Abraham Maslow

Abraham Maslow (1908- 1970) was a humanistic psychologists and believed that all human beings are born with the ability and desire to be all that they can be (self actualisation) but that not having basic needs met prevented us from doing so. He was interested in what motivated us as human beings, and did not believe what the behaviourist (rewards) or psychodynamic (unconscious thoughts) theories believed. As Maslow stated, “behaviourists and psychoanalysts see human beings as engaged in a never ending struggle to remove some internal tension or make up for some deficit” Maslow, (cited in psychology, 6th edition, Gleitman et al. 2004: 628). Maslow believed that psychology had to start looking at motivated humans beyond the basic needs for survival (food, water and oxygen), this led Maslow to create his hierarchy of needs.
Maslow’s hierarchy of need is often represented by a pyramid with the basic/physiological needs at the bottom, progressing up in order to, safety, belongingness and love, esteem, cognitive and aesthetic needs, and at the top self actualisation. Maslow believed that people would only strive for needs higher up such as approval and self esteem, when lower needs such as thirst and hunger have been met. “Maslow (1943) stated that people are motivated to achieve certain needs. When one need is fulfilled a person seeks to fulfil the next one, and so on”, Maslow cited on (http://www.simplypsychology.org/maslow.html).

Since Mark was born and throughout his childhood the provision of the basic/physiological needs (food, water and shelter) described in Maslow’s hierarchy, have been in competition with his mothers need for drugs. This has led to gaps in his life when these basic needs have not been met. This has resulted in Mark becoming accustomed to hardships in his life and this has affected his personality and made him a more resilient character as he went through childhood doing what he had to get food needed to survive. We can see this repeated in his adult life with Mark able to endure sleeping rough for 8 months, but these have come at cost to his physical and mental health.
When the basic needs have been met, the hectic lifestyle caused by his mums addiction has denied Mark any chance of the safety any prolonged period at the very least. Being denied the chance of long term security and freedom from fear, as he has had fend for himself growing up. This has caused mark to become insecure about himself and is shown by him barely socialising out with dysfunctional groups similar to his mum (fellow addicts).
When Mark had the basic needs provided for him over a prolonged period of time, he shown an ability to change his behaviour and progress onto higher stage of the hierarchy, and he has shown this over time by moving to a new country to get away negative influences such as his mum and friends when released from prison, securing and holding down a job long term when living with his uncle and staying free from drugs since moving into the hostel.
The strengths of this theory are that it allows us to compare Mark’s life when his basic needs have been met and when they have not, and the impact that they have had on Mark’s life. The evidence from this should provide him the motivation to continues to provide the basic needs for himself, providing him with the platform for personal growth, allowing further progressions through Maslow’s hierarchy.
The weaknesses of this theory are that, even when basic needs have not been met Mark has been able to reach higher parts of the hierarchy such as finding affiliations and belonging to various social groups when homeless or taking drugs. History has shown many people have lived in poverty and obtained self actualisation e.g. Gandhi and Van Gough, calling into question the structure of the model.
The nature versus nurture debate surrounding addiction is a very hotly contested one within psychology. Do the children of drug addicts inherit a gene from their parents that increases their chances of becoming an addict themselves (nature)? The study of genomes have yet to conclusively prove that this is the case but what has been proven is that the influence of the social (nurture) has a direct impact on how someone develops. Nurture therefore has had more of an influence on how we develop as humans, even when it comes to addiction. The fact that Mark was born addicted to drugs and surrounded by them his entire life would suggest that it was inevitable that he would himself become addicted, allowing for arguments on both the nature and nurture sides, but if it is nurture that has influenced Mark’s addiction then he can be influenced to quit them as well and we have seen that when he has spent time in places that have provided security away from drugs.

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