Stability did not characterize all of the adult samples examined in this review. Bursik ( 1991), for example, reported significant gains in ego development over a 1-year period among a subset of divorced women. White ( 1985) reported gains among a subset of female nurses studied longitudinally over a 2-year period, and Helson and Roberts ( 1994) reported gains in two traits related to ego development (toleration and psychological mindedness) over a 20-year period. These findings highlight a key point that might otherwise be lost in the current analyses of group data: Individual development occurs during adulthood, although it does not seem to characterize most people. One direction for future research will be to identify the characteristics of people who are likely to mature during adulthood. For example, Helson and Roberts ( 1994) found different developmental trajectories, over a 20-year period, among women initially classified at the Conformist and Self-Aware stages versus women classified at the Conscientious and Individualistic stages. Women who were initially classified at or below the Self-Aware stage were less likely to show evidence of ego development than were women at higher stages. Are women in the former group more resistant to change, or are they simply exposed to fewer developmentally appropriate pacers, or both? Additional longitudinal studies are needed to investigate these questions.
Attempts to identify stage-appropriate pacers may obscure the importance of another issue, one that is rarely addressed: individual differences among adults at the same developmental level. Adults at a specific ego stage (e.g., Conformist stage) share a common level of development but differ in many other aspects of their personality. How do these differences influence a person's response to developmental pacers? For example, college experiences facilitate personality growth among some Conformist students, but not all of them. Why? The efficacy of some pacers may depend upon the presence of other personality traits, for example, sociability, shyness, or neuroticism. Here, too, is an avenue for future research.
The present review provides a preliminary assessment of age trends in ego development. Longitudinal studies are now needed to address many of the questions and hypotheses suggested by these data.
I gratefully acknowledge the helpful comments of Augusto Blasi and Michiel Westenberg on an earlier draft of this manuscript. Statistical advice provided by Michael Strube is also gratefully acknowledged.
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Publication information: Book title: Personality Development:Theoretical, Empirical, and Clinical Investigations of Loevinger's Conception of Ego Development. Contributors: P. Michiel Westenberg - Editor, Augusto Blasi - Editor, Lawrence D. Cohn - Editor. Publisher: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Place of publication: Mahwah, NJ. Publication year: 1998. Page number: 143.
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