Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs for Kids and Teens

What drives us to act the way we do or make the choices we make? Abraham Maslow, an American psychologist, believed our actions and unconscious desires were driven by a progression of needs. This system was called “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs” and is one that is taught broadly within psychology. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is depicted as a pyramid, with the most basic needs on the bottom, the psychological needs in the middle, and the self-fulfillment needs at the top of the pyramid.

For teens, they are experiencing a pivotal stage as they are developing their physical, emotional, and intellectual needs, It is during these years that your child can learn more about themselves and their relationship to others. To best support your teenager’s growth, it is crucial that you have a good understanding of the science that exists in child development to know what your teen needs. To start, here’s what you need to know about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs for kids and teens and some examples of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

1. Physiological Needs

Image Credit: with wind

Maslow’s hierarchy is typically depicted as a pyramid: each need builds upon the next. At the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs are physiological needs. Put simply, these are the physical things we need to survive such as food, water, air, shelter, sleep and good health.

The physical needs of a teenager include adequate sleep, healthy food and appropriate exercise. It’s important to consider your teen’s physical well-being when observing their emotional and psychological well-being, as all three are interconnected.

2. Safety Needs

Next on the pyramid is a need to feel safe. Generally speaking, this could include protection from the elements, feelings of security, order and law, and freedom from fear. To address these teen needs, this might entail safety from trauma or abuse whether it’s physical or emotional. If your teen has experienced trauma at some point in their life, it’s important to help them develop coping and management strategies for any PTSD they might be living with.

3. Love and Belonging Needs

Image Credit: Paulo Otávio

Friendship, inclusion, respect and intimacy in friendships and family relationships are next on the pyramid, and it’s easy to see where this fits in with teenagers. Having close, solid friendships and strong, supportive family relationships are very important to fulfill the emotional needs of a teenager.

A teen needs help and support to foster and develop healthy relationships. This is an important way to help them work towards the final tier of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs:  self-actualization. This can be achieved by encouraging them to join an after-school activity or be simply reaffirming that you love and care about them.

4. Self-Esteem Needs

Esteem needs include the need for achievement, independence, self-respect and respect from others. This is an interesting level for youth because it’s often during teen years that we start to stretch our levels of independence and seek to understand ourselves as unique individuals. A teen needs help to develop their levels of independence and self-esteem. Encouraging self-exploration is a great way to support them in this area.

5. Self-Actualization Needs

Image Credit: catherinedncr

At the very top of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is something we are ultimately all striving for according to Maslow: self-actualization. This involves realizing personal potential, self-fulfillment and seeking personal growth.

While all of us might spend our entire lives working towards this final need, for teens, elements might include setting goals, realizing their personal skills and value, finding something they are passionate about or working towards a purpose.

At the end of the day, while Maslow’s hierarchy of needs for kids and teens is only one person’s psychology perspective, it’s interesting to consider how some aspects of teenagers’ lives build upon each other. Considering all aspects of health and well-being for teenagers can help you better support your teen to reach their fullest potential.

If your teenager is having difficulty with their physical or emotional needs, please contact us here at Teen Rehab. We can help your find the right help for your teen and your family.


Feature Image: pshegubj