Case Study Research: Theoretical Background

In his Hierarchy of Needs, psychologist Abraham Maslow (1943, 1954) describes his analysis of human motivation with a visual model of a triangle that by 1970 he divided into seven layers. The idea was originally that the lower ones ‘had’ to be met before one would be motivated to pursue the higher ones. Even though the need for mastering the lower, larger levels before moving on to the others was since shown to be untrue, the lower, larger layers usually may be more strongly motivating.

The upper levels of Self-actualization and Transcendence sound distant. They include behaviors that mark a movement beyond ego restrictions and into a wholeness and freshness of interchange reminiscent of early experience. These interchanges may be protective factors that fortify participants’ resilience.

In senior care, both Assisted Living and Senior Foster Care, the general care-giving (care-ing) focus needs to be on meeting the lower two motivational needs: physiological well being and safety. Since residents are not likely to be able to manage their medications, cook, independently perform all their activities of daily life, the home or agency is required to assure those needs are met.

For activity planning, however, the focus can shift to resources to address the higher order needs of belonging, esteem, cognitive, aesthetic, and self-actualization, and transcendence. (Maslow, 1970a, 1970b) Full Expressions group participants demonstrate belonging, esteem, cognitive, and aesthetic engagement throughout our group process. The safety of the group, the relationships and history they develop together, the sanctity of the space they share creates an opportunity rare in the life of a person who is normally treated as someone ‘receiving care.’

In such a 'de-medicalization' of the resident, he becomes free to allow new possibilities for being as her/himself and in relationship.  S/he may grow, experiment, develop. At this point, the individual can expand and develop her identity to  one impossible in the work-a-day, family life, worldly years of yore.  In these years past the demands of achievement and ego, the resident can allow and release into the fullness of possibility for

In Full Expressions, participants have ongoing active engagement in these “self-actualizing” behaviors: accepting themselves and others for what they are; expressing themselves spontaneously; expressing concern for the welfare of humanity; deeply appreciating basic life-experience; experiencing deep satisfying interpersonal relationships (communication) with a few people; showing democratic attitudes (listening to others without commenting or judging); trying new things instead of sticking to safe paths; listening to one’s own feelings in evaluating experiences instead of the voice of tradition, authority or the majority; being honest and avoiding pretense ('game playing'); and being prepared to be unpopular if their views do not coincide with those of the majority. (McLeod, 2007)


Isn't this fascinating?  Help make this research possible!







McLeod, S. A. Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. Retrieved from 2007.


Maslow, A. H. Motivation and personality. New York: Harper & Row, 1954.

Maslow, A. H. (1970a). Motivation and personality. New York: Harper & Row.

Maslow, A. H. (1970b). Religions, values, and peak experiences. New York: Penguin. 1970.


background image