Extending the framework of generativity theory through research: A qualitative study

Robert L. Rubinstein, Laura M. Girling, Kate De Medeiros, Michael Brazda, Susan Hannum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Purpose of the study: Based on ethnographic interviews, we discuss three ideas we believe will expand knowledge of older informants' thoughts about and representations of generativity. We adapt the notion of "dividuality" as developed in cultural anthropology to reframe ideas on generativity. The term dividuality refers to a condition of interpersonal or intergenerational connectedness, as distinct from individuality. We also extend previous definitions of generativity by identifying both objects of generative action and temporal and relational frameworks for generative action. Design: We define 4 foci of generativity (people, groups, things, and activities) and 4 spheres of generativity (historical, familial, individual, and relational) based in American culture and with which older informants could easily identify. The approach outlined here also discusses a form of generativity oriented to the past in which relationships with persons in senior generations form a kind of generative action since they are involved in caring for the origins of the self and hence of future generative acts. These 3 elements of a new framework will allow researchers to pose critical questions about generativity among older adults. Such questions include (a) How is the self, as culturally constituted, involved in generative action? and (b) What are the types of generativity within the context of American culture and how are they spoken about? Each of the above points is directly addressed in the data we present below. Methods: We defined these domains through extended ethnographic interviews with 200 older women. Results and implications: The article addresses some new ways of thinking about generativity as a construct, which may be useful in understanding the cultural personhood of older Americans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)548-559
Number of pages12
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2015


  • Anthropology
  • Culture
  • Generativity theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gerontology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


Dive into the research topics of 'Extending the framework of generativity theory through research: A qualitative study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this