The article is centered on self-actualization in adulthood. The respondents were working people aged 20-50 (sample size 131) who were living in Moscow city and Moscow region. The method for gathering empirical data was the authors’ version of unfinished sentences. During the analysis the respondents were divided into 4 groups: older/younger than 30 and men/women. Aspects of self-actualization were analyzed separately in each group. The research results showed that the group under 30 had balanced type of self-actualization. Young women placed more importance in self-actualization through family, young men – through professional growth. Future-oriented self-actualization was more characteristic of this group, it had more to do with their life plans rather than achieved life goals. Self-actualization of people over 30 was more complex. In this age group we distinguished between men and women who were satisfied or dissatisfied with their career. Women, satisfied with their social position at work, had a balanced self-actualization type. Women, dissatisfied with their career, formed a self-actualization type that we called ‘pushed out into family life’. It was characterized by lack of plans for career advancement, a wish to help children buy their own residence and wish to help in raising grandchildren. Men over 30, satisfied with their career, also had a balanced self-actualization. The men, dissatisfied with their career, were characterized by ‘compensatory self-actualization’ with orientation towards supporting the family.
The study of self-actualization became a relevant study subject in the second part of XX cent. This impulse was created by works of A. Maslow. He became interested in self-actualizing personalities, that were quite different from other people, but similar among themselves, through works of his teachers – R. Benedict and M. Wertheimer.
He believed that a person had inherent needs and aptitudes. Some of them are distinct and unique. Healthy, mornal and desirable development consists of actialization of this nature, actualization of one’s capabilities. The inner nature, in his opinion, “is weak and delicate and subtle and easily overcome by habit, cultural pressure and wrong attitudes toward it… It rarely disappears in the normal person – perhaps not even in the sick person” (Maslow, 1968, p. 127).
According to Maslow self-actualizing person could accept a life’s challenge and create a worthy life, full of significance. He especially noted creativity as a general characteristic of a self-actualizing personality that was the basis of all forms of self-expression. A. Maslow created the hierarchy of human needs in which self-actualization ranked the highest.
Maslow attempted to study self-actualizing personalities through analyzing biographies of distinguished persons. A. Einstein, C. Chaplin, E. Roosevelt and others were among his subjects. Consequently the basis of biography choice was the criteria of acknowlegement of the person’s achievements by society. The inddocator of such acknowledgement was the recognition of the person whose biography was included in the study. A. Maslow identified a series of their psychological characteristics, consisting of 15 traits (as cited in Frager & Fadiman, 2005).
It is worth noting that not a single respondent of Maslow’s displayed all 15 of these traits. In his opinion, the term ‘self-actualizing people’ described not a certain strata, but an ideal which they approached.
In A. Maslow’s estimation, 1% of the population could be referred as such. It is no wonder that the object of the study were distinguished personalities and historical figures. However, in reply to criticism A Maslow later admitted that not only distinguished personalities were able to self-actualize, but also some housewives. Thus, the first researcher of the topic changed the criteria of estimating of self-actualization from social acceptance to subjectivity.
Later ideas of A. Maslow were developed by researchers who created techniques aimed at research of self-actualization differences. Among them was Korostyleva (2001), who in her thesis highlighted two main spheres of self-actualization: professional and family one. We will be be focusing on those two, with addition of additional one – leisure.
Self-actualization in this research is defined as “actualization of self in day-to-day life, assertion of one’s own special path through life in concrete historical circumstances” (Solodnikova, 2007, p. 65).
Adulthood is defined as actualization of roles of a adult in specific society. That is the reason that working people of different age participated in the survey. Family status was not the criteria for screening the respondents.
Due to change of criteria for defining self-actualization of a personality from social acceptance to subjectivity the question of its possibility among ‘ordinary’ people arises. It is possible to hypothesize that ‘undistinguished’ people have psychological traits of self-actualizing personality (at least, in a subjective perspective). This research was dedicated to the self-actualization self-evaluation analysis.
IN this research we wanted to find answers to the following questions:
How do ‘ordinary’ people envision a self-actualizing personality, what characteristics they lay stress to, what is important for them?
What is the subjective evaluation of their achievements and successes by ‘ordinary’ people that could be considered to be an attribute of self-actualization.
Purpose of the Study
To find out self-actualization gender aspects of ‘ordinary’ adults
To find out self-actualization age aspects of ‘ordinary’ adults
To identify self-actualization extent in its main spheres
The research consisted of a questionnaire of unfinished sentences, created by the authors. There were 131 respondents with higher or unfinished higher level of education. All of them were working at the time of research and lived in Moscow or Moscow region. 66 men and 65 women participated in the survey. The age representation was as follows: 37% were aged 20-29, 63% were aged 30-50. The data was analysed as qualitative.
The first step was the attempt to analyze the way the respondent finished the sentence
Most often the self-actualizing person was defined as someone who was able to achieve all their life goals
The third place was occupied by the opinion that a person who lived in harmony with themselves and the world was self-actualized
The next most common answer –
A number of answers could not be summed up into categories. For example,
The next sentence the respondents were asked to finish was ‘
The leading quality by far was self-confidence. It was named by more than fourth of the sample. Men mentioned it slightly more often than women. Men also mentioned financial independence twice as often as women. Such qualities as self-sufficiency, sense of humor, health, kindness, lack of envy and conscience were found many times. Love, insolence and optimism were also mentioned.
The last sentence that the respondents were asked to finish was ‘
Other part of the respondents believed, though, that such a person can’t be happy (only women voiced such an opinion).
The main conclusion from answers to these questions amounted to the fact that the respondents drew a contradictory picture of the man who achieved much in his life. Many noted positive characteristics of successful people, and some were of the opinion that these people were not always happy and can become ’evil geniuses’. In the mind of the respondents, professional roles of successful people were formed: oligarch, philanthropist. Some respondents noted focus of these people on self-actualization (wished and achieved), men again emphasized financial success after reaching which one could rest and have a good life.
The analysis of unfinished sentences emphasized the fact that men viewed financial welfare as an important factor of self-actualization than women. Women more often see this process as ‘investment into others’, creation of satisfactory atmosphere in interpersonal relationships. Both men and women pointed out the procedural characteristic of self-actualization with the possibility of its evaluation after the person’s death. Some respondents noted humor as am important quality of self-realizing personality that A. Maslow described as important.
The second step of unfinished sentences analysis was the separation of all working respondents aged 21-50 into four groups by gender and age (under 30 and 31+).
The conducted content analysis allowed us to distinguish self-actualization types among those groups of respondents.
The main goals in life for women under 30 in family sphere were a successful marriage and birth of a child (the first or second one). This tendency became apparent in answer to unfinished sentences such as ‘
In professional sphere young women also had aspirations for self-actualization. They planned their career. Among the answers to unfinished sentence
The plans for self-education and travel could be viewed as an aspiration for self-actualization in additional spheres beyond family and work. It must be noted, though, that further education for young women (and other groups too) could be associated with the wish to improve their position on the labor market, to have greater success in profession, to ensure greater mobility in the society prone to radical social change.
On the whole young women showed plans for self-actualization in main and additional spheres of social relations. This self-actualization type we named
The next group of interest was men under 30. Their first priority was professional plans. They often finished the sentence
That said, young men were also aimed for self-actualization in family relationships. They finished the sentence ‘My biggest mistake was…’ that measured the importance of family with description of family troubles (
It was emblematic that young men did not mention further education in their answers. They probably thought that they were educated enough to build a career, earn more money or start a business.
Thus the self-actualization strategy of young men in Russia could be described as
Now we will turn to self-actualization types of people over 31. Most often women had 2 self-actualization types. Those who had a career (had a good salary, worked in a bank, was a real estate agent) had a
At the same time they continued their self-actualization in profession. The most typical answer when finishing the sentence ‘
Additional self-actualization spheres were also important for them. They mentioned preserving health and active way of life. The sentence
The other type of self-actualization was identified among women who were
Additional self-actualization sphere for such women was spending time at the vacation home. The sentence ‘
This type of self-actualization among women aged 31+ could be labeled
Men aged 31 and older also displayed several types of self-actualization. They mainly were a function of their self-actualization in the professional sphere. Men, successful in their career (satisfied with their position and income), as well as successful career women hoped for further professional growth. The range of professional strategies was rather wide. When ending the sentence ‘
In the sphere of family and relationships they did not have many difficulties partly due to their professional and financial success. They pointed out that they loved their family, wife and children, they considered the birth of the children and parenting to be accomplishments. Although, such answers appeared less often than among women of the same age. Either they take a well-to-do family for granted or assumed that they still would be able to create a satisfying relationship. In short, successful men over 31 displayed
Men with occupation that
These respondents compensated their souring career through setting financial goals. They noted as significant life episodes a hope for improving living conditions, helping children to buy their own residence, construction or renovation of the vacation home, purchase of a new car.
Self-actualization in the family sphere for them centered on financial support of family and children. Typically, they finished the sentence ‘
So, the self-actualization type of men 31+ with unsatisfactory career could be called
These men as well as those with successful career considered financial their well-being and that of the family to be the main criterion of self-actualization.
However, firstly, it must be noted that in case of satisfactory career orientation toward financial well-being was supplemented, balanced by a range of goals and means of achieving them in other spheres (family, wider social goals). While in cases of unsatisfactory career achieving financial success (for the men themselves or their children) became the leading motive, greatly narrowing the range of life goals (and corresponding actions).
Secondly, peculiarly ‘male’ ending to the sentence ‘
Sport could be named as an additional self-actualization sphere for men of this age both successful and unsuccessful in career. Every fifth respondent pointed out that he didn’t have enough time for sport. Health preservation and maintaining was the additional self-actualization sphere. Apparently, being healthy was one of main life values for respondents in this age group regardless of gender. The ways to achieve it, though, were gender-specific: sport for men and things less specific (“
The aspects of self-actualization among men over 31 were summed up in table
We identified age and gender self-actualization aspects of personality in adulthood. For the respondents under 30 of either gender had balanced self-actualization type. We presumed that it was directed towards the future (often it was a plan, not reality). Self-actualization strategy can change, depending on where their life will go (in case of setback in a certain sphere of life).
The same self-actualization type was also inherent for people over 31 y.o. with successful career. It was supported by achievements in professional and family spheres.
Women, dissatisfied with their career, displayed pushed out into family life self-actualization type. It was characterized by self-actualization in family sphere due to lack of prestige of their occupation because of radical social changes. Additional self-actualization sphere was work/leisure at the vacation home.
Men, dissatisfied with their career, showed compensatory self-actualization type, aimed at financial support of the family. Lack of career plans was compensated by many ideas for increasing financial welfare of the family. Additional self-actualization sphere was sport as a means of keeping healthy.
Working people participated in this survey, but it would be interesting to analyze self-actualization patterns among adults – successful and not in the family sphere. It could be argued that self-actualization trajectories could be even more complicated.
We hope that these objectives would be addressed in the next research.
- Abulhanova-Slavskaja, К. А. (1991). Strategiea zizni [Strategy of life]. Mysl
- Frager, R., & Fadiman, J. (2005). Lichnost I lichnostny rost. Shestoe izdanie [Personality and Personal Growth. Sixth edition]. Pearson Prentice Hall.
- Korostyleva, L. A. (2001). Psihologiya samorealizazii lichosti (glavnye sfery ziznedeyatelnosti) [Psychology of self-realization of personality (main spheres of activity)] (Doctoral Dissertation). St. Petersburg.
- Maslow, A. H. (1968). Towards Psychology of Being. Litton Education Publishing.
- Solodnikova, I. V. (2007). Samorealizaziya lichnosti v zrelom vozraste: sociologicheskiy analiz [Self-realization of personality in mature age: sociological analysis] (Doctoral Dissertation). RSUH
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
About this article
15 November 2020
Print ISBN (optional)
Psychology, personality, virtual, personality psychology, identity, virtual identity, digital space
Cite this article as:
Solodnikova, I. V., & Petrushihina, E. B. (2020). Qualitative Typology Of Self-Actualization In Adulthood. In T. Martsinkovskaya, & V. Orestova (Eds.), Psychology of Personality: Real and Virtual Context, vol 94. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 760-769). European Publisher. https://doi.org/10.15405/epsbs.2020.11.02.93