Generativity, the Big Five, and Psychosocial Adaptation in Midlife Adults


  • The authors would like to thank the people who have been most instrumental in setting up and carrying out the Faith, Politics, and the Life Story project: Michelle Albaugh, Jen Daniels, Emily Farber, Kathrin Hanek, Miriam Klevan, Regina Logan, Katie Magrino, Raelle Wilson, and Katie Weitz White. The research was supported by a grant to Dan P. McAdams from the Foley Family Foundation to establish the Foley Center for the Study of Lives at Northwestern University.

concerning this article should be addressed to Keith S. Cox, Department of Psychology, Northwestern University, 2029 Sheridan Road, Evanston, IL 60208. Email:


ABSTRACT The study examines the extent to which 2 sets of personality variables—(1) dispositional traits (and their facets) within the Big Five taxonomy and (2) the adult developmental construct of generativity—are associated with psychosocial adaptation in midlife adults (N=128), conceived as the combination of individual well-being and positive societal involvements. Generativity is conceived as an adult's concern for and commitment to promoting the well-being of future generations. Multiple regression analyses showed that dispositional traits were more strongly associated with individual well-being than was generativity, but generativity was much more strongly associated with positive societal engagement than were the traits. Correlations between dispositional traits and generativity revealed that highly generative adults were elevated on most of the facets of Extraversion and Openness. For the other 3 traits, generativity was positively related to facets of competence, achievement striving, dutifulness, altruism, and trust and negatively related to vulnerability, anxiety, depressiveness, and modesty.