Stages of Ego Development

Explain Jane Loevinger’s stages of ego development in 200 to 300 words. Include manifestations that might appear during each of the stages.

I-2 (Impulsive)

This stage occurs during early childhood. This is basically an egocentric stage, with the child categorizing people in “mean to me” or “nice to me” groups (McAdams, 2006). During this stage, morality is based on punishment vs. reward rather than some internal standard of ethics. Also the present, rather than the past or future, is the main focus. A particular manifestation of this stage might be that the child avoids those that they see as bad (mean to them) and prefer the attention and company of those they see as good (nice to them).

Delta (Self-protection)

During this stage, the world is viewed as a set of needs, which must be maintained or collected (i.e. friends). This self-protective stage of development includes approval of rules because at this stage rules work to their advantage. A manifestation at this stage might entail a child who obeys their parents even though they might not want to because they know that negative reinforcement follows if the parents are disobeyed and that rewards follow if they obey.

I-3 (Conformist)

During this stage, the child or young adolescent seeks to affirm self by identifying a chum in order to establish sameness with another. A manifestation of this stage might be a young adolescent finding a “best friend” and spending increasing amounts of time with that person.

I-3/4 (Conformist/Conscientious)

This is a transitional stage in which the adolescent realizes that they cannot satisfy all of the demands of their group, and therefore begins to contemplate multiple possibilities. An example might be an adolescent who researches other religions even though they have always been a part of a particular religious group.

I-4 (Conscientious)

During this stage, the young adult begins to operate according to internal standards rather than external expectations. A good example of this stage would be an early teenage rebellion against parental figures.

I-4/5 (Individualistic)

At this stage the ego develops a fundamental difference between self and other, giving the self the ability to appreciate individuality and the “…conflict between heightened individuality and increased emotional dependence.” (McAdams, 2006, 375). An illustration of this stage would be a husband who has learned to handle conflict in his marriage as a never-ending, continuous cycle that can be accomplished within the context of understanding and trust.

I-5 (Autonomous)

This stage includes the ability to adequately incorporate the individual self into the framework of emotional interdependence. A good example of this stage would be a high school principal who is able to manage the school, his home-life, and many other aspects of his life in a substantial and satisfactory way.

I-6 (Integrated)

At this stage, the self is able to not only understand and integrate individuality but can also learn to cherish individuality. A manifestation of this stage might be the grandmother who is able to happily embrace the gayness of a grandchild while at the same time strongly disagreeing.


McAdams, D.P. (2006). The person: A new introduction to personality psychology. Danvers, MA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.


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