An Overview of Constructive Developmental Theory (CDT)

How do adults grow?

Peter Pruyn

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More than a generation ago, developmental psychologists focused on infants, children and adolescents because it was assumed that by the time we reached our early twenties, the mind was fully developed. Several decades of research later, this premise has been proven to be false; the adult mind does continue to develop, albeit in different ways for different people.

The term “Constructive-Developmental Theory” derives its name from: “developmental”, as in cognitive development; “constructive”, as in we construct meaning about the world around us; “constructive-developmental”, as in the way we construct meaning can develop.

“the adult mind does continue to develop”

Building on the work of Jean Piaget, Lawrence Kohlberg, William Perry, and others, psychologist Robert Kegan developed a theory of adult cognitive development that defines five stages of mental complexity or “orders of mind”. These developmental stages are not about higher intelligence or IQ, nor are higher orders intrinsically “better”. What they represent are five levels of qualitatively more complex ways of thinking.

The Subject/Object Relationship

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Peter Pruyn

I am an EMDR trauma therapist who writes about women's health, gender equality, and film.