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Additional Resources on Adult Development

2011 June 8

If you are interested in learning more about adult development and Constructive Developmental Theory, here are some additional resources to consider.  This list is organized approximately from least “academicky” to most “academicky”.

The most readable comprehensive description of Kegan’s theory is his book In Over Our Heads.  It is written with a popular audience in mind and uses fictional real-life scenarios to illustrate the theory:

Kegan, Robert (1994). In Over Our Heads: The Mental Demands of Modern Life. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

If you’re more interested in actually applying the theory to your own personal development, you might consider Immunity to Change. This book describes a personal development tool known as the Four Column Exercise that helps individuals work on important but “stuck” personal goals.  A bonus of the book is that Chapter 1 is a very readable and concise summary of the underlying theory:

Kegan, Robert and Lahey, Lisa Laskow (2009).  Immunity to Change: How to Overcome It and Unlock the Potential in Yourself and Your Organization.  Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

Since many adults are somewhere in the transition towards Self-Authoring, another way to learn more about the theory is to concentrate on this particular shift.  Marcia Baxter Magolda’s Authoring Your Life does just that:

Baxter Magolda, Marcia (2009). Authoring Your Life: Developing an Internal Voice to Navigate Life’s Challenges.  Sterling, VA: Stylus.

Another fruitful context in which to learn about adult development is in the arena of mentoring.  Eileen McGowan’s chapter in Kathy Kram’s book is a beautiful description of how mentoring can be developmental and includes an overview of the theory: 

McGowan, Eileen, Eric Stone, and Robert Kegan (2007).  “A Constructive-Developmental Theoretical Approach to Mentoring.”  In Ragins, Belle and Kathy Kram, Eds., The Handbook of Mentoring at Work: Theory, Research and Practice.  Thousand Oaks: Sage.

The measurement instrument associated with CDT is called the Subject/Object Interview.  So another way to learn more about the theory is to learn more about this interview technique.  In this article, Jennifer Garvey Berger describes how the interview can be not only a measurement instrument but also a tool for personal development.  Note that Jennifer’s piece appears as a chapter in a fascinating book that explores the notion of self-authorship across cultures: 

Berger, Jennifer Garvey (2010).  “Using the Subject-Object Interview to Promote and Assess Self-Authorship”.  In Baxter-Magolda, Marcia, Elizabeth Creamer, Peggy Meszaros, Eds., Development and Assessment of Self-Authorship: Exploring the Concept Across Cultures.  Sterling, VA: Stylus. 

If the above wasn’t enough, you could turn to the original manual on the Subject/Object Interview.  The good thing about the manual is that it includes a technical but highly readable summary of the theory.  The downside is that it is old:

Lahey, Lisa Laskow, Emily Souvaine, Robert Kegan, Robert Goodman, Sally Felix (1988). A Guide to the Subject-Object Interview: Its Administration and Interpretation.  Cambridge: The Subject-Object Research Group, Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Finally, The Evolving Self is Kegan’s first book on adult development.  It goes into the theory in the most detail of any of the above but be warned that it was originally written for a psychotherapist audience, hence the jargon can be thick.  Nevertheless, Kegan was an English major, so much of the prose is also beautiful:

Kegan, Robert (1982). The Evolving Self: Problem and Process in Human Development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.


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