adult development, parenting, generativity


For the past 50 years, parenthood has been discussed in social science literature as a context of adult development. Theories, anecdotes, and the opinions of laypersons are nearly unanimous: People who become parents and are involved in the raising of children are transformed and follow a different developmental trajectory from people who do not engage in parenting roles. Erickson (1950) suggested that positive adult development reflects care for the next generation, or "generativity," and that parenthood is "the first, and for many, the prime generative encounter" (Erickson, 1964, p. 130). More recently, parenthood has been described as a necessary but not sufficient condition for the achievement of generativity (Snarey, Son, Kuehne, Hauser, & Vaillant, 1987). Sociologists and psychologists recently have considered how children provide years of training "opportunities" for parents (Frankel, 1991) and profoundly affect the lives of parents (Ambert, 2001; Palkovitz, 1996, 2002). Daniels and Weingarten (1986) have described parenting as a "powerful generator of adult development" (p. 36). Newman and Newman (1988, p. 313) labeled parenting as a "prime candidate" for stimulating adults' openness to new learning and coping strategies, and P. A. Cowan (1988) suggested that fatherhood presents numerous opportunities for men to experience "increased integration and differentiation, a qualitative developmental change... [indicating] maturity" (p. 14).

Original Publication Citation

Palkovitz, R., Marks, L., Appleby, D., and Holmes, E. K. (2003). Parenting and adult development: Contexts, processes and products of intergenerational relationships. In L. Kuczynski (Ed.) The handbook of dynamics in parent-child relationships (pp. 307-323). Thousand Oaks, CA: SagePublications.

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



Sage Publications




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Associate Professor