PSYCHOLOGY O F ADJUSTMENT Meaning and Definitions:

The dictionary meaning of the word ‘adjustment’ is, to make suitable, adapt, arrange, modify, harmonize or make correspondent. Thus, when we make an adjustment between two thing*, we adapt or modify one or both of them to cui respond to each other In some situations, one of the factors may not be changeable and so die one which is. has to be modified in some way to suit the other the extension of a ladder by u suitable length to reach an upper story window is a good example of such an adjustment. Wearing of clothes according to the requirements of the seasons is another such example as ordinarily, it beyond our capacity to change the season* according to our clothes Modem technology has, of course, made it possible In adjust the temperature inside dwelling houses and workplaces lo harmonize with our needs. There has been a continuous between die needs of the individual and the external forces since time immemorial. According to Darwin’s (1859) theory of evolution, those species which adapted successfully to the demands of living, survived and multiplied while others who did not died out. Therefore, the adaptation or changing of or one’s surroundings according to the demands of the external environment became the basic need for our survival It is as true today with all of us as it was with the Darwin’s primitive species. Those of us who can adapt or adjust to the needs of changing conditions can live happily and successfully, while others cither vanish, lead miserable lives or prove a nuisance to society. However, the concept of adjustment is not so simple us adaptation. Psychologists and scholars differ considerably in interpreting its meaning and nature as can be seen from the following definitions; James Drcver (1952): Adjustment means the modification u> compensate for of inert special conditions Webster. Adjustment is the establishment of a satisfactory relationship a representing harmony, conformance, adaptation or the like. Carter V Good (/959): Adjustment is the process of finding and adopting modes of behavior suitable to the environment or The change in the environment. Warren (1934): Adjustment relates 10 any operation an organism 01 organ becomes mote favorably related lo (he environment m lo the entire outrun. environmental and internal Shaffer (1961): Adjustment the process by which a living organism maintains a balance between its need) and the circumstances that influence the satisfaction of these need.

Gates ami Jtrxild (1948):

Adjustment is a continual process in which a poison vanes his behavior lo produce u harmonious relationship between himself and his environment.

Vunhalier {1970):

We think of adjustment as psychological survival in much the same way as the biologist DIM the adaptation lo describe physiological survival.

Crow and Crow (1956):

An individual wholesome or to the extent that he has established relationship between himself and the conditions, situation* and persons who compose his physical and social environment Let us try to analyze these definitions for understanding the meaning and nature of the term adjustment. In the first definition. James Drever takes adjustment to he the ways and means to help the individual to meet the demands of changed conditions by adopting or modifying his previous ways of doing or facing things. The other three definitions also agree with this opinion that one is required to change one’s mode of behavior to suit the changed situations that a satisfactory and harmonious relationship can be maintained keeping in view the individual and his needs on the one hand, and the environment and its influence on the individual, on the other In doing so as Good’s definition .slates, the individual can either change himself according to the needs of the environment or change In- environment Id suit his own needs. Shaffer’s definition underlines one’s needs and their satisfaction. Human needs are vital, indispensable and urgently requisite. One feels adjusted to the extent that one’s needs are grin lied or are in the process of being gratified. The individual tries to bring about changes in his circumstances in order to overcome the difficulties in the fulfillment of his needs. Sometimes, he reduces his needs and ms a result he may feel satisfied within the limits of his environment. He thus tries to maintain a balance between lies needs and his capacity of realizing these needs and as long as this balance ix maintained, he remains adjusted. As soon as this balance is disturbed, he drifts towards maladjustment. Gates and as also Crow and Crow define adjustment as (he maintenance of u harmonious relationship between man and his environment. An individual needs to change or modify himself in some way or the other to fit into of accommodate himself with his environment. As the concisions in the environment are changing all the lime, adjustment is also a continuous process 1^ instance, if a girl from the city mamas into a rural family and has to live in a village, she would have to change her behavior, her habits and her attitude in order lo accommodate herself (o die changed environment. Vonhaller’s definition takes the clue from Darwin’s theory of evolution. Darwin maintained that only those organisms most fitted to adapt to changing circumstances survive. Therefore, the individuals who are able 10 adjust themselves to changed situations in their environment can live a harmonious and happy late. Adjust memo as a psychological term may thus be said to be another name Air the term ‘adaptation’ used in the biological world. Adjustment, m all its meanings implies a satisfactory adaptation to the demands of day-to-day life. From the foregoing discussion it may be concluded that adjustment is a process that helps a person lo lead a happy and contented life while maintaining a balance between his needs and his capacity to fulfill them. It enables him to change his way of life according to the demands of the situation and gives him the strength and ability to bring about the necessary changes in the conditions of his environment. In addition to his own basic needs, an individual is also subject to certain demands of society. If he thinks only in terms of satisfying his own needs without thought of the norms, ethics and cultural traditions of society, he will not be adjusted to his environment. Adjustment does not cater only to one’s own demands but also to the demands of society. It may, therefore, be slated that in its comprehensive connotation, adjustment is a condition or state in which the individual’s behavior conforms to the demands of the culture or society it? Which he belongs and he feels that his own needs have been, or will he fulfilled.

Adjustment involves the gratification of a person’s needs as governed by the demands of various environmental situations. This is not, however, a one-way process: on individual maintains the balance between himself and his surroundings either by modifying his own behavior or by modifying the environment. In this context, as Arkoff (1908) states: Adjustment is the interaction between a person and his environment. How one adjusts in a particular situation depends upon one’s personal characteristics as the circumstances of the situation. In other words, both personal and environmental factors work side by side in adjustment. An individual is adjusted if he is adjusted to himself and to his environment

Adjustment as Achievement or Process

Adjustment can be interpreted as both, process and the outcome of that process in the form of some attainment or achievement. When a poor child studies under the street light because tie has no lighting arrangement at home he is said to be in a process of adjustment. What he attains in terms of success In his examination or the fulfillment of his ambition or pride in his achievement is nothing but die result of his adjustment to his self and his environment. Thus, adjustment as an achievement means how the effectiveness with which an individual can function in changed circumstances and is as such, related to his adequacy and regarded us .in achievement that is accomplished badly or well (I.azanis, 1976).

Adjustment as a process describes and explains the ways and means of an individual’s adaptation to his self and his environment without reference lo the quality of such adjustment or its outcome in terms of success or failure. It only shows how individuals or a group or groups of people cope under changing circumstances and what factors influence this adjustment. Let us now consider some salient features of adjustment as an interaction between a person and his environment. Continuous process. The process of adjustment continuous it starts at one’s birth and goes on without stop till one’s death. A person a well as his environment arc constantly changing as also are his needs in accordance with the demands of the changing external environment. Consequently, the process or terms of an individual’s adjustment can be expected to change from situation to situation and according to Arkoff (1968), there is nothing like satisfactory or complete adjustment which can be achieved once and for all lime. It is s that is constantly achieved and received by us. Two-way procexn. Adjustment is a two way process and involves not only the process of fitting oneself into available circumstances but also the process of changing the circumstances to fit one’s needs. Emphasizing this two-way nature of the adjustment process. Robert W. White (1956) writes- The concept i»f adjustment implies a constant interaction between die person and his environment, each making demands on the other Sometimes adjustment is accomplished when the poison yields and accepts conditions which are beyond his to change. Sometimes « » achieved when the environment yields to the person’s constrictive activities. In most cases adjustment is a compromise between these two extremes and maladjustment is a failure to achieve a satisfactory compromise.

Areas of Adjustment

Adjustment in the case of an individual should consist of personal as well as environmental components. These two aspects of adjustment can be further subdivided into smaller aspects of personal and environ mental factors. Adjustment, although seeming to he a universal characteristic or quality may have different aspects and dimensions Through the numerous efforts at measuring adjustment through inventories and other techniques, these aspects have been identified and various tests have been constructed to assess their dimensions. For example Bell (1958) has taken five areas or dimensions in his adjustment inventory namely, home, health, social emotional and occupational. Arkoff (1968) in his book: Adjustment and Menial Health lies enumerated the family, school or college, vocation and marriage as the important areas of adjustment. Recently, Joshi (1964) and Pandey in their research study covering school and college students, have given I I areas or dimensions of an individual’s adjustment: Health and physical development. Finance, living conditions and employment. Social and recreational activities. Courtship, sex and marriage. Social psychological ideations. Personal psychological relations. Moral and religious. Home and family. Inutile—vocational and educational.

10. Adjustment lo school and college work.

11. Curriculum and leaching. In this way. adjustment of a person is based on the harmony between his personal characteristics and the demands of the environment of which he is a pan. Personal and environmental factors work side by side in bringing about this harmony.

Measurement of Adjustment

Measurement as an instrument of inquiry is now frequently used in behavioral sciences. At a general level of classification in behavioral science, the following five different types of means using techniques are used:

Testing techniques; Projective techniques: Inventory techniques. Sociometric techniques; mid Scaling techniques. In the area of measurement of adjustment inventory techniques are the most popular because they have any advantages compared to other techniques. Testing techniques can only be used to assess the characteristics of individuals at the conscious and projective techniques only at the unconscious level. The adjustment behavior, the adaptation to changed circumstances involves both conscious as well as unconscious behavior. Sociometric techniques are used in the measurement of social relationships. They can provide clues to the level of social adjustment. Social adjustment is only one pail of an individual’s total adjustment. The other aspects of his adjustment like physical, mental, emotional, social and occupational are not explored by the sociometric techniques and they cannot, therefore, be used for the accurate assessment of an individual’s total adjustment. In scaling techniques opinions are collected from some other person or persons about the adjustment pattern of a particular individual known to the respondents. Adjustment us a wide phenomenon carries so many things with it that one cannot judge the adjustment pattern of another individual from his overt behavior and the inner private world or reactions of an individual cannot be assessed by the use of scaling techniques.

Some important inventories and measures of adjustment:

L. Bell’s adjustment inventory developed by Hugh M. Bell. 2. Edward’s personal preference schedule (F.PPS) published by Psychological Corporation. New York. The Heston personal adjustment inventory developed by Joseph C. Heston. The Mooncy ptoblem checklist. Asthana’s adjustment inventory developed by H.S Asthana. Vyaktitva parakha prashnavah developed by M .-. I Suscna. Sinha’s adjustment inventory developed by A.K P. Sinha and R.P. Singh. Joshi’s adjustment inventory developed by M.C. Joshi and Jagdish Pandcy.

  1. Adjustment inventory for older people devised by P.V. Kamamurti
  2. Teacher adjustment inventory developed by S.K. Mungal.

Characteristics of a Well-adjusted Person

A well-adjusted person is supposed to possess the following characteristics: Awareness of his own strengths and limitations. A well adjusted person knows his own strengths and weaknesses. He tries to make capital out of his assets in some areas by accepting his limitations in others. Respecting himself and others. The dislike for one-self is a typical symptom of maladjustment An adjusted individual has respect for himself as well as for others. An adequate level of aspiration. His level of aspiration is neither ton low nor too high in terms of his own strengths and abilities. He does not try to reach for the stars and also does not repent over selecting an easier course for his advancement. Satisfaction of basic needs. His basic organic, emotional and social needs are fully satisfied or in the process of being satisfied. He does not suffer from emotional cravings and social isolation. He feels reasonably secure and maintains his self-esteem. Absence of a critical or fault-finding attitude. He appreciates the goodness in objects, persons or activities He does not try to look fur weaknesses and faults. His observation is scientific rather than critical or punitive. He likes people, admires their good qualities, and wins their affection. Flexibility in behavior. He is not rigid in his attitude or way of life. He can easily accommodate or adapt himself to changed circumstances by making necessary changes in his behavior The capacity to deal with adverse circumstances. He is not easily overwhelmed by adverse circumstances and has the will and the courage to resist and fight odds. He has an inherent drive to master his environment, rather than to passively accept it.

A realistic perception of the world. He holds a realistic vision and is not given to flights of fancy. He always plans, thinks and acts pragmatically. A feeling of erne with ht\ surroundings. A well-adjusted individual feels satisfied with his surroundings. He fits in well in his home, family, neighborhood and other social surroundings. If a student, he likes his school, school-mates, teachers, and feels satisfied with his daily routine. When he enters a profession, he has a love for it and maintains his zeal and enthusiasm despite all odds.

10. A balanced phiknophy of life. A well-adjusted person has a philosophy which gives direction to his life while keeping in view the demands of changed situations and circumstances This philosophy is centered around the demands of hi* society, culture, and his own self so that he does not clash with his environment or with himself.

Theories or Models of Adjustment

Why do some people adjust to their environment and others do not? What arc the factors that make an individual adjusted or maladjusted? There are several theories and models describing the pattern of adjustment for answering such questions. Let us discuss some of the important models. The moral mitdel This represents the oldest view-point about adjustment or maladjustment. According to this view, adjustment or maladjustment should be judged in terms of morality norms of expected behavior. Those who follow the norms are adjusted (virtuous or good people) and those who violate or do not follow these norms are maladjusted (sinners). Evil supernatural forces like demons, devils, etc. were blamed for making one indulge in behavior against the norms (committing sins) while the religious gods, goddess and other saintly great souls were responsible for making one a happy, healthy, prosperous and pious person (adjusted in the modern sense). However, as the medical and biological sciences advanced and scientific reasoning gained a firm footing in the nineteenth century, the moral model was replaced by the medico-mological model The medico-biological model This model holds genetic, physiological and biochemical factors responsible for a person being adjusted or maladjusted to his self and his environment. Maladjustment, according to this model, m the result of disease in the tissues of the body, especially the brain. Such disease can be the result of heredity or damage acquired during the course of a person’s life—by injury, infection, or hormonal disruption arising from stress, among other things. In the opinion of l azoi – (1976). the correction of adjustive failures or disorders requires correction of the tissue defect through physical therapies such as drugs, surgery and the like. I his model is still extant and enjoys credibility for rooting out the causes of adjustivc failure in terms of genetic influences, biochemical defect hypotheses, and disease in the tissues of (he body. However, it ix not correct to assign physiological or organic causes to all maladapted and malfunctioning behavior, especially when there is no evidence of physiological malfunction Such a situation certainly

calls for other explanations, viewpoints or models.
3. The psychoanalytic model. This model owes its origin to the theory of
psychoanalysis propagated by Sigmund Freud (1938) and supported by
psychologists like Adler. Jung and other neo Freudians.

(a)Freud’s views. Freud’s system of psychology arid psychoanalysis has been discussed in Chapter 5 of (his text. We will, therefore, confine the present discussion to only those factors which are relevant lo success or failure in adjustment.

(i)The human psyche 01 mind consists of three layers, the conscious, the sub-conscious and unconscious. The unconscious holds the key to our behavior. It decides the individual’s adjustment and maladjustment to his self and to his environment. It contains all the repressed wishes, desires, feelings, drives and motives many of which arc related to sex and aggression. One is adjusted or maladjusted to the degree, extent or the ways in which these are kept dormant or under control,

(ii) According lo Freud, man is a pleasure seeking animal by nature. He wants to seek pleasure and avoids pain or anything which is not in keeping with his pleasure loving nature The social restrictions imposed by the mores of society and his own moral standards dictated by his superego come in conflict with the undesignated and unbridled desires of his basic pleasure seeking nature. These pleasure* are mostly sexual in nature. One remains adjusted lo the extent that these are satisfied. An individual drifts towards malfunctioning of behavior and maladjustment in case such satisfaction is threatened or denied. Freud postulated the imaginary concepts of ‘id’, ‘ego’ and ‘superego’ for the adjustive and non-adjustive behavior patterns and formulated the following conclusion: A person’s behavior remains normal and in harmony with his self and his environment to the extent that his ego is able to maintain the balance between the evil designs of his id and the moral ethical standard dictated by his superego. In case the ego is not enough lo exercise proper casual over one’s id and superego, malfunction of behavior would result. Two different situations could then arise: If the superego dominates then there is no acceptable outlet for expression of the repressed wishes, impulses and appetites of the id. Such a situation may give birth to neurotic tendencies in the individual. If the id dominates, then the individual pursues his unbridled pleasure seeking impulses, without care for the social and moral norms. In such a situation the individual may be seen to be engaged in unlawful or immoral activities resulting in maladaptive, problem or delinquent behavior.

(iii) Freud also uses the concept of libido, i e., a flow of energy related to sex gratification. He equates it with a flowing river and maintains that:

• If its flow is outward causing sex gratification and pleasurable sensation from outside objects, the individual remains quite normal and adjusted to his self and the environment.

  1. The sociogenic or cultural model According to this model, the society in general and culture in particular affects one’s ways of behaving to such an extent that behavior tikes the shape of adaptive or non-adaptive behavior turning one into an adjusted or maladjusted personality. The society and culture lo which one belongs does not only influence or shape one’s behavior also sets a standard for its adherents to behave in the way it desires. Individuals behaving in the manner that society desires are labeled as normal and adjusted individuals while deviation from social norms and violation of role expectancy is regarded as the sign of maladjustment and abnormality. Although, society or culture plays a significant role in shaping and influencing human behavior, yet it should not be regarded as the only factor in the adjustment process Moreover, the societies or cultures may themselves, radio than the be maladaptive and sometimes even destructive to the individual’s adjustment like Nazi Germany. It is not proper, therefore, to depend solely on the cultural model for the labeling of one’s behavior as adjusted or maladaptive.
  2. The sociopsychnhigicat or behavioristic model the sociopsychological or behaviorist model in general emphasizes that Behavior is not inherited. Competencies requited for successful living are largely acquired or learned through social experience by the individual himself. The environmental influences provided by the culture and social institutions arc important but ii is the interaction of one’s psychological self with one’s physical as well as social environment which plays the decisive role in determining adjustive success or failure. Behavior, whether normal or abnormal is learned by obeying the same set of learning principles or laws. Generally, every type of behavior is learned or required as an after-effect of its consequences. The behavior once occurred, if reinforced, may be learned by the individual as normal As a result, one may learn to consider responses which ore labeled normal, as abnormal. Not only is normal and abnormal behavior learned, the labeling of behavior as normal or abnormal is also learned. Whether or not an individual is considered abnormal or maladjusted for a particular type of behavior depends upon the observer of the behavior and also upon the social context of the behavior

(c) Maladaptive behavior may be treated by applying the principle of behavior modification, unlearning, reconditioning and correcting environmental situations responsible for its occurrence.

Conclusion about the Modtdn

All the models described above are true to certain extent (except the primitive moral model) for providing explanation for one’s adjustive success 01 failure But none of them is complete or adequate in itself for providing satisfactory explanation Although medical or biological provides a sufficient basis for understanding mental illness or maladaptive behavior resulting through organic causes, physical damage to the brain and genetic factors, yet it cannot be applied to the disorders due to psychological causes and societal factors. Adjustment must always be considered as a continuing product of one’s interaction with the biological and social determinants lying in one’s biological and genetic make-up and environ mental set-up. It is, therefore, innate as well as learned. For its analysis the analyst has to probe into not only how an individual is interacting with his environment at present hut also in the past and how he has resolved his conflicts und crises in the past. It is. therefore, feasible to take a synthetic view of the above models for explaining and understanding one’s success or failure in adjustment. All the factors, biological as well as social, the past as well as the present expenences, innate as well an learned patterns of behavior, societal influence on the individual and vice-versa should be taken into consideration for understanding adjustment or maladjustment of the individual with his ‘self or environment

Methods of Adjustment

In order to lead a healthy, happy and satisfying life one has TO learn the various ways of adjustment,

i.e. coping with one’s environment as effectively as possible. Also he has to safeguard his self against turning into a maladjusted and abnormal personality. How can it be done? What are the different ways of coping with one’s environment? How does one handle and face the conflicts, anxieties, pressures and stresses of one’s life? To seek answers to these questions the deception of possible modes, ways and methods used by the individual in his adjustment process is necessary. The methods used for keeping and restoring harmony between the individual and his environment can be grouped into two categories, direct methods and indirect methods.

  • Direct methods. Direct methods are those methods which are employed by the individual intentionally at the conscious level. They ore rational and logical and help in getting permanent solution of die problem faced by the individual in a particular situation. These methods include the following- Increasing trials or improving efforts. When one finds it difficult to solve a problem or faces obstacles in the path. 10 cope will) his environment he can attempt with a new zeal by increasing his efforts and improving his behavioral process Adopting compromising means. For maintaining harmony between his self and the environment one may adopt the following compromising postures:
  • He may altogether change his direction of efforts by changing the original goals, i.e. an aspirant for as may direct his energies to become a probation officer in a nationalized bank,
  • He may seek partial substitution of goal like selection for the provincial civil service in place of the I.A.S.
  • He may satisfy himself by an apparent substitute for the real thing, e.g.. in the case of a child, by a uy car in place of a real car and in the case of a young boy desirous of getting named by a doll in his arms. Withdrawal and submissiveness. One may learn to cope with one’s environment by just accepting defeat and surrendering oneself the powerful forces of environment and circumstances. Making proper choices and decisions. A person adapts himself to and seeks harmony with, his environment by making use of his intelligence for the propel choices and wise decisions particularly when faced with conflicting situations and stressful moments.

2. Indirect method of achieving:

Adjustment indirect methods arc those methods by which a person tries lo seek temporary adjustment to protect him for the time being against a psychological danger. These are purely psychic or mental devices—ways of perceiving situations as he wants lo see them and imagining that things would happen according to his wishes. That is why these are culled defense or mental mechanisms employed in the process of one’s adjustment lo one’s self and the environment. A few important mental mechanisms ore: Repression. Repression is a mechanism in which painful experiences, conflicts and unfulfilled desires ore pushed down into our unconscious. In this way one unconsciously Iris lo forget the things that might make him anxious or uncomfortable (tries lo get temporary relief from the tension or anxiety by believing that the tension producing situation does not exist.


Regression means going backward or returning lo the past In this process, an individual tends to regress to his early childhood or infantile responses in to save himself from mental conflicts and tensions. A man failing in his love affair resorts to regression when he exhibits his love for dolls. Similarly an elder child may regress and start behaving like an infant when a new sibling is born and he feels neglected Compensation. This is a mechanism by which an individual tries to balance or cover up his deficiency in one field by exhibiting his strength in another field. For example, an gill who becomes a bookworm to secure a position in the class is making use of such mechanism in order lo alb act attention which she is unable to do who her looks. RuHonulixiiion This is a defense mechanism in which a on justifies his otherwise unjustified behavior by giving socially acceptable reasons for it und thus attempts to defend himself by inventing plausible excuses to explain his conduct. A child makes use of rationalization when he tries to extend lame excuses for his failure, lie may blame the teacher 01 his poor health and thus try to disguise his own weakness deficiency. Projection. Through projection one tries lo sec or attribute one’s own inferior impulses und tails in other persons or objects An awkward person sees and criticizes awkwardness in others. Similarly, a student who has been caught in the examination for cheating may satisfy himself by saying that uplifts had also cheated. A person with tang unsatisfied sexual impulses may denounce others for their sexual aims or may try to think in terms of sex for every thing in the world around him. In this way one tries to overlook or defend one’s shortcomings and inadequacies by emphasizing that others are worse than he is.

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