If we have suffered significant childhood trauma we will, inevitably, have been denied some of our basic needs. But, what exactly are the basic needs of children, and what is the effect of their absence?
The main basic needs of children include the following :
- a sense of emotional connection to significant others
- a sense of safety
- a sense of their own positive qualities
- the freedom to exercise authentic self-expression
- an appropriate degree of autonomy
- appropriate limits
Let’s look at each of these six basic needs of children in a little more detail :
1) A SENSE OF EMOTIONAL CONNECTION WITH SIGNIFICANT OTHERS :
Children need loving, warm, trusting relationships with significant others with whom they are able to be open about, and share, their thoughts, feelings, and experiences.
2) A SENSE OF SAFETY :
Children need to live in an environment within which they feel safe including the presence of reliable and dependable parents/primary carers.
3) A SENSE OF THEIR OWN POSITIVE QUALITIES :
Children need to be able to appreciate themselves / feel good about who they are in order to be able to develop healthy self-esteem.
4) AN APPROPRIATE LEVEL OF FREEDOM TO EXERCISE AUTHENTIC SELF-EXPRESSION :
Children need to be allowed and encouraged to develop and express their own views, feelings and attitudes.
5) AN APPROPRIATE DEGREE OF AUTONOMY :
Children need to be gradually encouraged to develop a sense of autonomy as they grow up so that there are eventually able to take care of, and support, themselves independently.
6) APPROPRIATE LIMITS :
Despite children’s need to to be allowed to exercise self-expression and autonomy when appropriate (see above), they also need to learn to override these needs when necessary in order to integrate into society and to function effectively within it; in order to accomplish this, it is also necessary for them to learn to tolerate feelings of frustration.
What Can Be The Effects Of Such Needs Not Being Met?
If the child fails to have these needs met, for example, due to dysfunctional parenting styles, then this child is at increased risk of developing a large range of psychological difficulties depending upon which need/s were not met and the manner in which this deprivation interacts with the particular child’s temperament; I provide some examples below :
- The child who grows up without being given the opportunity to develop his/her autonomy may grow up to be overly dependent upon others.
- The child who is perpetually criticized and seldom/never praised will not develop a healthy sense of his/her own positive qualities which, in turn, is likely to result in poor self-esteem
- A child who does not grow up feeling safe will be at increased risk of developing an anxiety disorder.
Generally speaking, the more needs that are not properly met, and the greater the extent to which they fail to be met, the more psychologically damaged the child is likely to become. In the most serious cases, the child may be put at risk of developing, in later life, such as borderline personality disorder (BPD) or complex posttraumatic stress disorder (complex PTSD).
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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).