Ego development is the progressive change of a personality construct responsible for identity, consciousness, and understanding reality. There are various views regarding ego development; psychoanalysts theorize that the ego arises out of the interactions between the id (pleasure principle) and the societal realities. According to Jean Piaget, a Swiss cognitive psychologist, and Lawrence Kohlberg, an American psychologist known for his moral development theory, the ego is developed when the child’s mental processes achieve symbolic demonstration.
Jane Loevinger, an American developmental psychologist, was the first to offer the rationale that the ego goes through an evolution of specific stages.
She suggested nine stages of ego development:
* pre-social * impulsive * self-protective * conformist * self-aware * conscientious * individualistic * autonomous * integrated.
In the pre-social stage, there is still a confusion between one’s self and the caregiver; this is characterized by infants. The impulsive stage is manifested when the child asserts himself and occasionally shows emotional outbursts in response to frustrations. In the self-protective stage, children may resort to lying, manipulation, and blaming to protect their ego. In the conformist stage, the individual evaluates himself and others based on norms and stereotypes such as fashion, laws, and cultural expectations.
The self-aware is most common among adults as they can better understand the uniqueness of each person’s feelings and motivations. In the conscientious stage, long-term goals, responsibilities, and values are emphasized. The individualistic stage is characterized by a deeper self-understanding of one’s conflicting thoughts and feelings. In the autonomous stage, the individual values uniqueness and self-actualization; hence, self-fulfillment is a regular goal. Finally, the integrated stage shows comprehensive empathy, wisdom, and inner peace.