I remember the first time I saw Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. I was in Grade 11, taking a class called "Society: Challenge and Change". It was my first brush with psychology and sociology and I loved it. The hierarchy of needs, proposed in 1943 by psychologist Abraham Maslow outlined basic human needs and the progression of the attainment of those needs. Maslow's original pyramid looks like this:
From the moment I saw this pyramid back in Grade 11, it made sense to me. We work from the physiological up to self-actualization, solidifying the need below to move up the pyramid. The needs hierarchy was basic and all-encompassing, allowing for much personal interpretation of how to live a life while meeting these needs throughout.
Some 60 years later, a group of psychologists, feeling Maslow's pyramid outdated, have proposed a renovation of the Hierarchy of Needs. The group, lead by Douglas Kenrick, an ASU professor of psychology, published the paper, "Renovating the pyramid of needs: Contemporary extensions built upon ancient foundations" in the March issue of Perspectives on Psychological Sciences. According to the paper, Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs should be renovated to look like this:
While the base needs are still similar to the original pyramid, you can see that the top has changed dramatically. On the way up the hierarchy, we now find mate acquisition and mate retention. WTF?
And at the top, parenting has replaced Self-Actualization because, as the authors of the paper surmise, self-actualization, although interesting, isn't an evolutionarily fundamental need. As Doug Kenrick explains: "Among human aspirations that are most biologically fundamental are those that ultimately facilitate reproduction of our genes in our children's children," Kenrick explained. "For that reason, parenting is paramount."
Wow. Hear that spinning sound? That's Maslow spinning in his grave. Maslow allowed for all of these possibilities (mate acquisition/retention, parenting) but didn't make them the end all and be all of human needs. He, and rightly so in my opinion, put at the top of the pyramid loftier ambitions by including the concept of self-actualization. Sure, parenting may be driven by a biological and evolutionary imperative, but that doesn't make it the pinnacle of human needs.
This "renovation" smacks of a justification for the narrative that currently fits the status quo. It seems an awful lot like the Boomer generation patting itself on the back for the choices they've made, choices to marry and stick it out "for the kids". And the abandonment of self-actualization for those mating/parenting "needs" again just seems like a justification for all those choices made by the Boomers, choices that have ultimately left their children and grandchildren with a planet in environmental crisis, a destabilized world economy and a future that feels more uncertain than ever before. Perhaps, if the Boomers had actually paid attention to becoming self-actualized we wouldn't need to rewrite Maslow's Hierarchy at all.