Integral Review

A Transdisciplinary and Transcultural Journal For New Thought, Research, and Praxis

Stage Models of Adult Development: A Critical Introduction to Concepts, Debates, and Future Directions

Ben Bjorgaard

Abstract: Diverse approaches have modeled and characterized a number of trajectories of adult psychological development that originate in stage models of developmental psychology. The number of these approaches has increased significantly in recent decades as stage models have become more popular and been applied outside of the academe, along with innovations occurring within the academe. Additionally, multiple stakeholders have sought knowledge about the types of thinking and psychological development suited for contemporary contexts and needed by individuals and communities to adequately respond to present and anticipated circumstances; this has gone hand-in-hand with psychological developmental models being increasingly applied across disciplines. The challenges involved in this research area have led to novel critical debates and developments. However, details about the theoretical and methodological foundations of these approaches are often underexamined, which can lead to misinterpretation and misapplication. This article sets out to survey some of these theoretical and methodological issues. Surveyed concepts and issues include functional, soft, and hard stages; metrics, models, constructs, and domains; and the relationship of stage models to the broader field of developmental science. Finally, suggestions about the study of adult development beyond stage models are provided including the need for interdisciplinary research and frameworks.

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