Adult Development

Roger Gould  (1935-     )


Summary of Theory

Roger Gould's (1978) theory charts inner stages of consciousness in which the adult gives up various illusions and myths held over from childhood. Gould sees this process as freeing oneself from childhood restraints and establishing a sense of personal identity. To Gould (1978), adulthood is a time of "dismantling the protective devices that gave us an illusion of safety as children (p. 39)."  Confronting the myths of childhood results in transformations that lead to increasingly higher levels of consciousness (Dean, 2007).

Gould's transformations (1978) occur in a series of sequential, age  related stages, as follows:

o Leaving the Parents' World (16-22)
o Getting into the Adult World (22-28)
o Questioning and Reexamination (28-34)
o Midlife Decade (35-45)
o Reconciliation and Mellowing (43-50)
o Stability and Acceptance (50 and over)

The four major false assumptions adults must resolve during their lifetimes (Gould, 1978, p. 39-40) are:

1. "We'll always live with our parents and be their child."
2. "They'll always be there to help when we can't do something on our own."
3. "Life is simple and controllable."
4. "There is no real death or evil in the world."

Where are my learners in this scheme?

They are in the Leaving the Parents' World (16-22)

In general, what does this mean?

In Gould's theory, identity formation begins between the ages of 16 and 22, when people are challenging the false assumption “I will always belong to my parents and believe in their world" (Gould, 1978. p. 6).  The false assumption to be overcome between 22 and 28 is: "Doing things my parents' way with willpower and perseverance will bring results. But if I become too frustrated, confused or tired or am simply unable to cope, they will step in and show me the right way" (Gould, 1978. p. 71).

A closer examination of the first stage shows the young adult is:
  • Developing independence
  • Challenging their parents’ assumptions of the world
  • Finding safety beyond the parents
  • Developing a sense of family beyond their core family, and
  • Dealing with issues related to physical development
(Dean, 2007)

Specifically, what does this mean to me?

The main thing to remember is that students are redefining their identities (largely to exclude family past role models) and taking on adult roles with their related responsibilities. My learners will be newbies at these new tasks and are likely to make lots of mistakes.