, she humored her wish to be an author, and she wrote for the college paper. In 1939, she moved to Berkeley to pursue her doctorate. In Berkeley she met Sam Weissman, a postdoctoral student in chemistry. The two were married three years later.

Loevinger's doctoral thesis discussed the construction and evaluation of ability testing -- psychometrics. The thesis critiqued the reliability of the testing, proving that all the definitions were circular. Much research included in Loevinger's doctorate was incorporated into her most famous article, "Objective Tests as Instruments of Psychological Theory." She could not find a journal willing to accept her article, so she paid to have it printed in 1957.

Loevinger was best known for her contribution to developmental psychology. She designated nine stages of development, emphasizing the internalization of societal rules and the maturation of an individualized conscience.

The first stage labeled by Loevinger is the presocial stage. As an infant, a baby is preoccupied with identifying itself and differentiating itself from everything else in the world. The presocial stage merges into the symbiotic stage, where the baby maintains a symbiotic relationship with its mother.

At the impulsive stage, a child relates strictly to the present and not to the past or future. At this stage, disciplines should be physical restraints and rewards and punishments. At this point, the person is preoccupied with bodily feelings.

During the third stage, called the self-protective stage, a person takes the first steps toward controlling his or her impulses. The person understands that some behaviors will bring about either a positive or negative effect. At this point, the person will be wary and manipulative and will be preoccupied with control.

At the conformist stage, the child starts identifying with a group. He or she is able to understand that rules apply to groups. The child perceives the disapproval of someone else in the group as a penalty. As a conformist, the child may define a chosen group very narrowly and will reject anybody who does not fit this defined stereotype. At this point, the person will be preoccupied with appearance and behavior.

The self-aware transitional stage (conscientious-conformist level) is marked by the beginnings of self-awareness and self-criticism. However, the person still closely relates self and expectations to the group norms. Now the person will be preoccupied with feelings, problems and adjustment.

The conscientious stage refers to a higher level of psychological development. A person will feel guilty if hurting another person, even if that other person does not fit the chosen stereotypical group. At this level, people realize that humans are complex beings that cannot be rigidly placed in one group. At this point, a person thinks about motives, traits and achievements.

The person who reaches the individualistic level will become more tolerant of himself or herself and other people. This person will recognize the inherent uniqueness in every individual and the complexity of each person's exclusive background and circumstances and will recognize the role of inner conflict. Now the person is concerned with individuality.

At the autonomous stage, a person is freed from the oppressive demands of conscience. He or she will be able to cope with conflict and will be interdependent. The person will be preoccupied with self-fulfillment. At the final, integrated stage, a person will reconcile inner conflicts, will cherish individuality and will have a consciously chosen, well thought-out identity.

Much of Loevinger's work was based on thousands of sentence completion tests that she, her colleagues and other researchers did on test participants. Originally, her test was intended to research female attitudes and attributes, but later it was widened to include male subjects.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Personality Development: Theoretical, Empirical, and Clinical Investigations of Loevinger's Conception of Ego Development
P. Michiel Westenberg; Augusto Blasi; Lawrence D. Cohn.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1998
Measuring Ego Development
Le Xuan Hy; Jane Loevinger.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1996 (2nd edition)
Technical Foundations for Measuring Ego Development
Jane Loevinger.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1998
Thought and Emotion: Developmental Perspectives
David J. Bearison; Herbert Zimiles.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1986
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 5 "On the Structure of Personality" by Jane Loevinger
Models of Achievement: Reflections of Eminent Women in Psychology
Agnes N. O'Connell; Nancy Felipe Russo.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, vol.2, 1988
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 11 "Jane Loevinger, 1988-"
Identity in Adolescence: The Balance between Self and Other
Jane Kroger.
Routledge, 2004 (3rd edition)
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 5 "Ego Development in Adolescence: Loevinger's Paradigm"
Moral Development Theories-- Secular and Religious: A Comparative Study
R. Murray Thomas.
Greenwood Press, 1997
Librarian’s tip: "Loevinger on Ego Development" begins on p. 163
Current Conceptions of Sex Roles and Sex Typing: Theory and Research
D. Bruce Carter.
Praeger, 1987
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of Jane Loevinger begins on p. 228
Building Ego and Racial Identity: Preliminary Perspectives on Counselors-in-Training
Watt, Sherry K.; Robinson, Tracy L.; Lupton-Smith, Helen.
Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD, Vol. 80, No. 1, Winter 2002
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
The Contribution of Ego Development Level to Burnout in School Counselors: Implications for Professional School Counseling
Lambie, Glenn W.
Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD, Vol. 85, No. 1, Winter 2007
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
An Integrative Psychological Developmental Model of Supervision for Professional School Counselors-in-Training
Lambie, Glenn W.; Sias, Shari M.
Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD, Vol. 87, No. 3, Summer 2009
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Ego Development and the Therapeutic Goal-Setting Capacities of Mentally Ill Adults
Stackert, Richelle A.; Bursik, Krisanne.
American Journal of Psychotherapy, Vol. 60, No. 4, October 1, 2006
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
The Self-System in Integral Counseling
Ingersoll, R. Elliott; Cook-Greuter, Susanne R.
Counseling and Values, Vol. 51, No. 3, April 2007
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
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