Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education, and Communication


Date of this Version



Published as: Sunderman, H., Hastings, L., & Sellon, A. (2023). “Mindset of Generativity”: An Exploration of Generativity among College Students Who Mentor. Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice, 60(3), 353–369. doi:10.1080/19496591.2022.2090844


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Generativity, defined as care and concern for mentoring the next generation, has long been a focus of developmental theory (Erikson, 1963; Kotre, 1984; McAdams, 2001). Generativity has been linked to personal outcomes such as flourishing and life satisfaction (Snow, 2015) and societal outcomes such as social responsibility (Rossi, 2001). While Erikson (1963) theorized generativity as occurring at midlife, further research has pointed to generativity occurring at younger ages. Generativity has received renewed attention as the fifth of six stages in the leadership identity development (LID) model of college students (Komives et al., 2006, 2005), the stage in which upper-class college students seek to mentor younger students. Further, recent research among college students who mentor has revealed that generativity is predictive of socially responsible leadership (Hastings & Sunderman, 2019), a key outcome of higher education (Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education, 2015).

Previous research among college students connected generativity to leadership identity (Komives et al., 2006, 2005) and socially responsible leadership (Hastings & Sunderman, 2019), highlighting the importance of exploring generativity among college students. The current study seeks to build and expand upon previous research by understanding how generativity develops among college students. Specifically, the current study sought to explore and discuss the influence of being a mentor on generativity among college students who mentor K–12 youth identified by teachers and principals for positively influencing their peers. College students who mentor were purposively selected because college students who mentor youth have demonstrated higher levels of generativity than college students who do not mentor (Hastings et al., 2015) and have shown an increase in generative behavior (Sunderman, 2020). Further, mentoring is a behavior connected to generativity among college students in stage five of the LID model (Komives et al., 2006, 2005).

An increased understanding of generativity development among college students who mentor will advance leadership research in student development, particularly regarding generativity. The scholarship of generativity has implications for social responsibility, a goal of higher education (Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education, 2015). Additionally, results from the current study will inform antecedents of generativity (McAdams, 2001), the use of mentoring as an effective developmental intervention, and degree-of-change methodology in student development research and practice (Rosch & Schwartz, 2009).