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Eight Need Domains


Explanations > Needs > Eight Need Domains

Physical | Physiological | Psychological | Social | Emotional | Intellectual | Educational | Spiritual |  So what?


In a review of the literature about children's needs, Sue Price identifies eight needs domains. In fact these are applicable for adults too.


The need for physical safety and protection from harm. This includes defense against attack as well as protection from extremes of weather, including wetness, heat and cold.

If these needs are not met, the body may be physically harmed and the person may hence become ill and die.


The body has particular needs for sustenance, including water and a balanced range of nutrients. When harmed, the body needs repair. The body is, in general, quite good at repairing itself (particularly when it is younger), although there is a point beyond which it needs external medical assistance. 

If these needs are not met, at best the person may perform below their potential (physically and mentally). At worst, they may fall ill and die.


The mind also needs a certain safety. It needs to make sense of its environment and perceive that it is safe.

Just as the body may be physically threatened or attacked, so also can the mind be psychologically threatened or attacked, with equally devastating effect. And just as we can build physical defenses so also can psychological defense be developed.


We are social beings that have learned over millennia that living in social groups is generally better for survival. We thus have build needs to be attached to others and for their approval. This starts with connection with our parents and continues into general society.

When social needs are not met we feel alone and rejected. This is a very powerful force on us and the threat of being ostracized keeps many people in line with social rules.


Like many other animals, our emotions act strongly on us, forcing us to act through effective sensations of pain and pleasure. Our emotional needs are thus to avoid pain and to experience pleasure.

Emotional pain and pleasure thus act as 'push and pull' on us, powerfully guiding our lives.


We have a need to think and for intellectual stimulation. Intellectual problems thus engage us, from 'whodunnit' murder mystery dramas to Sudoku puzzles.

It does seem, however, that more intense intellectual pursuits are more pleasurable for some than others. This is partly due to genetic factors (which have a significant impact on intelligence) as well as personal motivation.


We also have a need to learn. At a basic level, this enables us to adapt to the changing environment and so avoid threats. It also allows us to improve our lot and generally have a better life. The brain rewards learning with dopamine, the natural opiate 'aha' drug.

Curiosity and boredom are stimulating emotions that probe us into satisfying learning needs.

Educational needs also feed intellectual needs and learning can be done solely for this purpose.


At what some would describe as the highest level of needs, we seek one-ness with the universe or a perceived deity. We thus pray, meditate and commune with nature, seeking our own personal nirvana.

So what?

Understand these needs as with others, and consider in your communications which of these you are threatening or rewarding.

See also

Price, S. (1994). The special needs of children, Joumal of Advanced Nursing, 1994,20, 227-232


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