Adjustment in Psychology

What is Adjustment in Psychology?

The concept of adjustment was initially a biological one and was a comer stone in Darwin's theory of evolution (1859). In Biology, the term usually employed was an adaptation. Darwin maintained that only those organisms most fitted to adapt to the hazards of the physical world survive. Biologists have continued to be concerned with the problem of biological adaptations, and much of human illness is based on transformation to the stress of life.

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In psychology, adjustment refers to the behavioural process of balancing conflicting needs or needs challenged by obstacles in the environment. Humans and animals regularly adjust to their environment. For example, when their physiological state stimulates them to seek food, they eat (if possible) to reduce their hunger and adapt to the hunger stimulus. Adjustment disorder occurs when there is an inability to make a standard adjustment to some need or stress in the environment.

Adjustment  and Maladjustment in Psychology

The dictionary meaning of the word "adjustment" is to fit, make suitable, adapt, arrange, modify, harmonize, or make correspondent. Thus, Adjusting between two things means adjusting one or both of them to correspond to each other. For example: wearing cloth according to the season. We can't change the season, so we have to modify our clothes.

However, the concept of adjustment is not as simple as adaptation. Psychologists and scholars differ considerably in interpreting its meaning and nature. James Drever defines an adjustment as the modification to compensate for or unique meat condition.

Skinner (1952:102), "Adjustment involves the organization of personality. This organization leads to the stability that is a dynamic adjustment of the individual to his social and physical environment."

Munn (1995: 21), "Adjustment is accommodating or fitting oneself to circumstances, as when we say that a student is adjusted to 4 or gets along well, with the group in which he finds himself"

According to Shaffer, L.S., "Adjustment is how living organisms maintain a balance between their needs and the circumstances that influence these needs' satisfaction.

And according to Carter V Good, "Adjustment is the process of finding and adopting modes of behaviour suitable to the environment or the change in the environment." Adjustment can be defined as altering one's behaviour to reach a harmonious relationship with one environment. This is typically a response brought about by some change that has taken place. The stress of this change causes one to reach a new type of balance or homeostasis between the individual (both inwardly and outwardly) and their environment.

In Coleman, James C., "Adjustment is the outcome of the individual's attempts to deal with the stress and meet his needs: his efforts to maintain harmonious relationships with the environment.

The adjustment has been analyzed as an achievement and a process in psychology. Interpreting adjustment as an achievement would necessitate effective performance in doing what one expected and engaged in. This would mean judging the quality on specific parameters. However, psychologists have been interested in examining adjustment as a process. This entails exploring the interaction of the individual with the external world.

The adjustment refers to a process wherein one builds variations in the behaviour to achieve harmony with oneself, others or the environment to maintain the state of equilibrium between the individual and the environment. The adjustment must encourage specific changes so that the optimum relationship between the self and surroundings can be achieved and maintained.

Successful adjustment is critical for maintaining a high standard of living. Individuals who struggle with adjustment are more likely to suffer from clinical anxiety or depression and feelings of hopelessness, anhedonia, difficulties concentrating, sleep issues, and reckless behaviour. Adjustment can be evaluated in two ways: an accomplishment or a process.


Adjustment as an Achievement

This model focuses on adjustment at a specific point in time, taking into account an individual's adjustment to one challenge rather than all challenges they have faced. Adjusting to one scenario can be independent of struggling to adapt to another method. An example of this approach would be observing a poor student beginning to study during recess because they do not have a home environment to learn effectively. Starting to learn at a different time would be considered adequately adjusting to this scenario, but this does not consider the other ways it may impact their lives (i.e., inhibiting social interactions with peers.)


Adjustment as a Continuous Process

The process of adjustment is continuous. It starts at one's birth and goes on without stopping until death. A person and his environment are continually changing, and his needs follow the demands of the changing external environment. Consequently, the processor terms of an individual's adjustment can be expected to change from situation to situation. According to Arkoff  (1968), there is nothing satisfactory or complete adjustment which can be achieved once and for all time. It is continuously performed and re-achieved by us (Mangal,2006).



Types of Adjustment

a) Regular Adjustment: When an individual's interaction with his environment conforms to established norms, that relationship is a standard adjustment. A child who obeys his parents, is not excessively stubborn, studies frequently, and maintains an excellent appearance is said to be adjusted.

b) Abnormal Adjustment: Abnormal Adjustment refers to problematic behaviour or maladjustment in a famous speech. Maladjustment occurs when an individual's relationship with his environment deviates from established standards or norms. Although a delinquent youngster adapts to his background, he is a maladjusted child due to violating specific moral rules.


Elements of Adjustment

There are certain prime elements for the fulfilment of needs necessary for the healthy adjustment of a person. They are as follows: 

  1. Emotional Maturity 
  1. Satisfaction of needs 
  1. No obstacle in achieving needs 
  1. Strong motives in realizing needs 
  1. Feasible geographical atmosphere to fulfil needs 

Areas of Adjustment

Adjustment in the case of an individual should consist of personal and environmental components. These two aspects can be further divided into more minor parts related to personal and environmental factors. Although it seems to be of universal characteristics or quality, the adjustment may have different dimensions and aspects. 

Joshi (1964) and Pandey, in their research study covering schools and colleges, have given 11 areas or dimensions of an individual's adjustment. 

  1. Courtship, sex and marriage. 
  1. Social psychological relations. 
  1. Personal psychological relations. 
  1. Moral and religious. 
  1. Home and family.
  1. Future vocational and educational.
  1. Health and physical development. 
  1. Finance, living conditions and employment. 
  1. Social and recreational activities. 
  1. Adjustment to school and college work. 
  1. Curriculum and teaching.

Measurement of Adjustment

Generally, in behavioural sciences, the following five different types of measuring techniques are used: 

  1. Testing techniques, 
  1. Projective techniques, 
  1. Inventory techniques, 
  1. Sociometric techniques, 
  1. Scaling techniques. 

In the measurement of adjustment, inventory techniques are the most popular because they have many advantages over the other methods. For example, the testing and projective techniques can be used to assess the character of individuals at conscious and unconscious levels, respectively. However, the Inventory technique involves both conscious and unconscious behaviour. 


5 Types of Adjustment Mechanism

An adjustment mechanism is "any habitual strategy of overcoming obstacles, achieving goals, satisfying motives, alleviating frustrations, and maintaining equilibrium." An adjustment mechanism is a technique by which an individual minimizes their tensions or anxieties to fit into the environment properly. It aids in his recovery of mental wellness. To resolve problems or deal with conflicting conditions, a youngster employs particular self-adjusting, self-defending strategies that may protect him from his frustrating circumstances. This is referred to as a defence mechanism. For instance, a youngster may be trained to sleep through the night without requesting milk. A youngster who properly performs his duty receives maternal affection and emotional security, adapting well to his home environment. On the other side, if the youngster does not sleep well and continues to act infantile, he may face reprimand and punishment from his mother. He may not receive sufficient care, and his mother's attitude toward him may become indifferent and formal. Obviously, the child will experience frustration. For instance, when a child discovers that his mother leaves him alone while he sleeps, his initial reaction may be frustration; later, he may accommodate; and finally, he may assimilate so wholly into the situation that he accepts it as part of life and does not mind his mother leaving his room while he is awake. The conscious and rational methods are direct, whereas the unconscious technique is indirect.


An adjustment mechanism is a device used by the individual to indirectly achieve the satisfaction of the need. This helps reduce tensions and assists him in maintaining self-respect. With limits, adjustment mechanisms are desirable and helpful in dealing with frustration. Carried to an extreme, they lead to behaviour disorders. Following are adjustment mechanisms:

a) Compensation. Compensation is a concept where individuals attempt to cover up their weaknesses in one area by exhibiting their strengths in another. A student deficient in physical activities may compensate himself for showing promising results in the academic field and vice versa.

b) Identification. Identification is a concept when an individual attempts to identify himself with some successful person. A student may identify with his father and talk about his success to hide his failures. 

c) Rationalization. Rationalization means shifting responsibility for our failures to factors outside it, i.e., many students attribute their failure to the stiff question paper.

d) Projection. This tends to 'push out' upon another person's own unrealized, frustrated ambitions or attribute to another one's faults. For example, school learners are often the victims of their parents' projection of their former hopes for higher education and higher social status.

e) Day-Dreaming. The creative fulfilment of needs is called day-dreaming. Day-dreaming provides mental relief to an individual if it is done within limits. It becomes very detrimental when carried to excess (Aggarwal, 1995).


Other Six types of Mechanisms

  1. A Motivating Condition: A need or motive in the form of a persistent and robust stimulus. For example, a bodily need, a wish, an anticipatory goal.
  1. An Environment or Mental Condition: that thwarts or conflicts with the motive resulting in a state of tension. For example, absence of food, fear of physical defect,
  1. Trial and Error Behavior: For example, the individual reacts positively or negatively to several stimuli; reaches, withdraws and shows over-aggressive behaviour.
  1. The Discovery of Stimuli: which brings out a response that satisfies the motivating condition, For example, eating, removal of feared object, success.
  1. Adjustment by Substitution & Exploration, Learning & Compromise
  1. Re-adjustment to Emotional Disequilibrium: understanding the problem (as analyzed In this outline) to learn new responses or find a new environment. For example: to learn how or where to obtain food, become accustomed to the feared object, move away from it to find success in a field that does not require physical perfection, or have the defect remedied.


What is Maladjustment?

'Maladjustment' is a process whereby an individual cannot satisfy his personal needs biological, psychological, or social needs successfully and establishes an imbalance between and expectations of society, resulting in the disturbance of psycho-equilibrium.

The terms maladjustment and maladaptive are used in various contexts, broadly categorized as social, psychological, and biological. Social maladjustment refers to how a person develops and maintains interpersonal relationships, especially with peers. Maladaptive behaviours in this realm often emerge during childhood when individuals learn how to navigate their social world and solve interpersonal problems. During this period, children face changing school settings and social networks. Children who cannot successfully adjust to these new environments may exhibit maladaptive behaviours, such as aggression or rough play, leading to peer rejection (Ladd & Price, 1987).


When applied to the psychological domain, the terms maladjustment and maladaptive may also refer to how well somebody can regulate their emotions. Emotions typically serve adaptive purposes in how individuals interact with the environment. Thus, psychological maladjustment may be characterized by high levels of "emotional inertia" (Kuppens, Allen, & Sheeber, 2010) or the inability to respond appropriately to the dynamically changing demands of a given situation. Finally, maladjustment and maladaptive processes can also pertain to how individuals physiologically react and adapt to environmental needs. The human body attempts to respond optimally to the continually changing environment, a concept that has been termed allostasis (McEwen & Stellar, 1993). Critical systems involved in this process are the autonomic nervous system, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, and the immune and cardiovascular systems. Repeated activation of these systems exerts wear and tear on the body, termed allostatic load. When quantified using objective health parameters, high levels of allostatic load have been associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease and lower physical and cognitive functioning (Seeman, Singer, Rowe, Horwitz, & McEwen, 1997).


Causes of Maladjustment

a) Unhealthy home environment – Include separated family, divorced family, step-parent, a drunkard or drug-addicted parents, single parenting, low moral and social standard of the family.

b) Heredity causes – One may feel inferior because of inherited defective mental setup, physiological structure, and skin colour (dark), leading to maladjustment.

c) Poverty – When poor children meet rich children in school, they sometimes develop jealousy, worry, and inferiority complex, which lead to emotional disturbance.

d) Environment causes – The environmental forces begin to play their role from the child's conception in the mother's womb in the form of defective nourishment. Uncongenial physical environment, adverse physical environment leads to maladjustment.

e) Faulty teaching method – Faulty teaching method does not motivate students. The Lesson becomes dull and drudgery. Students begin to hate every process of education. It creates emotional tension, which leads to mental illness.

f) Strict Discipline – Some traditional schools impose strict discipline; such schools are like jails and teachers' jailors. Those students are constantly suffering from fear and worry.

g) Lack of equipment (facility)- There is a lack of furniture and proper equipment in some schools. Overcrowded classes and inadequate facilities lead to frustration and mental tension.

h) Lack of guidance and counselling – Mastery over content and subject matter without caring for students' interests causes maladjustment. No advice is provided for various areas at different levels. Students became confused, frustrated, and become maladjusted.

i) Lack of recreational facilities – Children who do not get facilities after class in play, library, debates, discussion, puzzles, etc., may have adjustment problems.

j) Mass media – Children are exposed to mass media, the explosion of knowledge, and adult issues nowadays. If the child witnesses films which depict low sexuality and violence, it may lead to maladjustment.

k) Social laws and bindings – Social rules and legally binding are the most common source of frustration in one's life. Similarly, restrictions imposed by parents, teachers, ethical, and other groups are familiar sources of maladjustment.

l) Bad company/neighbourhood – Neighbourhood is an essential conditioner of a child's behaviour. Many of our youngsters develop delinquencies because such behaviour patterns are seen in their neighbourhood patterns like lying, stealing, obscene talk, and promiscuous sex interest.


Problems of a Maladjusted Person

Anxiety is a personality trait. It results from conflict, which is an inevitable part of life. Anxiety describes the individual's level of emotionality. We see many tense and worried (highly anxious) and calm (hardly nervous). Stress cannot be directly observed since stress is an inferred emotional state of an individual. It can be measured through psychological tests/techniques.

Psychological texts define withdrawal as the onset of physical and mental symptoms when a substance is reduced or not given to the body. The meanings we are talking about could be any chemical, but you tend to deal with some psychology drugs when discussing withdrawal in psychology. This includes both prescription and illegal drugs, as they affect the body.


Aggression is overt, often harmful, social interaction to inflict damage or unpleasantness upon another individual. It may occur either in retaliation or without provocation. In humans, frustration due to blocked goals can cause aggression. Human aggression can be classified into direct and indirect attacks;. At the same time, the first is characterized by physical or verbal behaviour intended to cause harm to someone, and the second one is characterized by conduct intended to harm the social relations of an individual or a group.

Juvenile delinquency, also known as "juvenile offending," participates in minors' illegal behaviour (juveniles, i.e., individuals younger than the statutory age of majority). Most legal systems prescribe specific procedures for dealing with children, such as juvenile detention centres and courts.

Drug addiction, also called substance use disorder, is a disease that affects a person's brain and behaviour and leads to an inability to control the use of a legal or illegal drug or medication. Substances such as alcohol, marijuana, and nicotine also are considered pharmaceuticals. When you're addicted, you may continue using the medicine despite the harm it causes.

Low achievement is considered a multidimensional problem because many factors reduce educational lower attainment, including psychological, educational, social, or medical reasons.

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