Personality Development

Loevinger’s Developmental Model of Personality

This section describes Loevinger's theory on personality in some detail.


Loevinger portrays personality growth as a series of changes in impulse control, interpersonal style, and conscious preoccupations. Developmental advances in these domains are depicted in terms of levels, a term that implies an underlying coherence and structure to personality. More informally, each developmental level represents a frame of reference or lens through which individuals perceive and understand their social world.

The term ego is used to refer to the person’s core frame of reference; ego development thus represents a change in one’s frame of reference. Eight developmental levels have been identified by Loevinger and her colleagues, and each level is defined by a characteristic way of perceiving and responding to the social world (see Loevinger, 1997, 1998).



Ego Development as an Index of Psychosocial Maturity

Within any age cohort there will be a range of ego development levels, reflecting individual differences in impulse control, time perspective, and perspective taking. The pace and extent of ego development within an individual depends upon many influences beyond the mere passage of time. Recent studies have identified some of these influences, both environmental and hereditary (e.g., Allen, Hauser, Bell & O’Connor, 1994; Newman, Tellegen & Bouchard, 1998).



Is it a Piagetian stage model?

Loevinger’s developmental model is often linked to stage theories that have Piagetian origins, such as Lawrence Kohlberg’s model of moral reasoning or Robert Selman’s developmental model of social cognition. Several of these models do indeed show similarities with Loevinger’s stages of development. Yet in many respects Loevinger’s model does not fit nicely within the cognitive-developmental tradition because it is not a model of cognitive growth or reasoning per-se; rather, as Augusto Blasi comments, ego development is primarily concerned with “impulses and methods for controlling impulses, personal preoccupations and ambitions, interpersonal attitudes and social values – what psychologists normally call personality” (Blasi, 1998, p. 15). 



Additional details

Additional details regarding Loevinger’s model can be obtained in several reports (Loevinger, 1976, 1988, 1997, 1998; Westenberg, Blasi, & Cohn, 1998; Westenberg, Hauser, & Cohn, 2004).