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Maslow’s Unacknowledged Contributions to Developmental Psychology

Few readily identify Maslow as a developmental psychologist. On the other hand, Maslow’s call for holistic/systemic, phenomenological, and dynamic/relational developmental perspectives in psychology (all being alternatives to the limitations of the dominant natural science paradigm) anticipated what emerged both as and in the subdiscipline of developmental psychology. In this article, we propose that Maslow’s dynamic systems approach to healthy human development served as a forerunner for classic and contemporary theory and research on parallel constructs in developmental psychology that provide empirical support for his ideas—particularly those affiliated with characteristics of psychological health (i.e., self-actualization) and the conditions that promote or inhibit it. We also explore Maslow’s adaptation of Goldstein’s concept of self-actualization, in which he simultaneously: (a) explicated a theory of safety versus growth that accounts for the two-steps-forward-one-step-back contiguous dynamic that realistically characterizes the ongoing processes of being-in-becoming and psychological integration in human development/maturity and (b) emphasized being-in-the-world-with-others with the intent of facilitating the development of an ideal society by promoting protective factors that illustrate Maslow’s safety, belonging, and esteem needs. Finally, we dialogue with the extant literature to clarify common misgivings about Maslow’s ideas.

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