Journal of Adult Development

, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 1–20 | Cite as

Between Integrity and Despair: Toward Construct Validation of Erikson’s Eighth Stage

  • Simon Hearn
  • Gary Saulnier
  • Janet Strayer
  • Margarete Glenham
  • Ray Koopman
  • James E. Marcia


A new measure of Erikson’s final psychosocial stage, Integrity versus Despair, is presented and validated across two studies. In the first, 97 adults (68 women and 31 men) aged 65 and older responded to this measure: the Self-Examination Interview (SEI). Responses on the SEI were treated both categorically and dimensionally (continuous scores) with respect to four integrity statuses: Integrated, Nonexploring, Pseudointegrated, and Despairing. In Study One, categorical and dimensional Integrity statuses were examined in relation to five convergent measures: the Integrity subscale of the Modified Eriksonian Psychosocial Inventory, Openness to Experience, the Competence subscale of the California Personality Inventory, the Geriatric Depression Scale, and Perceived Health. As hypothesized, Integrated respondents were socially competent and resilient; Nonexploring persons conventional; Pseudointegrated respondents immature; and Despairing persons, demoralized. A subsample of participants took a semi-structured Adult Identity Status Interview. Integrated persons were most often Identity Achieved; Pseudointegrated and Nonexploring persons were most often Foreclosed. Study Two evaluated a new sample of 70 persons (51 women and 19 men) aged 70 and older. It generally confirmed the Integrity statuses developed in Study One, extending them to variables related to complexity and maturity of sociomoral reasoning and thinking style. As expected, the Integrated status was negatively related, and the Nonexploring status positively related, to intolerance for ambiguity. The highest levels of sociomoral reasoning occurred most in the Integrated status group, as did dialectical reasoning. In contrast, the Nonexploring and Despairing statuses had more formistic-mechanistic reasoners. Pseudointegrated persons produced the highest number of invalid protocols. The importance of present findings and implications of these studies for future directions in integrity research are discussed.


Erikson Ego development Construct validity Seniors Lifespan development Integrity Psychosocial stages 



This project was supported in part by SSHRC grant # 639227.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Simon Hearn
    • 1
  • Gary Saulnier
    • 1
  • Janet Strayer
    • 1
  • Margarete Glenham
    • 1
  • Ray Koopman
    • 1
  • James E. Marcia
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologySimon Fraser UniversityBurnabyCanada

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