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Gisela Labouvie-Vief

Distinguished Professor
Wayne State University

Dr. Gisela Labouvie-Vief was the recipient of the Distinguished Research Achievement Award in 2001.  This award is one of the highest honors of APA Division 20.
Dr. Labouvie-Vief recieved her Ph.D. in 1972 from West Virginia University, and her undergraduate degree from the University of Saarland (Germany).  She has written over 70 publications, including her influential 1994 book, Psyche and Eros: Mind and Gender in the Life Course.

Dr. Gisela Labouvie-Vief's research focuses on changes in self and emotions over the adult life span. Her theortetical work defines positive stages of adult development. This theory proposed that in adulthood, individualsbegin to form more complex structures of thinking. In contrast to earlier thinking, which in terms of right or wrong, black and white, and similar dualisms, many adults become better able to integrate dualities. Thus, they become better able to integrate positive and negative aspects of self and others and to form a view in which self and others are seen as complex systems changing over time and combining in themselves positively and negatively valenced facets.
Developmental Sequence 
Based on her data, Labouve-Vief sees this reuniting of mind and self taking place over a five-step sequence.
1) Concrete-presystemic level: Individuals are not yet able to organize and integrate behavioral actions and psychological states into a coherent abstract system. (Explanations of one's actions are more likely attributed to the influence of others such as parents or peers than personal states.)
2) Interpersonal-protosystemic level: Individual's psychological and physical characteristics are edescribed more in terms of immediate relationships and social networks.
3) Institutional-intrasystemic level: Usually emerges in adolescence. The individual is now able to coordinate actions and states into coherent abstract systems, which tend to correspond to particular institutions in society such as marriage or thye family.
4) Contextual-intersystemic level: The language necessary to reflect on abstract systems begins to appear. Adults are now able to reflect on the dialectical tension between personal desire and institutional constraints.
5) Dynamic-intersubjective level: Change and transformation continue to be the defining characteristics of this level, but what is added is a fuller recognition of the role played by inner psychological mechanisms in this continual process of change and transformation.
Goldhaber, D. E. (2000). Theories of human development.  Mayfield Publishing Company, Mountain View, CA. 
Labouvie-Vief, G. (2005). Adult development. Retrieved from
Morrow, et al.  (1996).  Division 20: Past and future perspectives.  APA

Development in Adolescence and in Adulthood
Labouvie-Vief argues that development from a Peagetian perspective is best appreciated as a linear sequence of increasingly effective means of adapting to the demands of one's context.
"The adaptive potential of formal logic consists in the fact that it provides a mechanism by which all possiblities can be generated by permutations and recombinations. But only some of those will stand pragmatic tests, while others will need to be discarded. Thus again, logical growth provides a necessary but not sufficient condition for continued development." (Labouvie-Vief, 1982, p. 69)
"While the theme of youth is flexibility, the hallmark of adulthood is commitment and responsibility. careers must be started, intimacy bonds framed, children reaised. In short, amidst a world of a multitude of possible logical alternatives, there is aneed to adopt one course of action. This conscious commitment to one pathway and the deliberate disregard of other logical alternatives may indeed mark the onset of adult cognitive maturity."