What Is a Sense of Belonging?

By James Gilmore

A sense of belonging is the feeling of being connected and accepted within one’s family and community. It is important in healthy human development and combating behavior problems and depression.

Identification

In his 1943 paper, "A Theory of Human Motivation" American psychologist Abraham Maslow cited belonging as the third most important human need on his hierarchy of human needs, after only physiological and safety needs.

Function

According to the Department of Human Resources and Skills Development of Canada, a sense of belonging with one’s country and community can positively influence one’s sense of identity and how much they participate in society. It can also improve physical and mental health.

Features

A sense of belonging includes feeling secure, recognized, suitable, able to participate and like “a fish in water” in one’s community, according to an issue of Early Childhood matters. It is important to healthy childhood development.

Depression

According to a University of Michigan study, people with more social support who feel more of a sense of belonging report less depressive symptoms.

Behavior

According to a University of Rhode Island study, adolescents who find group membership important and have a positive sense of group belonging have significantly fewer behavior problems than those who see group membership as very important, but do not have a positive sense of group belonging.

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