How Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Affects Your Teen

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. Here’s what you need to know about this system and how it can relate to your teen.

Physiological Needs

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

For your teen, this could relate to their basic needs for 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.

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. For teens, this might entail safety from trauma or abuse whether its 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.

Love and Belonging Needs

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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 for your teen’s well-being.

Helping your teen to foster and develop healthy relationships is an important way to help them work towards their 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.

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. Helping your teen develop their levels of independence and self-esteem is a great way to support them in this area.

Self-Actualization Needs

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At the very top of the pyramid 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 this is only one person’s perspective on how human psychology works, it’s interesting to consider how some aspects of our lives build upon each other. Considering all aspects of your child’s well-being can help you better support your teen to reach their fullest potential.

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