A Model of Healthy, Functioning Families and Individuals

Norman L. Coad, D.Min

The Following Is A Description of A Healthy Family Based on Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

A need is something you have to have to be healthy, and as such, it is not optional. While a need may be unmet and a person or family may survive for a while, it is like subsisting on a substandard diet. One ends up malnourished. Needs are not to be confused with wants. A want is a wish or desire for something, a craving. As those who deal with alcohol and drug addicted people, a craving is not a need. Diener and Tay proved Maslow was right. There are universal human needs.[1]

As the word “hierarchy” suggests, the needs are placed in an ascending scale of importance even though they are all interdependent and necessary. People tend to achieve basic safety needs before other higher needs.[2] Maslow himself wrote that the relationship between different human needs and behavior are often motivated simultaneously by multiple needs. (See A. Maslow, Motivation and Personality, Harper & Row, New York, NY. 1987, p.51.)[3]

It should be noted that while the author uses biblical language in his description of the needs, Maslow was an atheist and differed from Freud in that he, Freud, considered spirituality as a guide to direct behavior.[4]

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs has been interpreted as a pyramid with the mere basic needs at the bottom.[5] But meeting these needs may occur simultaneously.[6]

Physiological Needs include breath, food, water, sex, sleep, homeostasis (to resist or slow down change), and excretion (to separate waste material from the blood, tissue and from the body).

Safety Needs—Security, order, stability of the body and emotional/psychological well being of the individual. Aids to this include employment, resources, morality, the family, health and prosperity.

Love and Belonging Needs—Love is unconditional. It includes love of self and the experience of love in family and among friends. It also includes sexual intimacy with the right person, at the right time of a person’s life and for the right reasons. It is not to be forced, violent or immoral. It includes belonging needs: to relate, to be connected to, to be a part of, and to have a close affinity for those with whom one is related, as in, These are my people. This is my place. This is with whom, and where, I belong.

Esteem Needs—include self-esteem, believing and accepting oneself to be precious, of high worth and value, feeling and acting in a self-confident manner. This is to have a full belief in, being fully assured of and certain in one’s position, authority and role, to function successfully. Being free to achieve, while showing respect for self and others, all the while being respected by others and intimates. Wives respect your husband by submitting to him. Husbands love, sacrifice and provide for your wife sacrificially, even as Christ loves the body of Christ. (Ephesians 6:23-33)

Self-Actualization Needs—include the ability to fully achieve, the freedom and confidence to move yourself to, or successfully to attain by effort, self discipline, practice and skill, to be all that you have potential to be and to accomplish all that God created you to do. It is being and doing.

In order to be self-actualized one must be free to succeed or fail without loss of prestige. There are two common sayings that express this thought, If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. A spin-off of this is, If at first you don’t succeed, you are like most other people. Failures occur in all new endeavors. One should not be diminished by mistakes, but should take them in stride and learn from them. If you are afraid of failure you will not try new and different things and will not develop and achieve.

The characteristics that Maslow developed in self-actualization where what he observed in people who achieved and were positive and healthy in their view of life.

Morality—those in whom their character is in accord with principles and standards of right conduct and virtue.

Creativity—the ability to form something new by observation or intellectual effort or combining things already known in a different manner or processing to create something new.

Spontaneity—behavior that arises out of natural feeling, temperament and disposition without compulsion, constraint or premeditation.

Problem Solving—the ability to provide a satisfactory answer to a question, matter, situation or person to resolve a difficulty or something that must be done.

Prejudice is making a judgment or forming an opinion before the facts are known. It is acting on a preconceived idea.

Acceptance of Facts—to believe and recognize that something is reality. It is truth that something really is and that its consequences and benefits are real.

Families provide the framework so that the family as a whole and the individuals in it may realize the five groups of needs in their lives. No families do this perfectly. Dysfunctional families usually do not provide the structure to attain anything more than the physical needs in level one. Healthy families do their best to see that the five basic needs are met in all. Love covers a multitude of sins. (I Peter 4:8)


1. https://en.Wikipedia.org/wiki/Abraham Maslow
2. Ibid.
3. Ibid.
4. Ibid.
5. Ibid.
6. Ibid.

Next Article: Boundaries

For more information and help check out Dr. Coad’s book, The Divided Soul in the Book Store.