This article discusses different conceptualizations of optimum development in adulthood. The existential perspective of Rollo May is compared to the self-actualization theory of Abraham Maslow and to transpersonal psychology. The paradigms and value assumptions underlying the different theories of personality are explicated, and social constructionism is used as an organizing frame of reference. The principal argument is that in addition to repeating viewpoints in a philosophical debate about values, we need to substantiate our claims with evidence from the existing research and explore how well-designed empirical studies can help us answer lingering questions of what is desirable and possible in regard to optimal development. The author examines the existing research literature in regard to how the disagreements of the above-named schools of thought could be clarified. Suggestions for future directions in humanistic research are presented.
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