Abraham Maslow

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What are the stages of personality development as described by Abraham Maslow's self-actualization theory?

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The eight stages of personality development described by Maslow's self-actualization model include the following (these stages correspond to his hierarchy of needs):

  • In the basic needs or physiological needs stage, people seek to have their basic needs, such as air, food, water, shelter, and sleep, met.
  • In the next stage, people need to have their desire for safety and security met.
  • The next stage, belonging, involves people seeking love and acceptance from others.
  • In the next stage, esteem needs, people seek to achieve recognition for achievement.
  • During the next stage, cognitive needs, people desire exploration of the world around them to attain knowledge.
  • During the stage of aesthetic needs, people seek beauty and inspiration from art and from their natural surroundings.
  • Self-actualization, which occurs during the next stage, means achieving one's potential and achieving states of transcendence and connection with others.
  • In the most self-actualized stage, referred to as transcendence, one helps others achieve self-actualization and moves beyond one's own concerns. 

It should be noted that while Maslow's stages theoretically involve moving through the pyramid of needs and achieving each step in succession, some experts believe this one-way movement is too simplified. Instead, they suggest, people can move up and down the pyramid as different needs arise for them. 

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The different stages of personality development in Maslow's self-actualization theory are most commonly known as his "hierarchy of needs." Essentially, these stages were really needs that had to be fulfilled, at least partially, before a person moved on to satisfy higher needs. It should be noted that they do not progress in a linear fashion like the stages in some developmental theories, however. Maslow's stages are as follows:

  • Those needs that are the minimum for human survival, like food and water, shelter, and so on. 
  • The need for safety and security. 
  • The need for intimacy, love, and friendship.
  • The need for a high self-esteem, and to be esteemed highly by others.
  • The need for self-actualization, which was the term that Maslow used to describe a state of fulfilling one's potential.

Self-actualization was the highest of the stages, and Maslow, like others, posited that mental illnesses and disorders might result from not fulfilling needs at various points in one's life.

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