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Does Parenting Lead to Self Fulfilment or Self Actualisation?

Sreekumar Raghavan

Sreekumar Raghavan has over three decades of experience in business journalism, market analysis and communications- having worked for leading print and online publications as a journalist and content developer.  He has also undertaken content development, media relations, public relations, social media and marketing assignments for leading organisations and agencies. Google certified in digital marketing, he also undertakes training assignments in digital media and marketing in higher education. As Editor of Rajagiri Pallikkutam, he also anchors the popular online education event, Rajagiri Round Table Conference.

Human beings have a variety of needs to be fulfilled. At the base level is basic biological, materialistic needs, followed by psychological needs and spiritual needs. This was postulated in 1943 by renowned psychologist Abraham Maslow. His Hierarchy of Needs Pyramid first published in an article titled A Theory of Human Motivation in the journal, Motivation and Personality. 

Maslow's theory continued to dominate discussion on human motivation for the next six decades until a team of scientists lead by Douglas Kenrick, Professor of Psychology at Arizona State University thought of renovating the pyramid of needs. It was published in the May 2010 issue of Perspectives on Psychological Sciences.

The scientists argued that Maslow's pyramid was not often supported by empirical evidence. Maslow initially said that as one lower order need was fulfilled people move to the fulfilment of the next higher need in the pyramid. Maslow himself later in his career had made important revisions in his theory stating that the hierarchy's order is not as rigid as he initially proposed. It is flexible based on external circumstances and individual differences. Most human behavior is multi-motivated and may simultaneously aim to fulfil many needs.

  Renovating the Pyramid

  While renovating the Hierarchy of Needs Pyramid, the research team of Steven Neuberg, ASU Foundation professor,     Douglas Kenrick, ASU Professor of Psychology, Vladas Griskevicius of the University of Minnesota, and Mark Schaller of the   University of British Columbia, put four basic needs at the bottom more or less corresponding to the three needs postulated   by Maslow but self actualisation is not featured at the top. The top three needs include mate acquisition, mate retention   and  parenting-three critical motives Maslow overlooked. 

 The researchers stated that while self-actualization is interesting and important, it isn’t an evolutionarily fundamental     need.   Instead, many of the activities that Maslow labeled as self-actualizing (artistic creativity, for example) reflect more   biologically basic drives to gain status, which in turn serves the goal of attracting mates. 

 “Among human aspirations that are most biologically fundamental are those that ultimately facilitate reproduction of our  genes in our children’s children,” Kenrick said. “For that reason, parenting is paramount.” For humans, reproduction is not   just about sex and producing children. It’s also about raising those children to the age at which they can reproduce as well.  Consequently, parenting sits atop the revamped pyramid, according to Douglas Kenrick.

However, it doesn’t mean that artists or poets are consciously thinking about increasing their reproductive success when they feel the inspiration to paint or write.

The researchers point out that parenting in the initial years is associated with decrements in well -being but they may be offset by long term benefits. When an individual fulfils certain motives they experience happiness and they continue to fulfil these fundamental needs or goals. However, parenting is a conspicuous exception as the expected relationship between happiness and fulfilling fundamental human motives appears to break down.

The revamped pyramid did attract some controversy and critical remarks especially removal of self-actualisation from the top of the pyramid and prominence given to parenting. However, the researchers argue that self-actualisation is also simply an expression of the more evolutionarily fundamental need to reproduce.

Story Theme Image by Marcela from Pixabay

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