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Learn about Maslow’s safety stage in the hierarchy of needs, apply the safety stage to your life and experiences, and test your knowledge with a quiz.

Safety and Security

When we make decisions about our lives, we try our best to ensure our own safety. We purchase insurances, such as health and car, to protect ourselves should something unexpected occur. We do these things to increase our sense of safety and security and make us feel more comfortable in our lives, which is what Abraham Maslow depicts in the second stage of the hierarchy of needs.

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Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Hierarchy of Needs
maslows needs

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a theory of motivation in psychology developed by Abraham Maslow. Maslow believed people move through different stages of five needs that motivate our behavior.

He called these needs physiological, safety, love and belonging (social), esteem, and self-actualization. Maslow believed each stage of need had to be met before progression to the next stage of need could occur. For example, before health and financial security becomes a priority, physiological needs for food and water must be met first. Let’s take a further look at the second stage of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the need for safety and security.


Safety needs in Maslow’s hierarchy refer to the need for security and protection. When we have our physiological needs for food and water met, our safety needs dominate our behavior. These needs have to do with our natural desire for a predictable, orderly world that is somewhat within our control.

Safety needs in today’s world can manifest themselves as job security, savings accounts, insurance policies, financial security, and health and well-being.


Let’s consider a few scenarios to explain how safety relates to movement through Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Scenario 1: Physiological needs

When your physiological needs have not been met, it is difficult to meet your needs for safety. For example, if you are homeless and do not know where your next meal is coming from, it is unlikely that you will be concerned with financial security or a safe environment because your need to have food and shelter from day to day is most prominent. Homeless individuals are oftentimes not in safe environments. Their most prominent needs are food and water, and they seek shelter wherever they can, even if they aren’t safe.

Scenario 2: Safety needs

When you have met your physiological needs, such as food and water, then your safety needs become more important.

For example, if you were once homeless but get accepted to a restorative program at the local mission and no longer have to worry about food or shelter, your safety needs become more important. Perhaps now that your physiological needs are met, you would try to get a job to establish financial safety. You would also care for your health and choose secure environments to care for your physical safety.

Scenario 3: From safety needs back to physiological needs

It is possible to have your physiological and safety needs met but experience a setback in life that prevents you from progressing through Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. In fact, a setback might cause you to regress rather than progress through the pyramid. For example, if you experience a job loss, there are several other areas of your life that will be affected, including your financial security, food, and shelter. As a result of your job loss, you would not move forward towards the social stage of development because friends and social engagements are not your priority.

It is more likely that your physiological needs of food, water, and shelter will become most prominent. When those needs are met you can then find a job and start building your security and safety again.

Lesson Summary

Security needs are important for survival but are difficult to achieve until physiological needs have been met first. Examples of security needs include a number of situations that improve your level of comfort in life, such as a desire for steady employment, health insurance, safe neighborhoods, and shelter from the environment.

Learning Outcomes

After you’ve completed this lesson, you should be able to:

  • Describe Maslow’s hierarchy of needs
  • Define Maslow’s safety needs and provide examples of those needs
  • Explain how Maslow’s safety needs fit into the overall hierarchy

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