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Archive for April, 2014

A New Social Psychology Theory of Human Need Fulfillment

“Immature love says: ‘I love you because I need you.’ Mature love says ‘I need you because I love you.” ― Erich Fromm

 

Purpose of Blog    

     The purpose of this blog is to set the stage for a new theory of human need fulfillment in social psychology. It will be known as “A New Social Psychology Theory of Human Need Fulfillment.”  One of the important existing theories in psychology that deals with human needs is Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs.

     I find the motivational theory of Abraham Maslow relevant in modern society and, therefore, generally reasonable. Human needs were articulated and well-described by Maslow many decades ago. The needs Maslow discussed come down to survival, basic and social needs.

However, it is important now to move ahead and articulate what it takes to fulfill a person’s needs. Basically, the question is what factors or variables are responsible in an individual that creates the conditions whereby one’s needs are met?

     How does one even begin to approach thinking about how needs are satisfied? Theoretically this is a huge undertaking. In this author’s opinion there are five macro level social domains or categories that might capture the variables involved in human need acquisition. These five categories include:

Broad-Based Social/Structural Forces

     These are societal broad-based sociological forces such as: economy, national, state and local laws and policies, and war.

Categorical Characteristics of the Individual

     These are variables like age, race, and gender, level of education, income level, being married, divorced or single, current social class, and social class and marital status of one’s parents.

Intra Psychic/Psychiatric Characteristics of the Individual

     These are variables like self-esteem, self-image, interpersonal relationships, one’s outlook on life, capacity to love, extent of feelings of confidence and/or competence, level of emotional stability and mental maturity.

Fortuitous Events

     These are variables like accidents and unexpected life changes like sudden disability, losing a job, or unusual events like winning the lottery or death/disability of a family member.

Inherited Characteristics of Individuals

     These are variables like intelligence, special talents, body type, blood type, birth weight and any disabilities or diseases at birth.

     Proposed Research Question

     I propose this primary question for study: What variables (among the five macro level social domains or categories) best explain human need fulfillment. Although Abraham Maslow told us what our needs are, both independent and dependent variables need further explanation. What explains the degree of success in meeting one’s needs during a lifetime? What makes all this incredibly complex is that an individual’s needs can change over time. For example, certain needs may need to be “put on hold” if one is going through a rough patch in life.  

Prior Research and Assumptions

     Looking at the five domains of variables I am going to suggest theoretically that not all domains are likely to predict or explain success in meeting one’s needs. I preliminarily hypothesize that human need fulfillment is best explained in terms of Carl Rogers concept, a fully functioning person. This leads one to ask what is a fully functioning person?

What is a Fully Functioning Person?

     According to Carl Rogers, a fully functioning person is one who is in touch with his or her deepest and innermost feelings and desires. These individuals understand their own emotions and place a deep trust in their own instincts and urges. Unconditional positive regard plays an essential role in becoming a fully functioning person.

     Rogers suggested that people have an actualizing tendency, or a need to achieve their full potential – a concept that is often referred to as self-actualization. Rogers believed that a fully-functioning person is an individual who is continually working toward becoming self-actualized. This individual has received unconditional positive regard from others, does not place conditions on his or her own worth, is capable of expressing feelings, and is fully open to life’s many experiences.

Defining the Fully Functioning Person

“Essentially, the fully functioning person is completely congruent and integrated. Such a person, Rogers believes, is able to embrace ‘existential living.’ By this he means they are able to live fully in the here and now with personal inner freedom, with all its accompanying exciting, creative, but also challenging, aspects.” (Freeth, 2007)

“Such a person experiences in the present, with immediacy. He is able to live in his feelings and reactions of the moment. He is not bound by the structure of his past learnings, but these are a present resource for him insofar as they relate to the experience of the moment. He lives freely, subjectively, in an existential confrontation of this moment in life.” (Rogers, 1962)

“The fully functioning person has a flexible, constantly evolving self-concept. She is realistic, open to new experiences, and capable of changing in response to new experiences. Rather than defending against or distorting her own thoughts or feelings, the person experiences congruence: Her sense of self is consistent with her emotions and experiences. The actualizing tendency is fully operational in her, and she makes conscious choices that move her in the direction of greater growth and fulfillment of potential.” (Hockenbury & Hockenbury, 2006)

The Characteristics of a Fully Functioning Person

Characteristics of a fully functioning person include:

  • Openness to experience
  • Lack of defensiveness
  • The ability to interpret experiences accurately
  • A flexible self-concept and the ability to change through experience
  • The ability to trust one’s experiences and form values based on those experiences
  • Unconditional self-regard
  • Does not feel the need to distort or deny experiences
  • Open to feedback and willing to make realistic changes
  • Lives in harmony with other people

     Rogers also developed a form of therapy known as client-centered therapy. In this approach, the therapist’s goal is to offer unconditional positive regard to the client. The goal is that the individual will be able to grow emotionally and psychologically and eventually become a fully-functioning person.

     The primary question posed in this Blog is related to Maslow’s work. That is, if one can’t fulfill needs he/she is unlikely to become a fully functioning person. Accordingly, if one becomes a fully functioning person, it increases the probability one is likely to fulfill their needs. Yet, there is always the possibility that a fully functioning person might not meet all their needs, while some individuals, not yet a fully functioning person, may nonetheless meet all their needs (perhaps fortuitous events intervene in a person’s life). Said another way, I believe there is an interrelationship between striving toward becoming a fully functioning person, and meeting one’s needs in life. But what can clarify this interrelationship between need fulfillment and the fully functioning person is a research study. Until then it is theory in need of empirical evidence.  

     One day in the future it may be possible for an individual to keep score as to how well they are progressing toward becoming a fully functioning person. Before one gets to the pragmatic implications of a new theory—the theory of human need fulfillment of Abraham Maslow must first be articulated.

Human Need Fulfillment

     Human need fulfillment is the process of satisfying one’s basic and social needs. This goal of fulfilling needs is a lifetime endeavor for all of us, and can be thought of as a constant approach/avoidance conflict.  Approach-avoidance conflicts as elements of stress were first introduced by psychologist Kurt Lewin, one of the founders of modern social psychology. It’s important to note early that during one’s lifetime there are many variables or factors that contribute or detract (obstacles) from meeting one’s social, physical or safety needs.

     But first, describing a new theory will need to be done in stages. There are certain areas of knowledge about psychology one needs to be aware of before one can fully understand a new theory within the context of social psychology.

 

Preliminary Contextual Framework

     What is an Approach Avoidance Conflict?

     “Approach-avoidance conflicts occur when there is one goal or event that has both positive and negative effects or characteristics that make the goal appealing and unappealing simultaneously.

     For example, the popular culture construction of marriage is a momentous decision/goal/event that has both positive and negative aspects. The positive aspects, or approach portion, of marriage are togetherness, sharing memories, and companionship; however, there are negative aspects, or avoidance portions, including money issues, arguments, and mortgages.    

     The negative effects influence the decision maker to avoid the goal or event, while the positive effects influence the decision maker to want to approach or proceed with the goal or event. The influence of the negative and positive aspects creates a conflict because the decision maker either has to proceed with the goal or event or not partake in the goal or event at all.

     To continue with the example of marriage, a person might approach proposing to a partner with excitement because of the positive aspects of marriage: having a lifelong companion, sharing financial responsibilities. On the other hand, he or she might avoid proposing due to the negative aspects of marriage: arguments, money issues, joint decision making.

     The approach side of this type of conflict is easy to start toward the goal, but as the goal is approached the negative factors increase in strength which causes indecision. If there are competing feelings to a goal, the stronger of the two will triumph. For instance, if a woman was thinking of starting a business she would be faced with positive and negative aspects. Before actually starting the business, the woman would be excited about the prospects of success for the new business and she would encounter (approach) the positive aspects first: she would attract investors, create interest in her upcoming ideas and it would be a new challenge.

     However, as she drew closer to actually launching the business, the negative aspects would become more apparent; the woman would acknowledge that it would require much effort, time, and energy from other aspects of her life. The increase in strength of these negative aspects (avoidance) would cause her to avoid the conflict or goal of starting the new business, which might result in indecision.

     Research pertaining to approach and avoidance conflicts has been extended into implicit motives, both abstract and social in nature.”

     It should be added that the approach/avoidance conflict may not be consciously recognized by many people. People often set unrealistic goals only to discover later the negative sides of goal acquisition. The more equipped people are in meeting their goals, the more likely they will succeed. The best way to be equipped, so a person can meet their needs, is to be or become—A Fully Functioning Person.

     I’d like to point out before describing my testable hypotheses that scientists need to further refine any testable hypotheses with operational definitions for terms such as self-actualization, self-esteem, self-image, mental maturity, ego-ideal, interpersonal relationships, beliefs, values, achievement, etc. Also, readers need to understand the basics of this scientific process. Here is a definition of variables and their needed operational definitions:

     Variables are anything that might impact the outcome of your study or can take on different values (primarily numbers or categorical values as well.) An operational definition describes exactly what the variables are and how they are measured within the context of one’s study. For example, if you were doing a study on the impact of sleep deprivation on driving performance, you would need to operationally define what you mean by sleep deprivation and driving performance.

     In this example you might define sleep deprivation as getting less than seven hours of sleep at night, and define driving performance as how well a participant does on a driving test.

     What is the purpose of operationally defining variables? The main purpose is control. By understanding what you are measuring, you can control for it by holding the variable constant between all of the groups or manipulating it as an independent variable. I want to point out that operationally defining the outcome (dependent variable) will not only be important but a great challenge as well.

     Sigmund Freud presented to the world some amazing concepts based on the cornerstone of all science, observation. But Sigmund Freud did not carry out any kind of systematic social research using statistics and statistical analysis. What I’m proposing in the way of testable hypotheses are ideas to be tested in future social research. The ideas themselves are the easy part. Creating operational definitions for variables and carrying out the proper statistical analysis may be the hard part.

Introduction

     Everyday observation suggests that some individuals are very successful in meeting their needs, while others seem like they just can’t catch a break no matter what they do. The purpose of developing a new social psychology theory of human need fulfillment is to: (1) improve upon Abraham Maslow’s Theory, A Hierarchy of Needs, (2) explain the variables or factors that either lead to human need fulfillment, or cause needs not to be fulfilled, and (3) suggest two types of research studies in which questions proposed might be answered.

Background for a New Theory in Psychology

     One of the most important theorists on human needs was Abraham Maslow whose theory, A Hierarchy of Needs, became widely accepted both inside and outside the field of psychology. Before describing the set of facts that pertain to this theory, it is necessary to provide the reader with background on what theory is and what makes a good theory.

What is a theory?

     A theory is much more than a guess or a hunch. A theory both describes a phenomenon and should make statements of prediction about future behaviors. The term theory is used with surprising frequency in everyday language. It is often used to mean a guess, hunch or supposition. You may even hear people dismiss certain information because it is “only a theory.” It is important to note as one studies psychology and other scientific topics, that a theory in science is not the same as the colloquial use of the term.

    A scientific theory is based upon a hypothesis and backed by evidence. A theory presents a concept or idea that is testable. In science a theory is a reasoned explanation for some phenomenon. In the simplest terms: A theory is a fact-based framework for describing a phenomenon. In psychology, theories are used to provide a model for understanding human thoughts, emotions and behaviors.

     A good psychological theory has two key components: (1) it must describe a phenomenon, and (2) it must make predictions about future behaviors. Ahead I will present Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory, provide a critique of Maslow’s Theory, then produce a set of theoretical propositions regarding the questions I earlier proposed.

Early Origin of an Idea

     When I was a freshman in high school I read books on psychology in my spare time. One of the psychology books had a section on Abraham Maslow, a famous psychologist. He hypothesized a pyramid of human needs. The hierarchy of human needs model suggests that human needs must be fulfilled one level at a time.

     According to Maslow’s theory, when having fulfilled all the needs in the hierarchy, a human being may eventually achieve self-actualization. Late in life, Maslow came to conclude that self-actualization (to be explained below) was not an automatic outcome of satisfying the other human needs.

Human needs as identified by Maslow:

  • At the bottom of the hierarchy are the “Basic needs or Physiological needs” of a human being: food, water, sleep and sex.
  • The next level is “Safety Needs: Security, Order, and Stability”. These two steps are important to the physical survival of the person. Once individuals have basic nutrition, shelter and safety, they attempt to accomplish more.
  • The third level of need is “Love and Belonging”, which are psychological needs; when individuals have taken care of themselves physically, they are ready to share themselves with others, such as with family and friends.
  • The fourth level is achieved when individuals feel comfortable with what they have accomplished. This is the “Esteem” level, the need to be competent and recognized, such as through status and level of success.
  • Then there is the “Cognitive” level, where individuals intellectually stimulate themselves and explore.
  • After that is the “Aesthetic” level, which is the need for harmony, order and beauty.
  • At the top of the pyramid, “Need for Self-actualization” occurs when individuals reach a state of harmony and understanding because they are engaged in achieving their full potential. Once a person has reached the self-actualization state, they focus on themselves and try to build their own image. They may look at this in terms of feelings such as self-confidence or by accomplishing a set goal.

 

     Maslow’s ideas have been criticized for their lack of scientific rigor. He was criticized by American Empiricists as scientifically too soft. In 2006, conservative social critic Christina Hoff Summers and practicing psychiatrist Sally Satel asserted that, due to lack of empirical support, Maslow’s ideas have fallen out of fashion and are “no longer taken seriously in the world of academic psychology.” Positive psychology takes a different view. Positive psychology spends much of its research looking for how things go right rather than the more pessimistic viewpoint, how things go wrong.

     Furthermore, the Hierarchy of Needs has been accused of having a cultural bias—mainly reflecting Western values and ideologies. From the perspective of many cultural psychologists, this concept is relative to each culture and society and cannot be universally applied. Maslow’s concept of self-actualizing people was later united with Piaget’s developmental theory.

     While some research showed some support for Maslow’s theories, most research has not been able to substantiate the idea of a needs hierarchy. Wahba and Bridwell reported that there was little evidence for Maslow’s ranking of these needs and even less evidence that these needs are in a hierarchical order.

     Other criticisms of Maslow’s theory note that his definition of self-actualization is difficult to test scientifically. His research on self-actualization was also based on a very limited sample of individuals such as Albert Einstein and Eleanor Roosevelt.

     Regardless of these criticisms, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs represents part of an important shift in psychology. Rather than focusing on abnormal behavior and development, Maslow’s humanistic psychology was focused on the development of healthy individuals.

     While there was relatively little research supporting the theory, hierarchy of needs is well-known and popular both in and out of psychology. In a study published in 2011, researchers from the University of Illinois set out to put the hierarchy to the test. What they discovered is that while fulfillment of the needs was strongly correlated with happiness, people from cultures all over the world reported that self-actualization and social needs were important even when many of the most basic needs were unfulfilled.

Observations

   For two and one half years I’ve been playing international chess against players all over the world. We all strive for excellence in playing chess. Few of us will ever achieve the pinnacle of perfection. Only a handful out of the 7.5 million players on the web will ever be another Bobby Fischer or a Magnus Carlson in today’s chess world. Trust me. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs applies to most everyone in affluent, industrialized nations, regardless of their general culture.

     Nevertheless, with chess players there is a “selection bias” when trying to generalize. Many populations in the world spend their entire lives just trying to secure their safety and basic needs for food, water, sleep and sex. There are always individual exceptions when it comes to striving for higher levels of human need, but the reality is a high percentage of people in many countries live below the poverty line. Their basic modus operandi is plain and simple—survival and the acquisition of basic human needs. However, as the 2011 study from the University of Illinois suggested, social needs and self-actualization were considered important even when many of the most basic needs were not (just consider the starving artists of the 1930s).

A Critique—Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

     In general I think Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, despite some possible cultural bias, is a reasonable theory of human motivation. The one major criticism I do have of Maslow’s theory is that, in terms of absolute priority or need levels described in his theory, I think our safety/survival needs most often take precedence over the basic needs of food, water, sleep, and sex. Also, at any point in time safety/survival needs may take precedence over all higher level needs as well. Example: You may be polishing up a paper that will award you the next Nobel Prize in Particle Physics. But if your house is suddenly consumed in fire the safety/survival need kicks in and you flee from your house. Your self-actualizing moment of writing a paper worthy of the Nobel Prize will have to wait.

     Nevertheless, there are exceptions. We are all constantly trying to satisfy our needs or the needs of those we love. In fact, higher level needs (particularly love, belonging, self-image and self-esteem) may override one’s need to survive or risk one’s safety in deference to saving loved ones over one’s own survival.

     Terrible threats directed at oneself or family members often cause individuals to take flight or to fight and perhaps risk great harm. Most people tend to take flight (example—people running away from a shooter in a mall or on a college campus). Yet, some individuals would rather fight by disarming or killing the assailant. Said another way—a social need may take priority over one’s personal safety. That social need might best be described as a kind of social survival where values and beliefs play an important role.

     Another example is this. Everyone wants to survive, but during military combat operations, frequently, individuals will protect or defend their buddies even when such actions may put them in harm’s way.

     In other words, even the survival need is socially evaluated and determined, i.e., survival does not always control human actions. And one’s intrinsic values may influence behavior more than mere survival. What values you ask? How about values such as honor, duty, country or protecting one’s immediate family and loved ones from harm?

     Now, the psychological need for self-actualization is very compelling in otherwise superior individuals. However, for some individuals, achievements, or self-actualization, may not be important at all. Rather, some people would prefer to acquire or achieve status, position, or wealth than to engage unnecessarily, or strive for, self-improvement or acquire skills to realize one’s own full potential.

     Our basic “fight or flight mechanisms” generally overrule all other human considerations most of the time. It gets very complex even here when social needs (see above) come into play. Meeting human needs is not orderly or hierarchical in real life; human behavior is much more complex. Everyday life and the meeting of our needs at all levels are always momentarily “conditional.”

     Our brain is constantly organizing, re-organizing and prioritizing our physical and social needs and their conditional nature at every moment (conditional in the sense of making choices and evaluating one’s physical and social needs).

     Understanding how the brain operates in this need striving/conditional environment requires a social construct known as the “mind.” For this author there is no mind/brain dichotomy. The mind (complex parts of the brain and neural structures) and the body are physically the same. However, as social scientists, we make use of a social construct in order to understand the complex workings of the brain. As said above, that social construct is called the “mind.”

     While the brain is constantly mediating priorities in fulfilling our needs, one might legitimately ask, from a scientific perspective, what really underlies all such brain-activated mediation?

     In statistics, a mediation model is one that seeks to identify and explicate the mechanism or process that underlies an observed relationship between an independent variable and a dependent variable via the inclusion of an explanatory variable (s), known as a mediator variable(s). This explanatory variable or variables is crucial to all decision-making.

     There are two aspects to a mediator variable(s): (1) the process of evaluation itself (conditions, evaluation, what-if questions) and (2) the additional sensory input used to make a decision. In other words, variables or factors in a mediation model dictate our behavioral choices at any point in time.

     This gets very complicated (when one is talking about thinking) because the mediating process itself of evaluation is always influenced by our feelings and emotions. A cognitively rational decision isn’t always the decision people make. The brain may decide, following all sensory input, (despite looking at conditional aspects, evaluation, or internally answering what-if questions) that the best decision isn’t necessarily a rational one. We are not machines. We are endowed with all sorts of sensory input including psychological variables like feelings, perceptions and emotions.

     Rather than hypothesizing a direct causal relationship between the independent variable and the dependent variable, a mediational model hypothesizes that the independent variable influences the mediator variable(s), which in turn influences the dependent variable.

     Thus, the mediator variable(s) serves to clarify the nature of the relationship between the independent and dependent variables. Once again, mediating relationships occur when a third variable or set of variables plays an important role in governing the relationship between the two other variables. I want something (a personal decision to fulfill a need). The “wanting” serves the role of the independent variable. The dependent variable is the result (actually meeting or satisfying the need).

     The brain however says, “Wait a minute.” The brain then initiates or introduces the mediating process variable(s) (evaluation, conditions, and what-if questions). In addition, other sensory or perceptual variables may come into this process. These may be variables like self-esteem, self-confidence, self-image, feelings, values and/or beliefs to name a few.

     Overview of Theory

     I am proposing a new theory of human need fulfillment predicated on knowing what variables predict human need fulfillment. First and foremost, fulfilling any need does not occur in a social vacuum. Therefore, I predict the domain known as [Intra Psychic/Psychiatric Characteristics of the Individual] will better predict human need fulfillment than any other domain. The variables I believe that best determine whether one’s needs are met are: self-esteem, self-image, interpersonal relationships, one’s outlook on life, capacity to love, feelings of confidence or not, extent of competence (social or intellectual), emotional stability, and mental maturity.

    The concept of a fully functioning person was first articulated by Carl Rogers (1966). All striving after human need fulfillment (this author’s opinion) is based on an Approach/Avoidance Conflict. Values, beliefs, psychological make-up, and prior social learning cause one to strive to meet human needs (whether they are survival/safety, basic or higher level needs).

     The Five domains and their variables can be used to answer the primary hypothesis mentioned earlier. Initially, there may be hundreds of variables that have some predictive power in correlating with a well-defined output variable, such as need fulfillment. There may be stages of life related to age that may differ as to outcome since people usually move forward as they age. Needs differ at each stage of life, because individuals may simply redefine what their needs are.

   Given the importance of developing a better explanation of what causes our needs to be fulfilled, it is crucial to determine what variables are most highly correlated with the dependent variable (human need fulfillment).

   Once the data are available, one of the early steps in a research study will be to generate a correlation matrix. This must occur prior to any attempt to reduce the number of predictive variables to the parsimonious few. This is the point at which factor analysis and other multivariate approaches become very useful to this type of analysis of variable reduction.

     In terms of the parsimonious few, who knows, perhaps employment status, good health, strong interpersonal relationships and support systems (friends, significant others) , and self-esteem will best predict the outcome variable. But this is only an assumption, and it could be wrong. This is why research is the most exciting detective work of all. As Tom Hanks said in the movie, Forrest Gump, “You never what you’re going to get.”

   As said earlier, a good psychological theory has two key components: (1) it must describe a phenomenon and (2) it must make predictions about future behaviors. By prediction I mean there must be testable hypotheses.

     It is my evaluation, based on prior research, that the most predictive variables (to be determined through factor and multivariate analysis) will turn out to be, at an individual level—self-esteem, self-image, interpersonal relationships,one’s outlook on life, capacity to love, feelings of confidence or not, extent of competence (social or intellectual), emotional stability, and mental maturity.

 These are the variables that really matter when it comes to fulfilling one’s needs and whether one becomes a fully functioning person or not.

                                         

Testable Hypotheses

 

  • The greater the amount of self-esteem one has, the greater their needs will be met

 

  • The better a person’s self-image, the greater their needs will be met

 

  • The greater one’s interpersonal relationships are, the greater their needs will be met

 

  • The more positive a person’s outlook on life, the greater one’s needs will be met

 

  • The greater one’s capacity for love, the greater their needs will be met

 

  • The better one has feelings of confidence/competence, the greater their needs will be met

 

  • The greater one is emotionally stable, the greater their needs will be met

 

  • The more mentally mature one is, the greater their needs will be met

 

 

     All that I’ve suggested up to this point is to initiate a preliminary set of steps toward developing a new theory in social psychology. I alluded to the possibility that some day it may be possible for someone to walk into a psychologist or school counselor’s office, sit down and take a battery of tests that will not only tell a person where they are in life, but be given a detailed plan as to how to get back on track (i.e., what an individual needs to do).

     But, before we get to that pragmatic stage of psychological services (no person left behind) much research needs to be done on need fulfillment.

     There are many ways to research or answer the questions posed in this Blog. I will write, in the future, more topics in the field on psychology (the fears in our lives, the Mind/Body Dichotomy, etc.). In the meantime, I have some suggestions as to how a new theory in psychology needs to be researched.

How best to test this theory scientifically

     There are two special ways to test hypotheses in research: (1) sampling and taking measurements at one point in time, and (2) conducting research with a longitudinal cohort study. Both approaches have research value.

   The value of the first approach is obtaining early clues on prediction of the outcome variable(s). The value of a longitudinal cohort study is understanding variables and their interactions over time i.e., as things change. My preference is to conduct both types of studies. With the longitudinal approach two studies come to mind: The Farmington Heart Study and another longitudinal study known as Delinquency in a Birth Cohort developed by the famous sociologist Marvin Wolfgang.

     The Farmington Heart Study of Cardiovascular Disease has been going on for 65 years. In 1948, the Framingham Heart Study embarked on an ambitious project in health research to identify the common factors that contribute to cardiovascular disease by following its development over a long period of time among a large group of participants.    

     The study conducted by Wolfgang, Figlio and Sellin was known as “Delinquency in a Birth Cohort.” It was conducted in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania between 1945 and 1963. The purpose of this study was to investigate the history of delinquency in a birth cohort–in particular, the age of onset of delinquent behavior and the progression or cessation of delinquency. Data were collected on a cohort of males born in 1945 and residing in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Information provided in the study includes demographic characteristics of the individuals studied, academic performance, offense information, demographic characteristics of victims of offenses, and other variables.

The purpose of this study was to investigate the history of delinquency in a birth cohort–in particular, the age of onset of delinquent behavior and the progression or cessation of delinquency. Data were collected on a cohort of males born in 1945 and residing in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Information provided in the study included demographic characteristics of the individuals studied, academic performance, offense information, demographic characteristics of victims, and criminal incident information.

     For any researchers out there who think studying how a person becomes fully functioning would be worthwhile, the data collection aspect of a study demands operationally well-defined input and output variables, perseverance and proper funding. As social scientists we have many clues, mostly socio-demographic, psychological and psychiatric, that can identify why people fail during their lives, or are unable to lead fruitful lives. Like Abraham Maslow we need to look at the positive side of the ledger, i.e., why people succeed.

     Imagine what findings from this type of study might do to assist politicians, and give them direction as to how best to help their fellow citizens achieve their goals and objectives in life. What better role might a politician play than meeting, or helping to meet, the needs of their constituents?

     In the spirit of positive psychology and Abraham Maslow, it’s time to create a new chapter on why people succeed or fail in life. But also it is very important to discover why many individuals who experience great difficulties in life, nevertheless are tenacious enough to succeed anyway. Such a study, looking at three sides of a coin (top, bottom, and its edge) might generate incredibly important information for society.  

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