From the ASWB exam content outline, another topic to explore as you prepare for the social work exam: Basic human needs. What's your first thought on the topic? Probably Maslow. Which is likely how exam item writers will approach the topic. Let's review Maslow, then look at some other ideas about basic human needs, and wrap up with how this material may look on the licensing exam.

Maslow Hierarchy of Needs

Human needs are the fundamental requirements and conditions necessary for the well-being and survival of individuals. These needs can be categorized in various ways, and one commonly used framework is Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, which organizes human needs into five levels:

  • Physiological Needs:

    • Air, water, and food: These are the basic elements required for physical survival.
    • Shelter: Protection from the elements and a secure place to live.
    • Clothing: Appropriate attire for protection and comfort.
  • Safety Needs:

    • Personal security: Protection from harm, danger, or threat.
    • Financial security: Stability and assurance regarding one's economic well-being.
    • Health and well-being: Access to healthcare and a sense of physical and mental safety.
  • Love and Belongingness:

    • Social relationships: Friendship, intimacy, family, and a sense of connection with others.
    • Affection and love: Feeling of being cared for and belonging.
  • Esteem Needs:

    • Self-esteem: Confidence, achievement, respect from others, and a sense of competence.
    • Recognition: Feeling valued and acknowledged by others.
  • Self-Actualization:

    • Self-fulfillment: Realizing one's potential, pursuing personal growth, and achieving personal goals.
    • Creativity: Engaging in activities that allow for self-expression and creativity.
    • Problem-solving: The ability to cope with and solve challenges and problems.

While Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is a widely recognized framework, different cultures and individuals prioritize these needs differently. Additionally, some contemporary psychologists argue for variations or additions to this hierarchy, emphasizing factors like autonomy, competence, and relatedness (see below). Overall, the understanding of basic human needs continues to evolve in the fields of psychology, sociology, and other related disciplines.

Other Ideas

Various perspectives and theories offer additional insights into basic human needs. Here are a few alternative or complementary ideas, from various sources. (These are unlikely to show up on the exam, but worth a look anyway.)

  • McClelland's Theory of Needs:

    • David McClelland proposed a theory that identifies three primary needs:
      • Need for Achievement: The drive to excel and achieve challenging goals.
      • Need for Power: The desire to influence and control others.
      • Need for Affiliation: The need for positive relationships and social interaction.
  • Deci and Ryan's Self-Determination Theory:

    • This theory emphasizes three innate psychological needs:
      • Autonomy: The need to feel in control of one's actions and choices.
      • Competence: The desire to be effective in one's interactions with the environment.
      • Relatedness: The need to feel connected and involved with others.
  • Max-Neef's Fundamental Human Needs:

    • Economist Manfred Max-Neef identifies nine fundamental human needs, which include subsistence, protection, affection, understanding, participation, leisure, creation, identity, and freedom. These needs are seen as universal across cultures.
  • Hierarchy of Basic Human Values (Schwartz):

    • Shalom H. Schwartz proposed a theory of basic human values, organizing them into a set of universal motivations. These values include benevolence, achievement, self-direction, security, conformity, tradition, power, hedonism, stimulation, and universalism.

Prioritization of these needs may vary based on personal, cultural, and environmental factors. But in each, it's worth noting, basic human needs extends beyond survival needs--food and shelter--into attachment and relationship-based needs. We are social creatures.

For the Social Work Exam

How will this material look on the social work exam? Expect questions stems looking something like this:

  • A social worker is working with a client who is experiencing homelessness. The client has limited access to food, water, and shelter. What should be the social worker's initial priority in addressing this client's needs?
  • A social worker is working with a teenager in foster care who is struggling with feelings of isolation and loneliness. How can the social worker support the client in building positive social connections?
  • A social worker is responding to a community affected by a natural disaster. What immediate interventions should the social worker prioritize to address the basic needs of individuals and families in the aftermath of the disaster?
  • A social worker is working with a client from a different cultural background who has unique perspectives on basic human needs. How can the social worker demonstrate cultural competence in addressing the client's needs?

Get questions like these (with answers and thorough rationales) with Social Work Test Prep's full-length practice tests. The basic need in preparing for the ASWB exam is practice, practice, and more practice. We've got you covered.

Get Started Now.

November 22, 2023
Categories :