What is Generativity?

What is generativity?

by Sister Karen Sames, OSB

Generativity is a concern for people besides self and family that usually develops during middle age. It is also a need to nurture and guide younger people and contribute to the next generation.

10 propositions about the psychology of generativity:

  1. generativity is the concern for and commitment to the well-being of future generations;
  2. generativity is a developmental challenge for the middle-adult years;
  3. generativity may spring from desires that are both selfless and selfish;
  4. generativity is shaped by culture;
  5. the strength of generativity differs across individuals;
  6. individual differences in generativity are related to quality of parenting;
  7. individual differences in generativity predict a range of social involvements;
  8. generativity promotes psychological well-being;
  9. generativity is expressed in the stories people construct to make sense of their lives;
  10. the life stories of highly generative adults affirm the power of human redemption and   renewal.

Some examples of generativity that come to mind are:

  • mothers passing on family recipes to their daughter or
  • fathers passing on the family business to their sons.
  • Aunts and uncles, grandparents passing down family history by sharing family stories.

Some generativity seems to be deeper, like The Rule of St. Benedict (ROB). It has served as a “guide for beginners” for generations upon generations. St. Benedict (and St Scholastica) had a profound understanding of the physical, psychological, and spiritual aspects of human nature. In the prologue to ROB it states,

“Let us arise, then, at last, for the Scripture stirs us up, saying, ‘Now is the hour for us to rise from sleep’ (Rom. 13:11)”.

We are not just to listen with the ear of our hearts but we are to take action on what we heard.

“Run while you have the light of life, lest the darkness of death overtake you” (John 12:35).

Run while we hear the stirrings of the Holy Spirit. Here Benedict is telling us to act on what we heard. Like in the gospel of the sower of seed, the seed that falls on sallow soil withers before it can grow.  If we do not act on what we heard we could forget what we heard. We could ignore the Spirit’s guidance. Apathy could become our response to the stirrings of the Holy Spirit. So, we reflect on the ROB and the gospel to hear, to listen to what they are saying to us here and now. What are we being called forth to do?

“And the Lord, seeking his laborer in the multitude to whom He thus cries out, says again, ‘Who is the one who will have life, and desires to see good days’ (Ps.  34:13) And if, hearing Him, you answer, ‘I am the one,’ God says to you, ‘If you will have true and everlasting life, keep your tongue from evil and your lips that they speak no guile. Turn away from evil and do good; seek after peace and pursue it (Ps. 34:14-15)’. (The ROB gives us guidelines on how to be in relationship with God, others and ourselves.) And when you have done these things, My eyes shall be upon you and My ears open to your prayers; and before you call upon Me, I will say to you, ‘Behold, here I am’ (Ps. 34:16; Is. 65:24; 58:9)”.

So, as we live out our lives following ROB, let us strive for perfection even though we will never be perfect. For Christ alone is perfect.


Generativity Definition & Meaning | Merriam-Webster Medical

McAdams, D. P., & Logan, R. L. (2004). What is generativity? In E. de St. Aubin, D. P. McAdams, & T.-C. Kim (Eds.), The generative society: Caring for future generations (pp. 15–31). American Psychological Association. https://doi.org/10.1037/10622-002 (Abstract).