KEGAN, Robert

(United States)

Title of contribution:

Shadow and Light in Adult Development

Where & when:


Presentation: Shadow and Light in Adult Development

Robert Kegan Ph.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist and practicing therapist based in Boston, Mass., who teaches, researches, writes, and consults internationally regarding adult and professional development, ongoing psychological transformation, and the evolution of consciousness. 

One could easily argue that Dr. Kegan’s own history, both personal and societal, conspired cunningly to set the stage for the development of developmental stage theory.  Fate took the liberty of conveniently bilocating him in the middle as well as on the margins of life. Kegan occupied the center by being born the middle child of middle-class parents in middle America in the middle of the 20th century.  Yet, equally, he was thrust to the periphery of normality courtesy of growing up Jewish in the homogeneously Protestant state of Minnesota, and perhaps also due to being a member of a family touched by tragedy—an unfortunate accident which left his older brother with life-altering injuries, and, thus, evermore encountering difference and discrimination. 

The backdrop to this narrative’s unfolding was initially the cool, collected, clean-cut 1950’s, where order—prized after the chaos and ugliness of war—reigned supreme, and where roles and expectations were defined clearly.  Then, as a new decade dawned, came a quickening. A profoundly different way of perceiving and participating, in reality, was being born, and, with it, the radical alteration of day-to-day existence. Solid structures morphed into shifting sands as change approached and people everywhere broke free from the safe haven of tradition, found their own voices, and took a stand.  Meanwhile, a youthful Robert Kegan was coming of age at this precise historical juncture, undergoing the selfsame meaning-making transition in concert with the culture around him. This serendipitous convergence wound up being both a lifesaver for a man and a godsend for human development.

About Dr. Robert Kegan:

Dr. Robert Kegan is an American developmental psychologist and author. He was the William and Miriam Meehan Professor in Adult Learning and Professional Development at Harvard Graduate School of Education, where he taught for forty years until his retirement in 2016. Additionally, he was the Educational Chair for the Institute for Management and Leadership in Education and the Co-director for the Change Leadership Group. He is a licensed psychologist and practicing therapist, has lectured widely to professional and lay audiences, and consults in the area of professional development. Ken Wilber built his levels of development in Integral Theory on major adult development theorists, partly on Kegan’s stages. 

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