Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
Hierarchy of Needs, developed in the mid-20th century, postulates
that our actions are motivated by a series of increasingly complex
needs. Whether child or adult, the theory suggests that the order
in which these needs present themselves is universal. This model
can be of great use when reaching out to "at risk" children and
families, presenting a psychology-based strategy for addressing
Maslow (1908-1970), was one of the founders of humanistic psychology
in the 1950's and 1960's. This school of thought believes that
neither the stimulus and reinforcement model of behaviourism nor
the unconscious impulses of Freudian thinking singularly controls
a person's actions. Instead, humanistic psychology suggests that
a person's intentions, values, and motivation are a determining
factor in a person's life.
research was unique for it's time; most psychology until then
had focused on why people become mentally ill. In contrast, Maslow
looked at highly successful people and wondered how they got there.
He hypothesized that people were guided by their needs, and as
soon as one need was satisfied, they would move on to the next.
He also recognized that some needs took precedence over others.
on the knowledge of anthropologists and psychologists, he formulated
the Hierarchy of Needs, marking five stages of human growth. He
envisioned a ladder, beginning at the bottom with the basic need
for sustenance, and culminating with transcendence. The rungs
of the Hierarchy are physiological needs, safety and security
needs, belonging needs, esteem needs, and finally, self-actualization,
the peak of human existence.
considered the first four levels to be "deficient needs"; the
need only manifested itself when the person was lacking in that
area. He categorized self-actualization as "being needs"; a person
is not motivated by a deficiency of anything, but by the need
to grow, to be something greater.
Hierarchy of Needs uses a heuristic scale; there is no way to
quantify the level of any one need, nor is there a definable point
at which a need has been satisfied. As a result, a person need
not be 100% satisfied in one level to begin focusing on another.
Maslow suggested that a person could have 85% of their physiological
needs, 75% of their safety needs and 90% of their belonging needs,
though he gave no method to calculate what 75% would represent.
also studied the rare cases at the top of the ladder he called
self-actualized: people who had satisfied all of their other needs,
freeing them to strive for everything of which they were capable.
He included Albert Einstein, Eleanor Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln,
and Mahatma Gandhi on his list, noting the level of self-fulfillment
they achieved in their lifetimes.
concepts of motivation and need fulfillment have influenced a
large percentage of today's leading marketing and human resource
management instruction. These texts draw upon Maslow's insight
into the motivation and behaviour of customers and employees.
Understanding what people need and why makes a person better prepared
to satisfy them.
how does this theory apply to children? Like all living organisms,
from the microscopic amoebae to the majestic blue whale, children
have inherent needs. The fulfillment of those needs, by themselves
or with the help of family and the community, leads to healthy
development and a strong foundation for adulthood. Any deficiency
in these needs can handicap a child, hindering her performance
at home, at school, and in her adult life.
us examine each level of the hierarchy, and how it can affect
a child's development. The first level consists of the basic physiological
needs. For a child, these needs are food, water and sleep. Sex
is also one of the primary physiological needs, but for a child,
that need is not yet present. Without proper diet and adequate
rest, a child's attention might be split between focusing on schoolwork
and worrying about hunger. Their grades will suffer, they will
lack energy required to participate in activities, and they won't
even begin to look at their higher needs. Through school nutrition
programs, such as those supported by Breakfast for Learning, children
are able to begin each school day with a full stomach, giving
them the energy and the clarity to focus on their studies. A lack
of sleep is often symptomatic of an unstable home environment,
for which the solution may involve serious intervention.
the physiological needs have been addressed, the next level is
the safety and security needs. Adults tend to only think of their
safety needs in times of emergency, whereas children often have
a constant worry about their safety and security. This category
can be quite broad, encompassing needs for physical safety, a
secure environment and emotional safety. For a child, these needs
can be equally important at home, at school or in the neighbourhood.
in dysfunctional families, split-family homes, abusive situations,
foster care or any other unstable situation may not have a feeling
of security. For a child, feeling safe and secure might be as
simple as waking up in the same house each morning. For some,
it might be going through the day without worrying "Will Daddy
hit me again?", "Will Mommy be working all night again?", or "Will
I get beat up at school again?" Sadly, in the worst cases of abuse,
some children live in perpetual fear of harm that can only be
relieved by removing them from the home environment.
concerns for safety and security met, the child's needs start
to become more internal, focusing next on belonging needs. To
a child, this is the need to be loved and to belong, not just
in the family, but to other groups as well. The efforts of parents
and the community are equally vital here; the family can provide
a child the unconditional love they need, while the community
can offer ample opportunities to belong to a group, team, or organization.
Extra-curricular participation on a soccer team or in a school
play, or taking part in community programs such as Arts Adventure
or Kids Count provide great opportunities for children to develop
new skills and gain a feeling of acceptance amongst their peers.
Not all children have access to the same activities at school
and in the community, so many concerned community groups focus
their efforts to ensure that all children have exciting opportunities.
the fourth stage, the child is looking to fulfill esteem needs.
This often works in tandem with the belonging needs a child has
already satisfied. At this level, not only does a child want to
be part of something, but also to take pride in their accomplishments,
and to be recognized by others. The Special Olympics are an excellent
example effective esteem-building program. Children with all manner
of developmental challenges are given the chance to compete in
a variety of fun, athletic competitions. But it is not just about
winning, for as the Special Olympics motto states: "Let me win,
but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt." The participating
students are taught to take pride in their efforts, and are recognized
in many ways, from medals to a pat on the back and an encouraging
when all other needs have been satisfied, the quest for self-actualization
begins. Though Maslow's theory suggests it would be impossible
for a child to reach this stage, for the sake of discussion, we
will assume it is achievable. At this level, if the child's other
needs have been satisfied they can begin seeking self-fulfillment.
Developing hobbies, getting a post-secondary school education,
pursuing a dream to become the next J.K. Rowling or Curtis Joseph,
or volunteering in the community are just a few ways a child can
important part of Maslow's theory is that that a person can be
handicapped at one level if they endure a period of great need
in their youth. Though they may experience no financial hardships
as an adult, a child who grows up in poverty might spend their
adult life fixated on whether they have enough to eat, or whether
they will have enough money to pay the rent or mortgage each month.
Children traumatized by divorce can spend their adult lives unable
to form strong relationships, paralyzed by jealousy or fear that
the other person will leave.
every child was lucky to grow up without worrying about food,
a place to sleep, and having a loving, reliable family, they could
work towards fulfilling their potential without fear or worry
about the most basic elements of life. But, as long as there are
children and families "at risk", Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs provides
an excellent framework to help them to satisfy their needs.
more about Abraham Maslow and the Hierarchy of Needs, please check
out these websites: www.ship.edu/~cgboeree/maslow.html