Abraham Maslow is well known within the world of psychology , being a remarkable figure who promoted and created, together with other authors such as Carl Rogers, the so-called humanist psychology. This author worked on various topics throughout his career, developing a holistic model based on growth and development based on the satisfaction of needs.

His most well-known and popular contribution is the pyramid of human needs, in which the author hierarchises the latter according to the degree of strength they have and observing that as we supply the most basic and essential needs for survival, other more and more complex needs arise.

On the margins of this pyramid, he made various contributions based on his model, investigating, among other elements, each of the needs and the importance not only of satisfying them but of the way to do so, personal self-realization, the differentiation between reality and fiction, homeostasis and the maintenance of health and well-being, higher processes of consciousness and human relations. Knowing the life of this author can help to understand his thought, which is why in this article we will outline a biography of Abraham Maslow .

Brief biography of Abraham Maslow

Abraham Maslow was born on April 1, 1908, in New York City’s Brooklyn County, into a Jewish family of Russian origin that immigrated to the United States. Maslow was the first of seven children, being the firstborn of Samuel and Rose Maslow. His childhood was not particularly happy, with both parents being overly demanding on him and often bullying him.

His father saw him as stupid and disgusting, which would diminish the little one’s self-esteem to a great extent. As for his mother, Maslow himself indicated that did not provide her with love or affection during her childhood and was characterized by excessive harshness, exigency, rigidity and even cruelty towards him, to the point that he would come to hate her and even many years later to refuse to go to her funeral.

In addition to his family life, young Maslow’s childhood was marked by loneliness and social discrimination because of his origins, being a lonely boy whose only refuge would be books. From his childhood, Maslow showed great intelligence and curiosity for learning , with reading being one of his favourite pastimes and showing a high academic performance from the very beginning.

Formation and marriage

At the age of seventeen he decided to take an interest in the legal field in order to satisfy his parents, enrolling in 1926 at the City College of New York and Brooklyn Law School to study law and law. However, he soon realized that the legal field was not to his liking and he ended up dropping out.

He was transferred to Cornell University in order to study psychology , but attendance at a short introductory course in psychology by Edward Titchener discouraged him from doing so and after the first semester he returned to the City College of New York. After that he would transfer to the University of Wisconsin, where he would finally study psychology.

While still a student he married against family opinion Bertha Goodman , one of his cousins, in 1928. He moved with her to Wisconsin the same year, so that he could study there. This marriage brought him the love and affection he had not had in previous times, and the author even said that his life would begin from then on. With her he would have two daughters.

Two years later, in 1930, he graduated from the University of Wisconsin. A year later, he would receive a master’s degree. After that, he would do his doctorate at the same university, with his mentor Harry Harlow . Together with him, Maslow would carry out what would be his first relevant study, analysing sexual behaviour and dominance and power in primates. He would get his PhD in 1934.

Working life and contributions

After finishing his studies he would start working as a teacher at the same university for a short period of time.

However, in 1935 he would move to Columbia University, where he would work as a researcher together with Thorndike, as well as with Alfred Adler. This would make her visualize two of the main theoretical currents, behaviorism and psychoanalysis, appreciating the virtues and defects of each one.

At this university, he would carry out a controversial research on female sexuality (using concepts derived from psychoanalysis), discovering aspects of the relationship between dominance and sexuality and the attraction to certain characteristics according to one’s degree of dominance, and publishing several articles on this subject.

In 1937 he returned to Brooklyn University, remaining there until 1951 and serving as a professor. He would have contact with Wertheimer (one of the main founders of the Gestalt) and the anthropologist Ruth Benedict, establishing a certain friendship and being great influences in their thinking.

The Times of World War II

The United States’ entry into World War II in 1941 made him too old to enlist, and he was not considered fit for military service. However, this conflict moved him to investigate the causes of hate and prejudice , as well as other emotions and relationships. In 1943 he would begin to propose the existence of a hierarchy of needs in his publication “A theory of human motivation”.

In 1947 Maslow suffered a heart attack and had to take a leave of absence, moving to California with his family. After his recovery, he would return to college in 1949.

In 1951 he was hired at the psychology department of Brandeis University, assuming his leadership and acting as professor. At this university he would become acquainted with Goldstein’s theory and concept of self-realization . It was at this stage that he would finish promoting and outlining what is also called the third force of psychology, Humanist Psychology, and would create Maslow’s famous pyramid. In 1954 he published “Motivation and Personality”, where he expanded his theory and model.

Because of his many contributions to psychology, in 1966 Maslow was elected president of the American Psychological Association .

His death

As the years went by, Maslow’s health would begin to decline, and he would begin to suffer from heart problems. In 1967, he suffered a heart attack, which he survived, but which, along with other health problems, forced him to resign from his teaching position. After that he dedicated himself to trying to establish an ethic in the practice of humanistic psychology.

In 1970, specifically on June 8, Abraham Maslow suffered another heart attack , dying at the age of 62.

The legacy of this author is extensive, being one of the main creators of the humanist current in psychology and serving as a precursor to psychologies such as positive. His theories are widely known and used in various fields, both on a clinical and business level.