Young’s and Dweck’s Needs Theories Compared
As said, Young described five core emotional needs, while acknowledging that these were not based on a comprehensive theory and that the set of needs he proposed might be incomplete (Young et al. 2003). Similar to Young et al. (2003), Dweck’s theory (2017) described how core emotional needs are important in the development of personality, using similar constructs as schemas (i.e., mental representations, called BEATs, which stands for beliefs, emotions, and action tendencies) and schema modes (called online acts and experiences). Dweck postulated seven evidence-based emotional needs (Fig. 1), and discussed empirical evidence for each of them. In short, she argued that three emotional needs are most basic in development: acceptance, predictability, and competence. The need for acceptance represents the need for positive social engagement, and overlaps with similar constructs proposed in the literature, such as connectedness, attachment, affiliation, belonging, or love (Dweck 2017; see p. 691). This need is proposed to be present very early in development. The second primary need, i.e., the need for (optimal) predictability, stands for “the desire to know the relationships among events and among things in the world: what follows what, what belongs with what, or what causes what” (Dweck 2017, p. 692). The third primary need according to Dweck is the need for competence, which is the need to build “skills for acting in or on the world” (Dweck 2017, p. 692). Resting on empirical foundations, Dweck argued that the aforementioned needs are the earliest developmentally and therefore are the most basic, i.e., they appear starting in infancy, guide both goal-directed behavior and information processing even at that early stage, and when thwarted lead to serious risk and a failure to thrive.
She goes on to argue that based on these three most basic needs four ‘compound needs’ develop: the needs for trust, control, self-esteem/status, and self-coherence. Each of the first three evolve from the combination of a pair of basic needs. In particular, the need for trust starts to evolve from 7 to 9 months out of the combined needs for acceptance and predictability. According to Dweck, these two basic needs are distinct until that age, and do not join into what we would call trust. Similarly, the need for control evolves from the combined needs for competence and predictability, and corresponds to what others called the need for agency, autonomy, and self-control. It represents the need to manipulate the world, for which predictability of the world and competence in the necessary skills are a prerequisite. Finally, the need for self-esteem/status gradually unfolds in the second year of development out of a conjunction of the needs for acceptance and competence. According to Dweck (2017, p. 294), “the outcomes of both acceptance-related goals and competence-related goals provide information about one’s merits and standing”. The reason why these compound needs evolve later in time than the three basic needs is related to the necessary cognitive and behavioral capacities that have to develop first.
The fourth and final compound need identified by Dweck, namely the need for self-coherence, stands for the desire to feel psychologically intact and rooted. It is about the need for experiencing the self as integrated and the world as meaningful, in relation to the person. These two sub-aspects are called identity and meaning. This need is fulfilled by the successful integration of the areas of the six other needs.
We tried to locate the five emotional needs described by Young et al. (2003) within Dweck’s taxonomy, and constructed a map showing the relationship between the two (see Fig. 1). Below we present how each of the needs identified by Young maps onto Dweck’s system.
Safety & nurturance (including safe attachment). This need covers the innate need of the child for support and acceptance by caregivers (e.g., to be calmed when in stress) and a predictable environment, in which trust for caregivers and the environment develops. When support and acceptance are not met, the child may develop the EMSs “emotional deprivation”, “social isolation”, and/or “defectiveness/shame”; when no predictable environment is given, the EMSs “abandonment” and/or “mistrust/abuse” might develop. Therefore, this need overlaps with the domain of Dweck’s needs of acceptance, predictability, and trust.
Autonomy, competence & sense of identity. This need is about developing a sense of being able to make independent decisions, discovering the world, being able to overcome problems, and forming a sense of identity as an independent person with specific competencies. This overlaps with the area in Dweck’s system where competence, control, and self-esteem/status lie.
Freedom to express needs, opinions & emotions. In order to be allowed to express needs, opinions, and emotions, the child has to expect that this will be accepted. Also, the child has to have a sense of competence that it is able to verbalize these. Lastly, the child has to experience a certain status and self-esteem to feel socially allowed to express needs, opinions, and emotions—and conversely, expressing these will build up self-esteem and status. Hence, this need overlaps with the domain in Dweck’s taxonomy defined by acceptance, competence, and self-esteem/status.
Spontaneity & play. Both in humans and animals, playing is a way to develop competence. The need for spontaneity and play can therefore be placed in the area of Dweck’s need for competence.
Realistic limits & self-control. Without realistic limits, the environment of the child becomes unpredictable and uncontrollable. Moreover, realistic limits offer learning experiences in competence and control. This need can therefore be placed in the area of predictability, competence, and control in Dweck’s taxonomy.
As can be seen, Young’s list overlaps nicely with Dweck’s taxonomy. However, Young’s overview of needs lacks the need for self-coherence, which incorporates the two distinguishable aspects identity (“Who am I?”) and meaning (“How does/should the world work in ways that matter to me?”; Dweck 2017, p. 695). One could think that Young’s need for autonomy, competence, and sense of identity includes the need for self-coherence. However, the identity aspect of the former need relates more to experiencing identity through achievement and competence (“I know a lot about dinosaurs, I love climbing trees, I am good at soccer, etc.”) than experiencing self-coherence. Apart from the need for self-coherence, Young’s list of emotional needs thus appears to cover the emotional needs of humans as defined by Dweck well. With the exception of self-coherence, we can therefore assume that the Early Maladaptive Schemas (EMSs) that are derived from these needs represent the fundamental maladaptive representations in humans well, and therefore a systematic derivation of schema modes from the combinations of EMSs and coping will lead to good coverage of the universe of modes.
The Need for Self-Coherence and Related EMSs
Because the need for self-coherence is missing in Young’s taxonomy of needs, we propose that this need (with its two aspects) and the related EMSs of lack of a coherent identity, and lack of a meaningful world should be added.
Lack of a coherent identity refers to the representation of the self as non-coherent and diffuse, as consisting out of non-integrated parts, and in severe cases as consisting out of completely dissociated parts. Lack of a meaningful world refers to the representation of the world as meaningless, with the self being disconnected from the processes taking place in the world. Activation of these schemas will lead to feelings of confusion, estrangement, existential anxiety, the self and/or the world falling apart, being lost, et cetera. As experiences cannot be integrated into a meaningful whole, symptoms of dissociation and psychosis might result. Thus, we expect high levels of these EMSs in severe psychopathologies, for example in severe personality disorders (Borderline (identity diffusion), Schizoid, Schizotypal), Dissociative Identity Disorder, and severe (chronic) psychosis. For example, in Schizoid Personality Disorder, although one can see one’s own life as meaningful and the self as integrated, there is an estrangement from the world around, as is presumably reflected by a high level of the EMS Lack of a meaningful world. Another example is Dissociative Identity Disorder, which is characterized by the experience of the self as consisting of separated, fully dissociated parts, as is most probably expressed by high levels of the EMS Lack of a coherent identity. Still another example is Schizotypal Personality Disorder, where patients report extreme confusion about their inner world, as well as their outer world, as we expect is reflected by elevated scores on both EMSs within the domain of Self-Coherence. Therefore, these EMSs are a welcome addition to ST theory, as, in our view, they cover forms of psychopathology that were hitherto not encompassed by ST theory.
The Need for Fairness
Discussion in the workgroup revealed that still another important need was missing in Young’s list: the need for fairness. Ethologists have discovered that monkeys, apes, dogs, and birds already have a need for fairness, for instance refusing food if they get clearly less (attractive) food than another animal (e.g., Brosnan and de Waal 2014). This observation is incompatible with a simple rational economic view where accepting any food is better than refusing food and therefore getting nothing. Hence, a need for fairness seems to play a role here. This need is assumed to promote cooperation with individually known partners, also in humans (e.g., Starmans et al. 2017). Clinical observations indicate that frustrating the need for fairness can lead to severe emotional problems, and empirical studies have documented associations between unfairness (inequality, injustice) and mental as well as physical health problems (e.g., Prilleltensky 2013), and demonstrated that the need for fairness is evident already early in childhood (e.g., McAuliffe et al. 2017).
One could argue that the need for fairness is just part of the need for trust, or predictability in Dweck’s model, and the need for safety in Young’s model. However, given the specificity of this need for species (including humans) that depend on individual cooperation, the specific triggers, and the specific primary response (protest, refusal, anger, cf. Brosnan and de Waal 2014), we felt that it would be useful to postulate it as a separate need. Note that the need for trust is more related to predictable social affiliation than to cooperation. Also, note that fairness implies predictability, but predictability does not imply fairness: unfair treatment can be highly predictable. Hence, we propose a core need for fairness, which, when frustrated, can lead to the development of an EMS of Unfairness—a fundamental representation of (a) the world (including but not necessarily restricted to other people) as being unfair and unjust, (b) the society as lacking justice, thus not correcting those that behave unfairly, and (c) the self as a (continuous) victim of unfairness.
The last aspect is essential, as it represents the emotional pain that is part of this EMS (see also Ellis and Ellis 2011). Activation of this schema will lead to feelings of indignation and anger combined with powerlessness. It might be difficult for people with this EMS to deal with even slight experiences of unfairness. It is expected that this EMS is characteristic for people who behave in a victimized way and easily feel resentment because of (perceived) unequal treatment between them and others.
After having discussed basic needs and based on that analysis having added three EMSs to the 18 proposed by Young et al. (2003), we will now discuss how different ways of dealing with activation of an EMS lead to different schema modes.