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Growth Needs: Just What It Says!

One of the things I like about Maslow’s approach to human needs was the way each of the needs was labeled and in most versions, colour coded. I have tried to do the same thing in the Matrix of Needs Model, as evidenced by the below graphic:

SAFETY – A Continuous Need Throughout the Lifespan

Core Needs = Subsistence, Attaching Relationships, Communication

Growth Needs = Social Relationships, Achievement

Maturity Needs = Affiliative Relationships, Autonomy

Fulfillment Needs = Intimacy

Interdependent Actualization

The blogs written to date have focused on the need for Safety, which is always present at all the different points in a person’s life, and the three Core Needs. It is important say here that unlike the perception many have of the Hierarchy of Needs being a “step by step” approach, The Matrix of Needs uses the concept of processes which are ongoing. In other words, the need for subsistence never ends, it changes from being filled in a dependency relationship with a caregiver, often the mother in the first few weeks and months of life, to being able to shop on your own, budget funds, etc. as you grow up. Albert Bandura developed a model of social learning that used the concepts of attentional processes (getting the person’s attention so they could learn), retention processes (helping the person remember what they are learning), motor reproduction processes (practicing what they learned, with motor processes meaning everything we do such as talking, physical imitation, etc.) and motivational processes, (moving from being told what to do to doing it on their own), with motivation moving from outside of a person (extrinsic) to the motivation being inside them (intrinsic).

As people grow in their social relationship and their own sense of achievement, they are using the processes Bandura described. Being fed by someone becomes using a spoon, then helping fix simple meals, and moving on to more complex meals, then making up a grocery list, and all along this process the person is achieving independence for themselves. Those of us who have raised children know the “I do it myself!” stage. This could be a toddler refusing help and pushing a parent away while they try to do something to an older child saying “let me do it!” This sense of achievement is essential for the person to be able to grow, and that’s why this is a growth need.

At the same time, the core need of Attaching Relationships gives the child the security to develop social relationships with others, whether children as playmates and friends or in a trusting relationship with other adults. These social relationships are critically important for children to learn during play time. Jean Piaget, one of the foremost developmental psychologists, said that from her perspective, play is the work of childhood. Mr. Rogers, whose groundbreaking work with children’s television is experiencing a new appreciation, said that for children, play is serious learning.

Along with the foundation of Safety, Subsistence and Attaching Relationships provide the foundation for Social Relationships to develop. However, without Communication, whether verbal or averbal, Social Relationships cannot develop. This third Core Need, which is often overlooked as a Need, is not only important in the play elements of Social Relationships, it also carries over into Achievement. Children, and some adults, will try out new behaviours, and if they don’t achieve the goals the person had in mind, the response is often “I was only kidding,” or “it was an attempt at being funny.”

Social Relationships and Achievement are much more closely related that they first appear. In healthy, balanced relationships, they go hand in hand. In unhealthy relationships, Social Relationships can be a way of developing attachments that were not met during infancy. These Social Relationships can also be forms of achievement with people who lack stable Attaching Relationships by counting the number of friends, contacts, followers or “likes” on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, just to name three of the many social media platforms available today.

The process of growth requires a safe, strong and stable core. Without this core solidly in place, some people live their lives with only the base of the pyramid – Subsistence, Attaching Relationships, Communication, Social Relationships, and Achievement – partially in place.

Because they lack Safety in their lives, they often live their lives on the margins of society. Many of the individuals I have served in mental health, juvenile justice, and developmental disability services have lived their lives in a way that reflected their struggles to find safety, to have unpaid relationships in which people genuinely cared for them with no sense of payment or expectation of reciprocity. These five needs, along with Safety, form the base of the Matrix of Needs model. When the base is stable, fulfillment can occur, which are the next processes. When the base is unstable, so is life.

Bob Bowen



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