Interdependence of children’s needs

All these needs are inter-related and equally important. As a health worker it is important to know, for example, that a child’s emotional needs are as important as his or her physical needs. Very often, emphasis is placed on physical needs, whereas a child’s need for praise, to play, or to have the opportunity for increasing levels of responsibility is disregarded.

Examples of the interdependence of children’s needs

  • Children need education, but without adequate nutritious food, their brain development may be negatively affected and they will not have enough energy to concentrate and learn.
  • Children need food to grow and learn, but children who experience abuse will struggle to develop to their full potential. It is not enough, therefore, to focus exclusively on food and shelter, and fail to protect children from harm.
  • Children need access to health care services to prevent and treat illnesses. But clean water, sanitation and a safe and healthy environment are equally important to prevent them from getting sick.

Children’s needs should, therefore, be considered together. In order to ensure that children can reach their full potential, attention must be paid to how physical, psychological, social, economic, cultural, and spiritual factors interact and impact on children’s health and well-being.

Activity 3.2: Categorising children’s needs

Below is a list of needs that are relevant to all children, though some of the needs might become more important as children get older.

  1. For each need, tick the box to show whether you think the need is:
    • a.physical
    •, economic and cultural
    • c.psychological, intellectual and emotional
    • d.spiritual.

    You can tick more than one box for each need. Remember that many needs can be categorised in more than one way.

PhysicalSocial, economic and culturalPsychological, intellectual and emotionalSpiritual
Adequate food and water
Adequate clothing
A stable and loving family
Protection from abuse
Access to health services
Access to information
Access to education
Time to explore, relax or play
  1. Can you think of at least one other need that children in your community have in each of the four categories above?
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  1. The need for adequate food and water and clothing are physical needs because these affect the health and well-being of children’s physical bodies.
  2. A stable and loving family may be a social and cultural need as the family is important in providing a social environment for children to grow up in. Families also share their language, food and values, which are part of their culture. Family may also be a psychological need as they can provide emotional stability in response to problems children experience outside the family home.
  3. Protection from abuse, exploitation or violence is a physical need to prevent physical harm, but equally a psychological need to prevent psychological harm.
  4. Access to health services and to education are social, economic and cultural needs as the ability to learn and to maintain good health are essential in order to enable children to contribute to society and to become economically independent adults. Access to health services is also usually a physical or a psychological need, depending on the illness or health condition.
  5. Access to age appropriate information is a psychological need, enabling children to make choices and decisions appropriate to their capacities.
  6. Time to relax and play is a psychological need and a spiritual need, allowing children time and space to relax, play and to explore their beliefs and values. It is also a physical need, as if children are not able to get enough relaxation and free time, their health and development will suffer.

If you ticked other boxes, you may still be correct, providing you are able to explain why.

Did you identify other needs in your community that fit into one or more of the four categories?

  • Other examples of physical needs include adequate shelter, good sanitation, protection from environmental pollution, and the opportunity to develop physical potential, for example by participating in sports and games.
  • Other examples of social, economic and cultural needs include a stable social and economic environment, knowledge of and respect for one’s own language and culture, and freedom from discrimination.
  • Other examples of psychological needs include access to appropriate guidance and support, the opportunity to be listened to, and opportunity to contribute meaningfully to society.
  • Other examples of spiritual needs include respect for individual choices, opportunity for worship or spiritual practice, and opportunity to reflect on what lies beyond the immediate physical world the child lives in.

Responding to children’s needs as they grow older