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Ego Development and Preferential Judgment in Life-Span Perspective

Van den Daele, Leland D.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Bulletin
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Cognitive Development, Developmental Psychology, Egocentrism, Self Concept


Current life-span theories of the ego selectively characterize the development of ideal self, reliability, conscious preoccupation, interpersonal maturity, and character. Most current theories adopt a terminal, simple, unitary development model. With this model, the only meaning that may be credited to individual differences is difference in rate of progression through stages. A "naive" analysis of three stages shows a general typological similarity: early stages, amoral; exploitative; hedonistic; impulse-ridden; and capricious. Later stages are rational-altruistic; productive; and spontaneous. It has been suggested that the similarity of stages described for different populations with different methods affirms the generality of ego stages. A different though nonexclusive explanation, is in the common ancestry of ego theorists. The parental and filial connections of theorists are shown. Most current theories came from the psychologies of early Piaget, George Herbert Mead, and the psychoanalytic, psychosexual stages. The neo-Freudians did not reject the model of man as impulse and demand successively socialized to some conduct ideal. In psychoanalytic tradition, immortality is characterized by personal-social "irrectitude," maturity, personal-social propriety. "Prima facie" acceptability of contemporary ego theories rests on three things. First, a general belief in progress extends to progress-in-virtue. Second, the child is a convenient scapegoat for adult protection. Third, "bourgeois" ideals of proper belief and conduct are legitimized. If virtue is associated with maturity, psychology proves virtue better. Any theory about ego development makes presuppositions about the organization of the psychological universe. The interaction of the primary systems determines the pragmatic-semantic and syntactic features of behavior and rationale. Stages of ego development are discussed. An illustrative empirical evaluation is given. Selected issues are discussed. (SGK) (69pp.)

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