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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

So, You Are Having a Child?

Besides a commitment to heavenly control, a person must, like all humans, rank earthly priorities influenced by free will. I remember Maslow's hierarchy of needs from old college psychology days. Maslow, as a humanist, did not believe that human beings are pushed and pulled by mechanical forces, either of stimuli and reinforcements (behaviorism) or of unconscious instinctual impulses (psychoanalysis). Humanists believe people strive for an upper level of capabilities. Humanists focus upon potentials. Maslow's model accurately describes many realities of personal experiences. Here, in graphic form, is the hierarchy. All of his Maslow's needs are instinctoid, equivalent of instincts in animals. Humans start with a very weak disposition that is then fashioned fully as the person grows. If the environment is right, people will grow straight and beautiful, actualizing the potentials they have inherited. If the environment is not "right" (and mostly it is not) they will not grow tall and straight and beautiful. In the levels of the five basic needs, the person does not feel the second need until the demands of the first have been satisfied, nor the third until the second has been satisfied, and so on. Maslow's basic needs are categorized as physiological, safety, love/belonging, esteem, and finally self-actualization. In Maslow's eyes, beyond these needs, higher levels of needs exist. These include needs for understanding, aesthetic appreciation and purely spiritual needs. Maslow's needs pyramid starts with the basic items of food, water, and shelter. Beyond the desire to love and be loved, the forces that shape the pyramid of esteem and self-actualization become much harder to distinguish. In other words, esteem and even self-actualization have historically been directly connected to producing offspring that facilitate acquisition of physiological, safety, and love/belonging needs since the beginning of human existence. This level of needs extends far beyond the physiological sex drive. Such thinking promoted a rapidly expanding population to foster an abundant society where a man was surrounded by many children to care for him in old age, to expand flock and field, and to increase the tribe with numbers and prosperity for strength and security in the nation. Human fertility remains high in many countries because cultural values influence parents to procreate many children. From Biblical cultures in antiquity down to the present, religious views are integrated with various cultural factors in encouraging human reproduction rates although the New Testament does not seem to be explicit in suggesting family size or encouraging human reproduction. Among a range of cultural factors influencing the population are such values as virility, prestige, security and others held by parents in a cultural milieu. If people adopt the Malthusian, or pessimistic, view that human population will eventually outstrip food resources, birth control measures, especially contraceptives, will be effectively disseminated in cultures all over the world. Indeed, the needs for esteem and self-actualization rely upon developed communication and dissemination of accurate information that birth control will help prevent unwanted children, poverty, and even starvation. The cognizance of cultures is imperative in order to identify those subtle factors affecting human fertility so that programs may be realized and thus cope with the world's ominous population increases. Priorities in the United States? The problem of producing and caring for unwanted children needs attention. Surely, knowledge of birth control coupled with the understanding that attaining important esteem and self-actualization is much more difficult for individuals faced with child bearing should be emphasized, not made simply to be the offhand result of unattended sexual responsibility. If not for the children's sake, then for the parents' sake, all ages must make a commitment to reach the top of Maslow's pyramid. What must we all do? Provide an environment to make this acquisition possible. And, we must stop rewarding irresponsible parents for having children.
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