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Jane Loevinger's Theory of Ego Development

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Kristina Kocsis

on 24 February 2015

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Transcript of Jane Loevinger's Theory of Ego Development

Jane Loevinger's Theory of Ego Development
Stages of the Theory
Sullivan, who was another developmental psychologist, had proposed four levels of "interpersonal maturity and interpersonal integration" which included Impulsive, Conformist, Conscientious, and Autonomous. Over time, from that initial framework, Jane completed a developmental model including nine stages, each of which represented a progressively more complex way of viewing one's self in relation to the world. Every stage provides a frame of reference which is used to organize and give meaning to all the experience one will have in an individual's life course.

"Since each new ego stage or frame of reference builds on the previous one and integrates it, no one can skip a stage...One has not yet acquired the interpersonal logic" - Loevinger
Explaining Growth and Development
Jane says that as we grow and mature our ego also does the same. This connects to a previous point that the ego is a process and not necessarily just a thing. By organizing a person's life stages into these nine categories, Jane was able to create a basic framework to show how one's ego develops as a person moves through the stages of their life.
The Theory
Key Points
Loevinger described the ego as a process, not a thing.
She declared nine stages of the ego's development.
The ego is viewed as the frame of reference one uses to construct and interpret one's own world.
This contains impulse control and character development, with interpersonal relations, and with cognitive preoccupations, including self-concept.
Her theory is significant in contributing to the delineation of ego development, which goes beyond fragmentation of trait psychology and looks at personalities as meaningful wholes.
Pre-social stage (1)
Takes place in earliest infancy
Jane states that a baby cannot differentiate itself from the world and focuses only on fulfilling its immediate needs
Loevinger believes infants in their earliest state cannot have an ego because their thinking is autistic or delusional.
She states that their "thinking is characterized by primary process and delusional projection"
Once the infant has somewhat of a grasp on the world of objects, the baby retains a symbiotic relation with their mother.
This begins the association of objects to themselves
For example, a baby will not fall asleep until they have their favorite toy or blanket in the crib with them.
Impulsive stage (2)
In this stage the child 'asserts their growing sense of self' and views the world in ego-centric terms.
Jane states "the child is preoccupied with bodily impulses, particularly sexual and aggressive ones.
The child becomes immersed in the world solely in terms of how things affect them.
Their impulses affirm their sense of self however
Discipline is viewed by the child as restraints, and 'rewards and punishments' are seen as being "Nice to Me" or "Mean to Me".
This is because the Child's needs and feelings are experienced mostly in bodily modes during this stage and the child's orientation is almost exclusively relevant to the present rather than to past or future.
About Jane
Jane Loevinger Weissman was born on February 6, 1918.

In 1943, she married Samuel Isaac Weissman, a scientist who contributed to the Manhattan Project. They had a son and a daughter.

Jane was a developmental psychologist who developed a theory of personality which emphasized the gradual internalization of social rules and the maturing conscience for the origin of personal decisions.

She contributed many theories to the social science world but focused most on her now well known theory of ego development. She defined ego as the essence of striving to master, to integrate, and make sense of experience.

Jane passed away on January 4, 2008 but left her theory of the ego to live on.



Jane's theory involves the studies of:
A person's sense of self-esteem or self-importance.
The part of the mind in which innate instinctive impulses and primary processes are manifested.
The part of a person's mind that acts as a self-critical conscience, reflecting social standards learned from parents and teachers.
Conformist stage (4)
Self-aware stage (5)
Individualistic stage (7)
Autonomous stage (8)
Integrated stage (9)
Self-Protective stage (3)
The Self-Protective stage represents the first step towards self-control of impulses
Person in this stage have the notion to blame
At this level, the child "craves a morally prescribed, rigidly enforced, unchanging order"
If this stage is maintained too long an older child or adult who remains here may become opportunistic, deceptive, and preoccupied with control.
A degree of conceptual cohesion has been reached when in this stage however morality is essentially a matter of anticipating rewards and punishments.
In other words "Don’t Get Caught".
This stage generally includes people in school
Persons begin to view themselves and other as conforming to socially approved codes or norms.
One example of groups conforming together at this age is by gender—boys and girls.
Here persons are very much invested in belonging to and obtaining the approval of groups.
Behaviour is judged externally, not by intentions, and this concept of 'belonging to the group (family or peers) is most valued.
Jane says "the child starts to identify his welfare with that of the group. To be consolidated, there must be a strong element of trust".
An ability to take in rules of the group appears as well as the concept of stereotype.
Loevinger considered the Self-Aware stage a transitional Stage to be model for adults in our society.
She thought that few pass the stage before at least the age of twenty-five.
This stage is largely characterized by two characteristics: "an increase in self-awareness and the capacity to imagine multiple possibilities in situations".
It is a stage of self-awareness and self-criticism.
There is a higher level of understanding and appreciation of individual differences at higher level as well as interpersonal relations.
Conscientious stage (6)
By this stage the internalization of rules is completed although exceptions and contingencies are recognized.
Goals and ideals are acknowledged, and there is a new sense of responsibility.
Guilt triggered by hurting another, rather than by breaking rules becomes apparent.
There is a tendency to look at things in a broader social context, and as a result descriptions of people are more realistic
Standards are self-chosen, and distinguished from manners, just as people are seen in terms of their motives and not just their actions.
During this stage persons demonstrate both a respect for individuality and interpersonal ties.
The individualistic ego shows a broad-minded tolerance of and respect for the autonomy of both self and others.
With a new distancing from role identities, moralism begins to be replaced by an awareness of inner conflict.
This stage has a heightened sense of individuality and a concern for emotional dependence.
Subjective experience is opposed to objective reality, inner reality to outward appearance.
This stage marks the freeing of the person from oppressive demands of conscience in the previous stage.
People at this stage are "synthesizers" and are able to conceptually integrate ideas.
This stage might also be seen as a confrontation with the limitations of abilities and roles as part of deepening self-acceptance.
Jane explained that "Self-fulfillment becomes a frequent goal, partly supplanting achievement" within this stage "while there may well be a wider capacity to acknowledge and to cope with inner conflicts".
The difference between needs and duties are understood.
The capacity to embrace polarity, complexity and to integrate ideas becomes clear.

According to Loevinger, this is a rare stage to attain.
Learning is understood as unavoidable.
The ego shows wisdom, broad empathy towards oneself and others, and a capacity to not just be aware of inner conflicts like the individualistic ego or tolerate inner conflicts like the autonomous ego, but reconcile and make peace with those issues.
Cherishing of individuality is a key elements of a person's Self-Actualizing nature in this stage.
Those who achieve this stage are said to have a fully worked-out identity.

The ego
The id
The superego
Jane used these three parts of our mind to explore and categorize our stages of ego development
Lets Discuss
1) Personally, do you think you are able to differentiate between your ego, id and superego? If so, what thoughts/ processes do you have within each part of your mind? (Recap: ego- your sense of self, id- primary brain function, superego- subconsciousness)
2) At which stage of Jane's theory would you categorize yourself in and why? Also, do you think everyone in the room is at the same stage of development as you are?
Each stage has a general age group which can be linked to the progress of development of the ego. This gives insight as to how a person's mind who is in that stage would work because it reveals the main areas of thought which the brain focuses on. This insight can help any person who is not within the same stage of development as someone else to better understand any issue or struggle which that individual is having.
If a delinquent teen who was categorized to be in the conformist stage (a stage in which the person begins understanding their role within social groups and begins to understand stereotype) was being mentored by someone in the integrated stage (have a very strong sense of self and are very wise), the mentor could use Jane's theory to better understand how the teen's mind is working at this point in their life and he would be able to identify areas which the teen might be struggling in such as having trouble making friends.
One could infer, using Jane's theory, that this individual had been classified as a delinquent and was having a hard time progressing through this stage because of their lack of ability to conform to codes and norms; a main key of development that is supposed to be taking place in this stage. This would now become an area of focus for the mentor to work on with the teen in hopes for a solution to the problem. Furthermore, you could assume this delinquency was a result of an underdeveloped ego in a preceding stage, which could also be looked back upon into the teen's past.
For example...
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