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Personal Adjustment and Mental Health

BOOKS BY ALEXANDER A. SCHNEIDERS

Introductory Psychology: The Principles of Human Adjustment


Workbook in Introductory Psychology
Personal Adjustment and Mental Health

Personal Adjustment and


Jl!{ental J-{ealth

e.. q

ALEXANDER A. SCHNEIDERS
Professor of Psychology and Director of Psychological Services, Fordham University. Formerly Professor of Psychology and Chairman of the Department, University of Detroit;
Director of the Psychological Clinic, Sarah Fisher Home for
Children, Detroit, Michigan; Director of Student Personnel,
Loyola University, Chicago, Illinois

HOLT,

RINEHART AND WINSTON,. NEW YORK

S~ptember 1960

Copyright , 1955, by Alexander A. Schnei~ers


Printed in the United States of America
All Rights Reserved
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 55-7548

To my brother M. C. Schneiders, in appreciation of


his guidance, counsel, and encouragement

NOTE TO THE READER

This book has been written with one principal aim in mind-the
better understanding of man's relation to himself and to reality, as expressed in his day-to-day adjustments. It is primarily a psychological study
of the 'adjustment process. The fact that the concept of mental health is
brought into the picture is simply testimony to the close relation between
adjustment and mental health; in the absence of a discussion of the latter,
the psychology of adjustment would be incomplete. Then, too, the practical principles of mental hygiene outlined in the text are dependent on a
clear statement of the nature and criteria of mental health.
The psychology of adjustment and mental health should, of course,
be more than a theoretical excursion into the peculiarities of human response. It should be practical, or at least it should provide a secure
groundwork for the development of practical principles that can be applied successfully to daily living. This has been an important secondary
aim throughout; and, although the major portion of the book is devoted
to explaining what adjustment and mental health are, there are countless
practical implications scattered throughout the various chapters, implicatio'ns that are finally brought together in a set of practical principles at
the end of the book. As an illustration of this fact, the reader is urged to
consult Chapters Four and Seventeen, where the criteria and the principles of adjustment and mental health are outlined. These two chapters
bring out clearly the essential connection between the nature of adjustment and the principles that are necessary to achieve and maintain a good
level of adjustment in daily living.
The plan of the book is relatively simple. Part One, which includes
the first two chapters, constitutes an introduction to the study of adjustment, indicating general objectives and values, practical goals, the significance of studying adjustment and mental health, and the characteristics
of a scientific approach to adjustment and mental health. Part Two, which
includes Chapters Three through Nine, is the heart of the text. Here are
studied the basic concepts of adjustment psychology, including normality,
abnormality, and maladjustment (Chapter. T1i'ee), the criteria by which

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Note to the Reader


adjustment and mental health can be properly evaluated (Chapter Four),
and the important relation between adjustment and personality (Chapter
Five).
\
The general concept developed in Chapte{ Five is examined more
minutely in Chapter Six, and the conditions and determinants of adjustment are outlined in considerable detail. In both \these chapters, there are
many implications of a practical nature. Chapt6rs Seven and Eight are
devoted to the dynamics of adjustment, and an effort is made to determine
the role of internal, motivational tendencies in the process of adjustment.
Particular emphasis is put upon the relation between adjustment and basic
human needs. This section is concluded with an intensive study (Chapter
Nine) of the process of adjustment itself, in which the relation between
adjustment and reality, the essential pattern of adjustment, the effect of
frustration on adjustment, and the proper evaluation of adjustment processes are closely investigated.
In Part Three, the emphasis shifts to an appraisal of different patterns
of adjustment. In Chapter Ten, normal adjustment patterns are studied; ,
in Chapter Eleven, attention is directed to adjustment by means of defense
reactions; Chapter Twelve is taken up with adjustment by aggression;
Chapter Thirteen studies adjustment by escape and withdrawal; and
Chapter Fourteen, which concludes Part Three, is a study of adjustment
by flight into illness.
The study of adjustment patterns in Part Three is complemented in
Part Four by the study of varieties of adjustment. Chapter Fifteen :outlines the essential features of personal and social adjustment, and Chapter
Sixteen outlines and deals with academic, vocational, and marital adjustments. The last two chapters in the text, which comprise Part Five, deal
with the practical applications of knowledge and principles learned foom
the study of adjustment and mental health. Chapter Seventeen is an investigation of the background, development, and principles of the discipline of mental hygiene, and Chapter Eighteen discusses the treatment
of mental and personality problems and of adjustment 'proble1J}s)n general.
The author has tried to write a teXt that 'is; an organic whole rather
than a hodgepodge of separate chapters. ~a!;h"part of the book has an
organic relation to other parts, and each ehapter is placed in such a way
as to maintain contiguity as well as wholeness. The Questions and Exercises at the end of each chapter are intended for review purposes, and also
to stimulate the student to think seriously about the problem of adjustment and to do some additiona:~ 'reading on the subject. The Selected
Readings should make it ~1sier for' the student to accomplish this aim and
to fill in whatever lacunae ~re left in the text itself. The Glossary at the
end of the text is intended I,primarily to further the understanding of
concepts used in the text and to reduce ambiguities and confusions that
arise whenever person;'fai(to agree on the meaning of a term.

viii

Note to the Reader


Something should be said about the initial decision to write a text in
the area of human adjustment, where many good angels wisely fear to
tread. Part of the impetus was supplied by friends and colleagues who
knew of the author's intense interest in the subject and who were kind
enough to express faith in his ability to write a text of this kind. But more
important is the real need for a text that does not shy away from the basic
issues posed by morality and religion. In the author's opinion, the psychology of adjustment and mental health cannot be adequately developed
apart from moral and religious concepts and principles; this text therefore
represents in part an effort to integrate these several disciplines that bear
so intimately on the lives of men. Qualifications for a task of this kind are
based on the author's experience in dealing with human problems in one
capacity or another for the past twenty years; on extensive experience in
teaching courses in mental hygiene, adjustment, personality, and abnormal
psychology in several universities; and on intimate, day-to-day experiences
with his seven children, who in the course of eighteen years have presented many adjustment problems, excluding those, fortunately, of a more
serious type.
To his colleagues and students, and especially to the numerous clients
of all ages who gave him the privilege of counseling them and helping
them solve their problems, the author owes a debt of gratitude that cannot
be repaid. To the many authors and publishers who so generously allowed
the use of copyrighted material the author is deeply grateful; and especially to the staff of his own publisher, Rinehart & Company, the author
wishes to record his sincere thanks for their help and cooperation. For the
generous grant of time by the President and the Committee on Research
of the University of Detroit, where the author spent many fruitful and
happy years, the author wishes to make special acknowledgement. Without this grant, many more months would have elapsed before the book
could have been completed.
For their keen analyses and many critical suggestions, the author is
especially indebted to Dr. Walter L. Wilkins, Professor of Psychology
and Director of the Department, St. Louis University, and Rev. Raymond
A. Roesch, S.M., Chairman of the Department of Psychology, University
of Dayton, both of whom read the manuscript in its entirety. Many of
their suggestions are incorporated in the text, although the author assumes
full responsibility for errors of omission or commission. Valuable advice
and encouragement also were given by Sister Annette of the College of
St. Catherine, St. Paul, Minnesota, and by Rev. Vincent V. Herr, S.].,
Professor and Chairman of Psychology, Loyola University, Chicago, who
reviewed the original prospectus for this work. The author's brother, to
whom the: book is gratefully dedicated, is deserving of special commendation for his selfless devotion to the task of illustrating the text and for his
skill and artistry in bringing to life the conc~ts and relations too often

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Note to the Reader

explained in ambiguous and unartistic terms.


word of thanks is due
also to the author's secretarial assistants, Miss Joan Penachio and Miss
Ann Fiorillo, for their help in typing and proofreading countless pages
of manuscript. Finally, as always, the author deems it a special privilege
to pay public acknowledgement to his wife, not only for the many hours
of work, but especially for her patience, encouragement, and the taking
on of extra tasks so that the author could devote his time to the business
of writing. Whatever merit this book has is in large measure due to the
interest and efforts of these devoted people.

A. A.
New York, New York
March,1955

s.

CONTENTS

Note to the Reader

PART ONE

'Jhe Study of j[djustment


1. Introduction

Objectives and values. General view of adjustment and mental health. Objectives of the study of adjustment. Significance of adjustment psychology
and mental hygiene. Prevalence of maladjustment and mental disorder. Implications of maladjustment. A Preview. Summary. Questions, exercises, and
projects. Selected readings.

2. The Scientific Study of Adjustment

20

What adjustment psychology is. General psychology and the study of adjustment. Subject matter and scope of adjustment psychology. Aims of adjustment psychology. Background and theories. Historical roots of adjustment
psychology. Approaches to the study of adjustment. Methods. Difficulties of
investigation. Direct observation. Clinical observation. Personality study. Experimental approach. Adjustment psychology a*related fields of study. Adjustment psychology and abnormal psycholog
djustment psychology and
mental hygiene. Clinical psychology and psy iatry. Summary. Questions,
exercises, and projects. Selected readings.

xi

Contents
PART

TWO

'i?

J'Jature and Conditions of -{fdjustment


3. Basic Concepts for Adjustment Psychology

45

Adjustment and maladjustment. Meaning of adjustment. Good adjustment.


Adjustment as relative. Adjustment and morality. Adjustment and mental
health. Meaning of mental health. Mental health and mental efficiency. N ormality and abnormality. Normality and adjustment: Statistical normality. Individual versus group normality. Abnormality and adjustment. The pathological
concept of abnormality. The psychological concept of normality. Normality,
adjustment, and security. Maturity and adjustment. Summary. Questions, exercises, and projects. Selected readings.
4. Criteria of Adjustment and Mental Health

71

What criteria are. Criteria in relation to the nature of adjustment. Definition


of criteria. General criteria of adjustment. Specific criteria of adjustment.
Specific criteria of mental health. Summary. Questions, exercises, and projects.
Selected readings.

5. Personality and Adjustment

99

The nature of personality. Personality and adjustment. Personality a mindbody or psychosomatic reality. Examples of reciprocal influence of mental and
physical processes. Influence of mental factors on physical conditions. Intramental influences. Personality and behavior.: Personality-environment-culture
relations. Qualities of personality important to adjustment. Modifiability and
resilience. Self-regulation and adjustment. Self-realization and adjustment. Intelligence 'and adjustment. Personality development and-adjustment. Personality an emergent phenomenon. Characteristics of personality-development.
Segmental versus integrative development of pers6nality. Summary. Questions,
exercises, and projects. Selected readings.
,." 6. Conditions and Determinants of Adjustment

121

Factors determining adjustment and mental health. Personality as a determinant. Range and classification of determinants. Native versus acquired responses. Groundwork of/ajustment. Physical conditions fmd determinants of
adjustment. Influence o,thGedity and physical constitution. The major systems
of the body in relation to adjustment and mental health. Physical health and
illness in relation to adjustment. Development, maturation, and adjustment.
Psychological determinants of adjustment find mental health. Experience and

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Contents
adjustment. Learning and adjustment. Training and adjustment. Education
and adjustment. Self-determination and adjustment. Psychological climate and
adjustment. Environmental determinants of adjustment and mental health. Infl.uence of the home and family. Parent-child relations and adjustment. Sibling
relations and adjustment. The community and adjustment. The school and
adjustment. Culture and religion in relation to adjustment and mental health.
Cultural determinants of adjustment. Religion, adjustment, and mental health.
Summary. Questions, exercises, and projects. Selected readings.

169

7. The Dynamics of Adjustment

Adjustment and the problem of motivation. Determinants of adjustment in


relation to behavior dynamics. Adjustive behavior and basic needs. Theories
of motivation. Stimulus-response theory. Physiological theory. Instinct theory.
The theory of unconscious motivation. Hedonistic theory. Voluntaristic theory.
Range of motivating factors. Human needs as motivating factors. Nature and
concept of needs. Physiological needs. Psychological needs. Psychological needs
and emotional adjustment. Social needs and adjustment. The question of
spiritual .needs. Motivation, perception, and adjustment. Needs and values as
determiners of perception. Summary. Questions, exercises, and projects. Selected readings.
201

8. The Dynamics of Adjustment (continued)

Desires and motives in relation to adjustment. Needs and desires. Desires and
motives. Voluntary conduct and habit. Deliberation and conflict. The nature
of mental conflict. Conflict, adjustment, and mental health. Outcomes of
mental conflict. Feelings and emotions in relation to adjustment. Feelings as
dynamic tendencies. Emotions and the dynamics of adjustment. Unconscious
motivation in relation to adjustment. Content of the unconscious. The mechanism and dynamics of the unconscious. Basic principles of motivation. Etiology and symptomatology in relation to adjustment. Determinants, motivation,
and etiology. Causes versus conditions of adjustive response. Predisposing
versus exciting determinants. Situational maladjustment. Situational maladjustment and the factor of stress. The nature and function of symptoms. Symptoms and syndromes. Symptoms and causes. Summary. Questions, exercises,
and projects. Selected readings.
9. The Process of Adjustment ,

230

Elements of the adjustment' process. Motivation and the process of adjustment.


Adjustment and the reality principle. Basic pattern of adjustment. The
phenomenon of frustration. Nature of frustration. Definition of frustration.
Types of frustration. Frustration, privation, and threat. Frustrations in childhood. Frustrations in adolescence. Frustrations in adulthood. Characteristics
associated with frustration. Frustration as dynar(t. Signs of frustration. Re-

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Contents
sults of frustration. Frustration tolerance. Factors determining response to
frustration. Outcomes of frustration: varied response and solution. The principle of varied response. The solution: adjustive versus unadjustive reactions to
frustration. Criteria of adequate solution. A psychological criterion of adjustment. Summary. Questions, exercises, and projects. Selected readings.

PART THREE

'i?

Patterns oj Adjustment
10. Normal Adjustment Patterns

269

The quality of adjustment. Variety of adjustments to individual problems.


Continuum of adjustment processes. Classification of adjustments. Classification
by symptoms and causes. Classification by kinds of response. Classification by
problems. Normal adjustments. Characteristics of normal adjustments. Adjustment by direct, frontal attack. Adjustment by exploration. Adjustment by
trial and error. Adjustment by substitution. Adjustment by exploitation of
personal capabilities. Adjustment by learning. Adjustment by inhibition and
self-control. Adjustment by intelligent planning. Adjustment mechanisms. Nature of psychological mechanisms. Characteristics of adjustment mechanisms.
Determinants of psychological mechanisms. Varieties of adjustment mechanisms. Summary. Questions, exercises, and projects. Selected readings.
11. Adjustment by Defense Reactions (Flight from Self)

289

Defense mechanisms. Nature of psychological defense reactions. Varieties of


defense reactions. Psychological groundwork of defense reactions: inferiority.
Nature of psychic inferiority. Theory of inferiority. Social and environmental
conditions. The basic cause. Physical determinants. Mental and moral deter,
---'-minants. Development of inferiority attitudes. Symptoms of inferiority. Inferiority and defense reactions. Psychological groundwork of defense reactions:
the sense of inadequacy, failure, and guilt. ,The feeling of inadequacy. The
sense of failure. The sense of guilt. Development of defense mechanlS11ls. Defense mechanisms, fear, and insecurity. ,Defense mechanisms ahd varied response. The mechanism of compensation. Nature of compensatory reactions.
General aims of compensation. Varieties of compensation. Adjustment value
of compensation. The mechanism of sublimation. Nature apd defensive quality
of sublimation. Expressions of sublimation. Valqe_of sublimation. The mechanism of rationalization. The mechanism of S'our grapes. Egocentrism and
superiority as defense reactions. Nature and determinants of egocentrism.
Superiority and attention-winning mechanisms. Psychological and social effects

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Contents
of supenonty and egocentrism. Other defense reactions. Introjection and
identification. Projection and blaming. Repression and segregation. General
statement about defense reactions. Defense mechanisms as normal. Defense
reactions in relation to severe maladjustments. Summary. Questions, exercises,
and projects. Selected readings.

12. Adjustment by Aggression and Delinquency

329

General characteristics of aggression. Aggression versus defense. Nature of


aggression. Forms of aggression. The continuum of intensity. Self-assertiveness,
dominance, and possession. Teasing and bullying. Open hostility and attack.
Violence and destruction. Revenge. Brutality and sadistic fury. Causes and
conditions of aggression. Biological determinants of aggression. Psychological
determinants of aggression: the role of basic needs. Frustration-aggression
theory. Inferiority, inadequacy, and aggression. The feeling of guilt and the
need for punishment. External determinants of aggression. Evaluation of
aggre;sion. Delinquency as a mode of adjustment. Nature and forms of delinquency. Delinquency as adjustment. Causes and conditions of delinquency.
Summary. Questions, exercises, and projects. Selected readings.

13. Adjustment by Escape and Withdrawal (Flight from Reality)

364

General character of escape mechanisms. Escape versus defense mechanisms.


Zone of defense against reality. Normal withdrawal. Pathological withdrawal.
Characteristics of withdrawal. Psychological background and determinants of
withdrawal. Personality characteristics. Immediate determinants. Temperamental factors. Parent-child relations. Persistent frustration and the habit of
withdrawing. Personal limitations and failure. Forms of escape and withdrawal.
Vicarious experience. Daydreaming and fantasy thinking. Sleep. Alcoholism,
drug addiction, and self-destruction. Negativism, regression, and fixation.
Schizophrenia and t!Ie mechanisms of withdrawal. Summary. Questions, exercises, and projects. Selected readings.

14. Adjustment by Flight into Illness

386

The process of adjustment and the neurotic disorders. Nature and characteristics of neurosis. Neuroses and psychoses. The neurotic personality. Neurotic
traits and illness. Varieties of neurosis. Causes and background of neurosis.
Simple neurotic symptoms and bejJavior. Nervousness. Worry. Scrupulosity.
Accident proneness. The traumatic neuroses. The anxiety neuroses. Nature
and characteristics of neurotic anxiety. Anxiety equivalents: psychomotor
disturbances. Dynamics of anxiety neuroses. Obsessive-compulsive reactions.
Hysterical phobias. Obsessions and compulsions. Organ neuroses or psychosomatic disturbances. The psychosomatic theory. The organ neuroses. Mechanism and development of psychosomatic disordff Neurasthenia and hypochondria. Nature and symptoms of neurastheni~) Background and psycho-

xv

./
Contents
dynamics of neurasthenia. Hypochondria. Conversion hysteria. Nature and
symptoms of conversion hysteria. Psychodynamics of conversion hysteria.
Summary. Questions, exercises, and projects. Select~d readings.
PART FOUR

7)ari~ties

of Adjustment

15. Personal and Social Adjustment

429

Patterns versus varieties of human adjustment. Patterns of adjustment. Varieties


of adjustment. Interrelations among adjustment. Physical and emotional adjllStment. Physical hygiene and adjustment. Emotional health and adjustment.
Sexual adjustment. Nature and characteristics of sexual development. Premarital
sexual problems. Nature and principles of sexual adjustment and hygiene.
Moral and religious adjustment. Morality, adjustment, and mental health.
Concept and criteria of religious adjustment. Social adjustment. Adjustment
to home and family. Adjustment to sShool. Adjustment to society. Summary.
Questions, exercises, and projects. Selected readings.
16. Vocational and Marital Adjustment

463

Basic meanings and relations. Marriage as a vocation. Education as a vo<;ation.


Academic adjustment. Meaning of academic adjustment. Criteria of academic
adjustment. Principles and practices important to academic adjustment. Vocational adjustment. Academic adjustment in relation to vocational adjustment.
Meaning and criteria of vocational adjustment. Principles and practices important to vocational adjustment. Marital adjustment. Implications of marital
adjustment. Nature of the problem of marital adjustment. Marital adjustment
versus marital happiness. Meaning of marital. adjustment. Outcomes of marital
adjustment and happiness. Conditions influencing marital-adjustment. Basic
~-requirements of marital adjustment, success, and happiness. Practices important
to marital adjustment. Summary. Questions, exercises, and projects. Selected
readings.
PART FIVE

'i?

Mental 'J-iygiene and Treatment


'"

17. Nature and Principles of Mental Hygiene

509

Current mental hygiene concepts and their background. Mental hygiene and
the psychology of adjustment. Forms of I)1ental hygiene. Mental hygiene and

\,xvi

~~

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Contentr
psychotherapy. Scope of mental hygiene. Beginnings and development of
mental hygiene. Principles of mental hygiene and adjustment. Nature of mental
hygiene principles. Interrelation of principles of effective living. Principles of
mental hygiene. Summary. Questions, exercises, and projects. Selected readings.

18. 'The Treatment of Adjustment Problems

534

General principies of treatment. Treatment in relation to the nature of the


prob'lem. Types of treatment. Steps in treatment. Accumulation of evidence.
Recognition and referral. Initial interview. Developmental history. Physical
examination. PSYChological examination. Psychiatric examination. Process of
diagnosis. Nature of diagnosis and its relation to treatment. Organic versus
functional and psychogenic disorders. Predisposing versus exciting causes.
Multiple causality as a basic principle of interpretation. Evaluation of adjustment. Process of treatment. Guidance and counseling versus psychotherapy.
Meaning of psychotherapy. Aims of psychotherapy. Techniques of psychotherapy. Some basic principles of counseling and psychotherapy. Evaluation
of diagnosis and treatment. Summary. Questions, exercises, and projects.
Selected readings.

Glossary

561

Appendixes
A. Film Bibliography

569

B. Recordings

572

Index

573

xvii

PART

ONE

The Study of Adjustment

~ ONE

INTRODUCTION
General view of adjustment and mental health. Objectives of the study of
adjustment. Prevalence of maladjustment and mental disorder. Implications. A preview.

OBJECTIVES AND VALUES

General View of Adjustment and Mental Health


Let us try at the outset to get a general bird's eye view, or perspective,
of the psychology of adjustment and mental health. To have such perspective means knowing something about the subject matter and methods
(Chapter Two), the concepts and theories that are used to explain various
phenomena (Chapter Three), and the aims or purposes that serve as
guideposts in our study. Right now, we want to deal with these aims and
purposes. Actually, the objectives we have in mind would be easier to
explain after we had acquainted ourselves with other basic aspects of
adjustment psychology. But they cannot wait, because every student
should know at the v:.ery beginning what the objectives and values of any
course of. study are. After studying Chapters Two and Three, you can
come back to this section for a second look at the objectives.
The psychology of adjustment deals, of course, with human adjustment processes. Later on (Chapters Three and Four), we shall have a
great deal to say regarding the nature of adjustment, and we shall then
e"xplain how adjustment is related to other things, such as mental health
and normality; but, for the moment, let us think of adjustment simply in
terms of getting along well with ourselves, with others, and with our
work. The idea of mental health fits in here too. It means being happy,
having fun, not feeling sad and depressed most of the time, not being
overanxious or worried about things, sleeping well, and so on. To illustrate these points, we may consider the case of a young boy, about
sixteen years old, who was neither well adjUste~or happy. You will see
why right away, and you will see what it means to be lacking in adjust1
ment and mental health. .
1

The Study of Adjustment


Walter L. is a sixteen-year-old boy who was. referred to the psychologist
because of chronic school failures and difficulties, at home. He was described
as being resentful, hostile, and antagonistic to schobl, to his brothers and sisters,
and to home discipline. His school record was spotty: some A's and B's, but
mostly C's, D's, and a liberal sprinkling of F's. Walter comes from what would
be called a good home. His parents are well edudlted, hIS brothers and sisters
are seemingly well adjusted, and the social, moral, and economic level of the
family is high.
Walter had done reasonably well in grade school and once had made the
honor roll. Psychometric examination revealed an intelligence quotient of 130.
Reading skill and grade achievement were well above average. At the time of
referral, Walter was a tenth-grade student in a private boys' school.
Interviews soon revealed that Walter was completely uninterested in, and
actively disliked, most of the subjects he was studying. Further examination
indicated an intense interest in mechanical subjects. Significantly, he had
done well in arithmetic and mathematics, and his chief out-of-school interests
were automobiles and model airplanes. In his third year, on the advice of the
psychologist, Walter was transferred to a technical high school. Almost at
once his grades took an upward tu~n, much of the resentment and hostility
disappeared, and his home life improved considerably. The outlook at the
present time is distinctly favorable.

This is a relatively simple case of maladjustment, centering around


Walter's inability to get along well in school. His failures, his lack of
interest, and the prodding and criticism of his parents are what made
Walter unhappy and caused a great deal of his resentment and hostility.
Not all cases of maladjustment are this simple, by any means. Some, as
we shall see in later pages, are very complicated and difficult to deal with
effectively. But cases like this one help us to understand quickly what
adjustment and mental health are. Even in such simple instances, the
elements of maladjustment are present: emotionaLt~rmoil, frustration,
conflict, unhappiness, lack of achievement, sense of failure, and so on.
And from this analysis it is easy to figure out what adjustment is. If
Walter had got along well at school and at -home; if he had liked his
subjects and found them interesting ~nd stimulating; if, -instead of
hostility and resentment, there had been enjoyment, friendship, and
affection; then we would have concluded that Walter was a well-adjusted
boy.

Objectives of the Study of Adjustment


.,
1. UNDERSTANDING HUMAN ADJUSTMENT. The first objective of our
study is a general one-the understanding of human adjustment. Adjust~
ment is a complicated business. It has many facets that have to be under~
stood in themselves and that must be related to each other and to many

Introduction
other factors in personality and the environment. It is not enough to set
down practical principles and rules by which adjustment can be achieved
or maintained. Principles of this kind have much more meaning and
practical significance when we understand the nature of the process and
the conditions to which they refer. For example, if you are told that
regularity in personal habits is of considerable importance to personal
efficiency and adjustment, you will want to know why, even though you
are quite willing to accept the principle by itself. And, when you know
why, the principle becomes more meaningful and, at the same time, more
helpful.
Understanding human adjustment means knowing what it is and the
various forms that it assumes (Parts Two and Three). It means knowing
how the different forms of adjustment are interrelated. More than that,
understanding requires us to determine how adjustment is related to, or
in what way it differs from, mental health, normality, and efficiency.
Terms like these can be very confusing to the student; and where confusion of terms or ideas exists, it is difficult to formulate sound practical
principles. Knowledge of the adjustment process depends also on a clear
statement of the conditions that govern the development of adjustment
and of the criteria by which adjustment can be properly evaluated. And,
finally, the understanding of adjustment requires us to bring it into direct
relation with the concept of human personality, because all adjustment
processes are determined by the nature and make-up of the personality
within which they occur.
2. PERSONAL SELF-IMPROVEMENT. This fundamental aim of understanding the nature, conditions, and criteria of adjustment must be realized before the stage can be set for the achievement of other objectives.
Quite naturally, the study of adjustment and mental health leads to practical results; and thus we may say that one of the aims of such a study
is personal self-improvement. Stated in more specific terms, this aim is
directed toward the fuller development of personality, the prevention or
the alleviation of maladjustment, the achievement of peace of mind, the
elimination of disturbing and disabling symptoms, and the development of
responses and traits that contribute toward an efficient and wholesome
existence. But it must be understood that these practical aims are secondary to the fundamental objective of understanding the adjustment process.
In other words, the psychology of adjustment should be regarded as basic
to the practice of mental hygiene. Because this important relation is often
ignored or, forgotten, practical principles of mental health and effective
living are found to be ineffective. The rules and criteria of mental hygiene
and personality development must be grounded in an empirically sound
psychology of adjustment.
T. V. Moore expresses very forcibly the rflation between knowledge
and mental health.
' J1

The Study of Adjustment


No one can sail through life successfUlly without becoming a good
psychologist, for all mental difficulties are eJsentially psychological problems. So, to deal with vital problems succ1ssfully is good psychology;
and to allow oneself to become ensnared ini the meshes of sorrows and
trials and disillusionments and disappointments is plain downright bad
psychology. He, therefore, who triumphs over his troubles is a good
psychologist, and he who meets with shipwreck in managing his own
mind in the storms of life is a poor skipper and a bad psychologist. I
would not be so extreme in the extension of this proposition as to maintain that there are no storms so violent but that a good skipper can
always weather them, and that there are no sorrows so deep but that a
good psychologist can rise above them. But in the present order of things,
the waters of life are crowded with untrained sea captains, and many
of the wrecks, perhaps most, could be prevented by the use of good
psychology in the storms through which we must necessarily sail.
What do we mean by shipwreck on the sea of life? A broken home
is always a shipwreck. One who is permanently discontented has suffered
shipwreck. One who develops the settled conviction that other people
are down on him, who becomessour, cynical, morose, quarrelsome, critical, or abusive to those with whom he comes in contact, is stranded on
a desert island from which escape is well nigh impossible.
What, on the other hand, constitutes good seamanship on the ocean
of life? Peace, happiness, and good fellowship; friendliness, and free,
frank, cordial relationship with all we meet; joy in living and hope for
eternity: all this is the fruit of a prudent management of our affairs in
virtue of good psychological insight and in obedience to the dictates of
reason, illumined, as it will be, by that true Light which enlighteneth
every man who cometh into the worTd. 1

Compare this interpretation with the statement :by Anderson.

'Why should we study ourselves? Why should -we be interested in


development from birth to maturity? First and foremost, in order to
understand ourselves. All people travel much_ the same road from infancy
to old age, meet similar problems, and ,pass through comparable peri-ods
of development. Knowing who we are, how we have developed, what -our assets and liabilities are, and how we meet and solve problems is
important for our own adjustment in life situations. Only by the study
of development can we gain knowledge of the road we have already
travelled, insight into our present situation, and awareness of our future
possibilities. 2
1 Moore, T. V. Personal mental hygiene. New York: Grune & Stratton, 1944,
pp. 308-309. Reprinted by permission.
2 Anderson, ]. E. The psychology of development and personal adjustment.
New York: Holt, 1949, p. 1. Reprinted by 'permission. See also Symonds, P. M.
Dynamic psychology. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1949, p. 11.

Introduction
These two statements exemplify very well the attitude of psychologists
and mental hygienists toward the study of human adjustment and, at th~~
same time, emphasize the practical value of such study.
SIGNIFICANCE OF ADJUSTMENT PSYCHOLOGY AND MENTAL HYGIENE

Prevalence of Maladjustment and Mental Disorder


The objectives outlined in the preceding section become more meaningful and significant when we realize how widespread are the psychological
difficulties with which adjustment psychology is concerned. 3 No one
knows the actual incidence of these difficulties; nor is there any way of
determining what the figures are. Moreover, before citing any figures,
one would have to decide who is to be included under the term "maladjusted." As we shall see (Table I), there are fairly reliable figures
regarding the extent of mental disorder, because this type of difficulty
is more likely to come to the attention of' one or another person or
agency from whom such figures become available. But there are countless
persons suffering from some form of personality disorder or maladjustment who do not come within the scope of statistical surveys. Many of
these remain unknown to the psychiatrist, the medical practitioner, or
the psychologist. Many other disturbed persons seek the help of a
therapist, but no statistical records are kept; or, at best, the available
figures constitute only a meager representation of the actual number.
When to this large number we add the countless thousands who each
year seek the help and advice of lawyers, priests, ministers, self-appointed
counselors, and the ever-greedy lunatic fringe of phrenologists, soothsayers, palmists, and crystal-gazers, we begin to realize how impossible it
is to obtain a truly representative statistical survey.
The fact that mental illness is widespread is well known. Approximately
one half of all hospital beds in the country are occupied at anyone
time by psychiatric patients. Further, it has been conservatively estimated . . . that there are at least 8,500,000 individuals in the United
States who would benefit from some kind of mental health care, of
which only about 1,125,000 are receiving care. These cases represent
3 Good accounts, over a period of -twenty-five years, of the incidence of mental
disorder will be found in Ogburn, -W. F., & Winston, E. The frequency and probability of insanity. Amer. J. Sociol., 1929,34, 822-831; Dorn, H. F. The incidence and
future expectancy of mental disease. Publ. Hlth. Rep., 1938, 53, 991-2,004; Appel,
J. W. Incidence of neuropsychiatric disorders in the United States Army in World
War II. Amer. ]. Psychiat., 1946, 102, 433-436; National Institute of Mental Health,
Patients in mental institutions, 1948. Washington: Federal Security Agency, 1951;
Goldhamer, H., & Marshall, A. Psychosis and ciVi!!zatf'. Chicago: Free Press, 1953;
Felix, R. H., & Kramer, M. Extent of the problem ot" ntal disorders. Ann. Amer.
j
Acad. polito soc. Sci., 1953, No. 286, 5-14.

The Study of Adjustment


diagnosable mental illness of a wide range of severity. They do not
include an additional large number of individuals who would benefit
from counseling and guidance in dealing 'fith major life problems, nor
do they include the non-psychiatrically ill who
, have significant associated
4
emotional disturbances.
\

This "additional large number" is included in figures given by Steckle


and others in their estimates of the range of mental disorder and maladjustment.
The extent to which emotion~lliving h:,mdicaps mankind is demonstrated by the conservative estimate that from 12 to 13,000,000 men and
women in the United States are in need of active psychotherapy. Unfortunately, some 10,000,000 of them are not receiving help. Further, almost
20 per cent of all draftees in the last war showed evidence of psychological disturbance. Add to this, the good statistical bet that one out of every
ten youngsters alive today will have need of psychological care sometime
during his life, and some idea of the serious magnitude of the problems
may be gained. 5
To say that maladjustment is widespread (if not actually universal
in our society) is not to accept the foolish dictum that "everybody is
neurotic." But, human nature being what it is, we can expect that a great
many people will, at one point or another in their lives, find the going
rather difficult. Everyone can expect periods of unhappiness, tension,
frustration, depression, worry, anxiety, or mental turmoil. Into every life
the fine mist of minor maladjustment must fall; and one must always be
careful that it does not become a downpour. If you want to look closely
enough, you will see the mist very quickly. Perhaps the boyar girl next
to you is a chronic worrier; the lad in the first row is a nail biter; the
neighbor next door hates children; the couple on the other side are
arranging for a divorce; your teacher is high-strung and irritable; your
little brother is a bed wetter; and you yourself. fin,d it hard to get along
with your parents!
---~ Some of these difficulties are relatively minor; others are, or can
become, very serious. But the important point here is that all of them
fit into the general concept of maladjustment; that is, they represent poor.
or inefficient ways of trying to get along. No one will ever go to hell or
to jail for bed-wetting; yet it is universally regarded as undesirable. It is
4 Bobbitt, ]. M. Counseling and psychotherapy iIi public mental health work.
Paper read at a National Symposium on New Trends in Counseling and Psychotherapy, University of Illinois, February 26, 1949.
5 Steckle, L. C. Problems of human adjustment. New York: Harper, 1949, p. 20.
Reprinted by permission. See also Thorpe, L. P. The psychology of mental health.
New York: Ronald, 1950, pp. 3-4, 13-20; Bernard, H. W. Toward better personal
adjustment. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1951, p. 8.

Introduction
a form of behavior that reflects lack of control, anxiety, or some other
disturbance in the personality of the child. It is, in other words, a poor
way of behaving-a maladjustment. To poor adjustments such as these
must be added all those difficulties that are much more serious and disturbing, like the neuroses and psychoses. These, too, are prevalent among
the general population, so that the total number of maladjusted people is
extremely large.
1. PSYCHOSOMATIC DISORDERS. The extent of maladjustment is clearly
exemplified in another way-by the number of persons w~o seek the
help or advice of physicians regarding ailments that are not actually
physIcal in nature. It is reliably estimated by physicians themselves that
between 50 and 75 per cent of the patients who seek their help have
nothing physically wrong with them! True enough, these patients have
aches and pains; they really suffer from headaches, sleeplessness, lack of
energy, chronic tiredness, palpitations of the heart, and so on. But the
most careful diagnosis fails to reveal any physical disturbance or pathology. The symptoms are real enough and cause a great deal of suffering and
anguish. But the underlying causes of these symptoms are not physical;
they are, instead, psychological, and this fact brings such disturbances
within the scope of the concept of maladjustment (Chapter Fourteen).6
You must try to understand this peculiar situation at the very outset.
First of all, you must realize that there are many physical disorders that
are caused by physical conditions. Symptoms like high blood pressure,
rapid heart beat, tiredness, and headache are often associated with real
physical illnesses. Headache, for example, may result from eyestrain, constipation, or head injury; high blood pressure may be a symptom of
hardening of the arteries; and chronic fatigue is often a sign of tuberculosis or heart di~rder. Yet these very symptoms may appear in the
absence of such physical disabilities. They are then referred to as psychosomatic disorders. This term means simply that some physical symptoms
are the result of psychological rather than physical disturbances. Thus
chronic worry or anxiety (which is clearly psychological) can cause
digestive upsets and even a definite pathological condition, such as peptic
ulcer, just as surely as dietary indiscretion or overeating can. Later on
(Chapter Five), we shall have more to say about psychosomatic disorders;
here it is important to realize how these reactions can increase the number
of maladjusted persons. Every person who is plagued by symptoms of
this kind must be regarded as maladjusted. The development of these
symptoms is one of the ways in which people try to adjust to different
situations; and, since psychosomatic symptoms are obviously bad, as far
6 In a recent study, it is reported that 40 per cent of 7,000 children observed in a
pediatric clinic presented problems involving psychosomatic symptoms. See Scull,
A. J. Th, ,h,U'ng, of <h, "wdl ,hild." C,i;/. mod., ~' 77, '85-292.
9

The Study of Adjustment


as the welfare of the person is concerned, they constitute a form of
maladjustment.
2. MENTAL DISEASE. Many of the persoAs who seek medical help to
relieve psychosomatic symptoms are actuall~ neurotic, that is, they are
victims of relatively benign mental disorder~ 'pr personality disturbances.
There are countless others who are more seriously disturbed--persons
suffering from mental disease (psychosis), alcoholism, psychopathic personality, epilepsy, and drug addiction. The following tables and figures

TABLE I

First Admissions to All Mental Hospitals and to State Mental Hospitals


(Numbers and rates in the United States, 1937-1948. Rates expressed in terms
of first admissions per 100,000 estimated total population.)
ALL MENTAL

HOSPITAL~

STATE MENTAL HOSPITALS

YEAR

number

ra~e

number

rate

1948
1947
1946
1945
1944
1943
1942
1941
1940
1939
1938
1937

182,264
170,258
153,025
141,718
128,475
118,402
114,102
113,181
109,565
110,773

).25.4
119.3
110.6
101.5
93.0
86.7
84.7
85.0
83.0
84.6
85.0
85.5

101,218
93,749
89,299
85,426
83,723
82,650
84,835
84,201
81,899
81,655
79,408
78,217

69.7
65.7
64.5
67.0
66.2
64.9
64.8
64.0
62.1
62.4
61.2

110,323
110,082

:
I

60.7

Source: The Council of State Governments. The mental health' programs of tbe
forty-eight states, 1950, p. 33. Reprinted by permission.

will give you an idea of the number of these unfonunate people who are: committed to mental hospitals each year, at an increasing rate. These
persons are seriously maladjusted; when we add the ever-increasing
number of persons less seriously disturbed, we can readily appreciate the
extent of maladjustment in our society.
3. DELINQUENCY. Each year thousands of school children run headlong into some kind of psychological difficulty. It is conservatively estimated that two million school children each year require some kind of
special help to stave off maladjustment or to remedy a condition that
already exists. Some of these children c;mnot read. Some are handicapped
10

Introduction

TABLE II

First Admissions to Hospitals for Mental Disease

1n

the United States:

1946
(By Diagnosis and Type of Hospital Control)
1

ALL
,DIAGNOSIS

COUNTY

STATE

HOSPITALS

HOSPITALS

AND CITY
HOSPITALS

No.
General paresis
6,021
Alcoholic (psychotic)
5,713
Alcoholic (nonpsychotic)
9,541
Cerebral arteriosclerosis
15,665
Senile
13,543
Involutional
6,888
Psychoneurosis
11,677
Manic-depressive
12,078
Dementia-praecox
29,753
Other
34,324
All patients
145,203

VETERANS'

PRIVATE

HOSPITALS

HOSPITALS

_-

% No. % No. % No. % No. %


--------------4.1 5,367
3.9 3,932

6.0
4.4

121
94

6.6 3,742

4.2

76

2.5 1,424

15.3 506
12.7 791
66
4.4
3.3
62
7.8 188
18.9 456
23.0 721
100.0 3,018

16.8
159
26.2
52
2.2
112
2.1 5,261
820
6.2
15.1 8,058
21.8 5,241
100.0 22,314

10.8 13,665
9.3 11,345
4.7 3,898
8.0 2;930
8.3 6,951
20.5 16,918
23.8 20,551
100.0 89,299

4.0
3.1

275
912

1.2
4.1

258
755

0.8
2.5

6.4 4,299 14.1


0.7 1,335
0.2 1,355
0.5 2,812
23.6 3,424
3.7 4,119
36.1 4,321
23.5 7,874
100.0 30,572

4.4
4.4
9.2
11.2
13.5
14.1
25.8
100.0

Source: The Council of State Governments. The mental healt/] programs of the
forty-eight states. Chicago, 1950, p. 35. Reprinted by permission.

by speech impedimc:;nts. Others cannot get along well in their school


subjects. Still others are emotionally distraught or cannot get along socially
with their classmates. Some of them, torn by conflicts and frustration,
become truants and _d(;!linquents; and still others, particularly adolescents,
get into deeper trouble with society. School principals, counselors, and
psychological clinics are constantly besieged with children's problems,
so that, today, every large and progressive chool system is staffed with
psychologists, psychiatrists, and other experts, whose job it is to help
children reach or maintain a wholesome level of adjustment. 7 The following case illustrates the kind of problem that often arises in school.
7 See Steinbach, A. A. A survey of adjustment difficulties in children and youth
drawn from the normal population. Elem. Sch. ]., 1933, 34, 122-129; Stevenson, G. S.
Mental-hygiene problems of youth today. Ment. Hyg., N.Y., 1941, 25, 539-551;
Newell, N. L. Mental health and ill-health among YO~u Understand tbe child, 1947,
16, 3-6.
.

11

The Study of Adjustment


An eight-year-old boy had remained for two years in the first half of the
first grade without learning to write or to read. He reversed letters or
sequences, made meaningless combinations of letters, and used peculiar punctuation marks. Other symptoms were solitary withdrawal from social relation,I
,

MANIC DEPRESSIVE
PSYCHOSIS

20

17,5

27.5

47.5

GENERAL
PARESIS

57,5

~7.5

AGE

Fig. I-Number of first admissions to state mental hospitals in the


United States by age and psychosis, expressed as rates per 100,000
of the corresponding general population. Modified from Landis, C.
& Page, ]. D. Modern society and mental disease. New York: Rinehart, 1938, p. 37. Reproduced by p-ermission.

ships and wetting and soiling, the latter representing a regression after his
mother placed him, at the age of three, in' a foster home after the birth of a
sister. Both children were illegitimate, but the mother married the father of
the second one, and he did not want to take the patient into the home.

At the age of three, before he developed his neurosis, he achieved an IQ


of 95. When tested by the same psycho!ogist at five and at seven, he achieved

12

Introduction
IQ's of 75 and 74. At the end of therapy, after he recovered from his neurosis,
his IQ was again 95.7.8
4. CRIME. Many delinquent youngsters become increasingly maladjusted until, by the time-they reach middle or late adolescence, they
join the ranks of the delinquents and criminals. Here we have another

~900
~STATE

1940

1945

1950

Em VETERANS'

llllliillllJeoUNTY

Fig. 2-Resident patients in mental hospitals, United States, 19031948 (hospitalization rates per 100,000 population). From The
Council of State Governments. The mental health programs of the
forty-eight states. Chicago, 1950, p. 31. Reprinted by permission.

large section of the population that is ser~ously maladjusted. The behavior difficulties of adolescents are of a different kind from those of
neurotics and psychotics; but there can be no question of their maladjustment. All delinquents and criminals are morally and socially maladjusted, and many of them are emotionally maladjusted also. That these
groups constitute a serious problem in adjustment and social welfare is
unmistakably indicated by the figures showing the increase in crime and
8 Maslow, A. H., & Mittelmann, B. Principles of. ab1t"b:rn_al psychology. (Rev. ed.)
New york: Harper, 1951, pp. 344-345. Reprinted by Plu-.j\n.ission.

if

13

The Study of Adjustment


juvenile delinquency. For example, according'to the United States Bureau
of the Census, in the year 1937 there were 1'1,'591 .males under twenty-one
years of age in federal and state prisons and reformatories; whereas, during
1947, 117,867 boys and girls under twenty-one were arrested and fingerprinted. Some of this increase is attributabl~, of course, to increase in
population; but many statistical surveys show conclusively that delinquency is continually increasing. We may say that, in general, increases
of this kind in social maladjustment roughly parallel increases in emotional maladjustment represented by the number of neurotic and psychotic patients. In a later section, we shall deal more specifically with the
factors, both personal and social, that are contributing to this unprecedented increase in the various forms of maladjustment (Chapters Five
and Six).
5. VOCATIONAL MALADJUSTMENT. Closely allied to this high incidence of social maladjustment are the many instances of vocational and
occupational dissatisfaction. Again, there is no sure way of determining
the number of persons who are vo~ationally maladjusted in one way or
another, but it has been reliably estimated by students of this problem
that the figure may run as high as 50 per cent! Whether this figure is
correct or not, the actual number of persons unsuited to their jobs or
emotionally frustrated in their daily work must be appallingly large, for
there are over sixty million workers in the United States. Even if the
estimated figure were as low as 10 per cent, the incidence would be very
high. Many of these persons are simply dissatisfied with their work or
lack interest in it; others are more seriously disturbed by the nature or
demands of their jobs-the well-known square pegs in round holes; but
all of them are poorly adjusted (in a vocational sense) to the extent that
they do not meet the demands of thelr work in an efficient, wholesome,
or satisfying manner. In a subsequent chapter (Chapter Sixteen), we
shall deal more specifically with this problem of vocational adjustment;
there we shall examine its nature and relations ~to other forms of adjustm~

6. MARITAL MALADJUSTMENT. In much the same way that some


persons have difficulty with the vocation or job they have chosen, others
have trouble getting along well in marriage. The two kinds of adjustment
problems are in fact very similar, which,is readily understood when -we
recall that marriage itself is a vocation. Both make certain demands on
individuals that must be met in an efficient manner; In both situations,
there are day-to-day problems that require careful handling, sound judgment, emotional control, and adaptation. Qf the two, marriage makes far
greater demands on the adjustment capaCities of individuals; and that is
one reason why the incidence of marital maladjustment is high. Every
separation, desertion, or divorce is an instance of poor marital adjustment;
and, when we realize that one out of every four marriages ends in divorce,

14

Introduction
we see how extensive is this problem of marital maladjustment. 9 Moreover, there are countless marriages that do not end in separation or
divorce but in which there is a great deal of unhappiness, wrangling,
hatred, and other symptoms of poor adjustment, so that the total number
of unhappy married people must be extremely high.
When we bring together all the figures we have mentioned, we see
that the number of persons exhibiting some degree of poor adjustment
runs .into the millions. This statement, contrary to what you may be
thinking, is not pessimistic; rather, it is realistic, for it reflects the problem of adjustment as it actually exists. First of all, the concept of maladjustment extends all the way from a simple disturbance like reading
disability to the most complex and completely developed psychosis. We
might expect so big a net to catch a great many fish. Secondly, human
existence is a very complex affair, and it is difficult for men and women,
children and adolescents to meet all demands made upon them with sureness, efficiency, and emotional tranquillity. Just as a machine might fail to
measure up to all requirements because of mechanical weaknesses or
errors in design, so human beings are limited in their capacity to adjust
to every situation. Good adjustment requires knowledge, skills, virtues,
experience, and a host of other qualities, depending on the situation in
which it occurs. But many persons do not have one or another of these
requirements. In a crucial situation calling for just the right kind of
response, they may lack the experience that is necessary; or perhaps some
long-standing inhibition gets in the way; or lack of tact, a bad habit, a
strong feeling of inferiority, or insufficient knowledge or skill prevents
them from meeting the demands made on them. The possibilities for poor
or inadequate adjustment in a world as complex as ours are endless; and it
is small wonder that so many persons develop symptomatic or maladjustive responses.

Implications of Maladjustment
To recognize that maladjustment and mental disorder are widespread and
that there are good reasons why this is so does not minimize the serious
implications that these facts have for all of us as individuals and as members of society.' It is a truism to assert that a society cannot be healthier
9 Curran, citing a report of the Federal Security Agency, points out that approximately one American, family broke up (or every three that were formed in 1945.
In this year, more than 502,000 m_arriag~s ended in divorce, an all-time record that
rose 25.5 per cent over the previous peak year, 1944. No doubt, these appalling figures
are related in part to war marriages, since in more recent years the divorce Tate has
been declining. See Curran, C. A. Counseling in Catholic life and education. New
York: Macmillan, 1952, p. 2.
10 In its leaflet on facts about mental illness, The National Association for Mental
Health points out that (1) one out of every twelve ~jldren porn each year will
need to go to a mental hospital sometime during his Ii e:me; (2) at least 9,000,000

15

The Study of Adjustment


than its individual members; and, conversely, It IS Just as true that an
unhealthy society has adverse effects on its individual members (witness
Nazi Germany!). It is these implications, of qourse, that make the study
of human adjustment and maladjustment such an important undertaking.
Individually and collectively, we cannot exp~ct
to live contentedly or
I
happily, nor can we hope to achieve our per~<;mal social goals, as long as
we are hampered by maladjustments. For that matter, our ambitions
regarding international accord will also remain a dream if we cannot
solve the problem of human adjustment. For these reasons we should
bend every effort toward an understanding of the adjustment process, so
that by understanding we may come to a knowledge of the rules and
conditions for wholesome and effective living.
A PREVIEW

From what has been said in our discussion of the incidence of maladjustment in various areas of daily life, we can get an idea of what will
be studied in succeeding chapters. Reference has already been made to
emotional, social, academic, marital, and vocational adjustment, all of
which must be taken into account at one point or another if we are to
succeed in drawing a complete picture of the adjustment process. But
there is a great deal more to the problem than those topics would suggest.
First of all, we want to determine what adjustment psychology is-its
subject matter and scope, its methods and theories, and its relations to such
closely allied fields as mental hygiene, abnormal psychology, psychiatry,
and clinical psychology.
Secondly, we shall explore some of the fundamental concepts in
adjustment psychology so as to lay a secure groundwork for later discussions. At that point, we shall study the co'ncepts of adjustment and maladjustment in more detail; the notions of normality and abnormality; the
meaning of mental health and its relation to adjustment; the concept of
mental efficiency; and the central problem of maturitY:-T'hlrdly, we shall
analyze thoroughly the standards and criteria by which. adjustment and
mental health can be evaluated. Fourthly, we shall investigate the conditions and determinants of human adjustment with a view to determining
those factors within personality or in the environment thar-promote or hinder the process of adjustment. In~this_seGtion,-we shall have an
opportunity to expand our knowledge--'of .._fu:!illgn- personality (on
which all adjustment depends)-its beginnings iq infancy, its determi-

Americans are ~uffering from a mental. or emoti~iil<lisorder; (3) this year about
250,000"people will go to mental hospitals for the "first-time; (4) mental illness costs
over a billion dollari; a year in tax funds; (5) about $1,750,000,000 is .lost in earnings
in one year by pat1ents becoming ill for the first time; (6) the 650,000 mentalhospital patients equill in number all other hospital patients combined.
".

16

Introduction
nants, and its gradual evolution in the period between conception and
adulthood.
In the next part of the book, we shall study the dynamics of adjustment.
Motivational theories and principles, and the needs, wants, and desires of
human beings will be examined in relation to the problem of adjustment.
As a follow-up to this topic, we shall deal with the process of adjustment
itself. Here we shall study the basic pattern characteristic of all adjustments, the phenomenon of frustration in all its different aspects, the
relation between adjustment processes and learning, and certain criteria
by which adjustment behavior can be evaluated.
In the next two parts of the book we shall study, first, the basic
patterns of adjustment, and then the varieties of adjustment. In the first
of these two parts, we shall begin by an analysis of certain relatively
simple adjustment patterns, followed by consideration of the most common and important adjustment mechanisms, including compensation,
sublimation, rationalization, egocentrism, projection, aggression, and delinquency. This study will be developed against a background of ideas
regarding the nature and determinants of defense reactions, particularly
as they relate .to the theory of inferiority.
The study of typical defense mechanisms will be followed by an
analysis of adjustments that involve escape and withdrawal, such as
alcoholism, fantasy thinking, regression, and the like. As in the case of
defense mechanisms, we shall try to determine the origins and causes of
escape reactions and the manner in which they are utilized to effect
adjustment. Finally, in this particular section, we shall deal with adjustment patterns that involve the development of some illness or symptoms
of illness. Here we shall have an opportunity to discuss the major neurotic
patterns: anxiety neurosis, neurasthenia and hypochondria, obsessivecompulsive reactions, psychomotor disturbances, and hysteria.
Under the heading of varieties of adjustment, which follows the discussion of adjustment patterns, we shall consider, first, the nature, forms,
and conditions of personal and social adjustment; and, second, the problems involved in marital and vocational adjustment. The student will see
that these are special adjustment situations in which the different patterns
of adjustment playa prominent part. Under the heading of personal and
social adjustment, we shall consider physical, emotional, sexual, home,
school, moral, religious, and general social adjustment. In connection
with marital adjustment, we shall discuss such topics as personality factors
in marital happiness, interpersonal relations, economic factors, and the
general criteria of successful marriage. And, in relation to vocational
adjustment, we shall consider the selection of a vocation, personality
factors in vocational adjustment, the importance of knowledge, skills, and
aptitudes to vocational success, and the relation J:>etween vocational adjustment and other aspects of adjustment already.!tt0nsidered.

/~

17

The Study of Adjustment


The last part of the book will deal !>pecifically with mental hygiene
and treatment. By then you will have. realized that all the practical principles of mental hygiene and the variou~ practices that constitute
treatment and psychotherapy are hinged on a thoroughly developed
psychology of adjustment. In this section,
shall deal first of all with
the character of mental hygiene, its backgro~~d, its forms, its relation to
adjustment and psychotherapy, and its basic principles. Then we shall
study the practical applications of mental hygiene, methods of gathering
personal data, such as physical and psychological examinations, the nature
and characteristics of differential diagnosis, and the different forms of
treatment, including physical therapy, counseling, psychotherapy, and
the like. This discussion will be concluded with an evaluation of diagnosis, treatment, and mental hygiene practices. In this way, we shall bring
to a close our interpretation of the psychology of adjustment and mental
health.

wb

SUMMARY

In this introductory chapter on personal adjustment and mental


health, we have had in mind to give you a brief perspective of our field
of study. Three basic factors were emphasized.
1. The general and specific aims that every student should use as guiding

principles in his work. The general aim we defined simply as a


knowledge of the adjustment process, its nature, forms, and conditions. From this knowledge emerge the principles and practices of
mental hygiene. The specific aims are practical in nature: self-improvement, and the prevention or, alleviation of maladjustment and
personality disorder.
2. The significance of adjustment psychology and mental hygiene. This
factor was highlighted by the simple expedient of marshaling statistical evidence regarding the prevalence of inentaL_ disorder and
maladjustment among people in all walks of life.
3. The implications of the facts brought out for individuals and for
society. Here we emphasized the necessity of coping adequately with
the problems of maladjustment through understanding and "the application of the principles of mental hygiene and treatment. The chapter
was concluded with a preview of the various problems and areas to
be studied in subsequent sections of the text.

QUESTIONS, EXERCISES, AND PROJECTS

I. 'vVithout reference to the text, or any other sources, explain in your

own words what you understand adjustment to mean.

18

Introduction

2. Discuss briefly the significance of the study of adjustment.


3. On the basis of your own experience, formulate ten basic rules for
effective living.
4. Make a statistical study, on the b1sis of published reports, of the incidence of "neuropsychiatric" disorders in the military services.
5. What is the importance of good adjmtment for school life? For marital
happiness? For your daily work?
SELECTED READINGS

The psychology of development and personal adjustment.


New York: Holt, 1949. Chap. I.

ANDERSON, J. E.

H. w. Mental hygiene for classroom teachers. New York:


McGraw-Hill, 1952. Chap. I.

BERNARD,

Mental hygiene: the dynamics of adjustment. (2nd Ed.)


New York: Prentice-Hall, 1951. Chap. I.

CARROLL, H. A.

The mentally ill in America. (2nd Ed., rev.) New York:


Columbia Univer. Press, 1949.

DEUTSCH, A.

GOLDHAMER, H., & MARSHALL, A.

Psychosis and civilization. Chicago: Free

Press, 1953.
Mental hygiene and life New York: Harper, 1952.
Introduction, Chap. I.

KAPLAN, L., &.BARON, D.

s. Personality and adjustment. New York:


McGraw-Hill, 1953. Chap. I.

PATTY, W. L., & JOHNSON, L.

THORPE, L. P.

The psychology of mental health. New York: Ronald, 1950.

Chap. I.

19

'i?

TWO

THE SCIENTIFIC STUDY OF \\ADJUST1\1ENT


General psychology and the study of adjustment. Subject matter and scope
of adjustment psychology. Aims. Historical roots. Approaches to the
study. Difficulties of investigation. Direct observation. Clinical observation.
Personality study. Experimental approach. Adjustment psychology and
abnormal psychology. Adjustment psychology and mental hygiene. Clinical psyc'hology and psychiatry.

WHAT ADJUSTMENT PSYCHOLOGY IS

General Psychology and the Study of Adjustment

Psychological investigation is much the same regardless of the field of


study we happen to be interested in at the moment. There are some variations in aim, in point of view, and, at times, in methodology; but on the
whole these variations are subordinate to the general interest and orientation of the psychologist, which may be stated most simply as knowledge
of human nature or personality. In every investigative branch of psychology, as distinct from those that are practical or applied, we are always
trying to find out more about human beings: how they act, why they
act that way, what their characteristics are, how they can be changed,
and so on. To this general rule, the psychology ofaajustIl}~nt and mental
health is no exception. There is no great difference, therefore, between
this field of study and general psychology, which may easily be slanted
toward the problem of human adjustment, as was done in the author's
Introductory Psy cholo gy.1
.
Yet there is a way of emphasizing certain aspects of personality, or
of mental life and behavior, that gives rise to a new poinct of view and a
separate field of study. In general psychology, we. study human personality by analyzing the behavior and mental life of' man; here we are
interested in what human beings are like,. h6w ~ they perceive, think, feel,
and behave. The question of adjustment need not enter the picture,
1

Schneiders, A. A. Introductory psychology. New York: Riilehart, 1951.

20

'"

The Scientific Study of Adjustment


although we may refer to it at any time. Adjustment is a quality of
human response or personality to which we turn our attention when we
are interested in the question of how well or how poorly mental activity
and behavior are suited to the demands made on the people we are
studying. Thus, in a given instance, we could be interested in the question
why a young boy commits a delinquent act. To find the answer, we
would study his background, personality development, and motivations.
Or we could shift our point of view and consider the adjustive significance of the act. With this orientation, we would apply certain concepts
and criteria (Chapters Three and Four) to the response in order to
determine its suitability with respect to personal, social, or moral requirements. We would also like to know its characteristics as an adjustive
response, the conditions or causes that helped bring it about, and its
relation to the context of events or circumstances in which it takes place.
Proceeding thus, we would be working in the realm of adjustment
psychology.
Subject Matter and Scope of Adjustment Psychology
The subject matter of this field of study, then, is simply human adjustment; or, to bring the subject matter in line with what we said above, it
is human personality and behavior considered from the standpoint of
their relation to adjustment. The scope of this study is, therefore, very
broad, because there are so many facets of personality and so many areas
of human response that are related to the problem of adjustment. However, it would be incorrect to imply that all behavior or all mental
processes are directed toward adjustment. This is a narrow viewpoint
that harks back to the time when psychology still had its roots planted
firmly in nineteenth-century biology. There are numerous instances of
daily behavior that have no significance for the psychology of adjustment. One may light his pipe, take a stroll, hum a tune, say a prayer,
write a letter, and - perform countless other tasks that have no direct
relation to the problem of adjustment. Similarly, the concept of adjustment does not apply to such mental activities as solving a mathematical
problem, thinking about the day's work, or learning the stanza of a
poem for the sheer joy of doing it.
The question of adjustment arises only when there are certain
demands or requirements that must be complied with, or when there arise
certain difficulties, conflicts, or frustrations that must be resolved in one
way or another. We know, of course, that such demands and difficulties
come up frequently in our daily lives. The worker is required to meet the
demands of his job; the student must face the responsibilities of academic
life; the "Wife must learn to cope with the exigencies of marriage arising
from the heeds of her children or the personal peculiarities of her husb,nd. In overy
of hum,n ende>vor,.
'TO some requ;r:~"nts

=,

'li

T.he Study of Adjustment


that must be fulfilled; there are situations or personalities to which we
must adjust. And, in every area, there is the ever-present possibility of
frustration or conflict, which requires'expeh handling. It is in this context that the problems of adjustment arise;
The scope of adjustment psychology reaches also into the problem
of human personality. We shall deal with thi~I relation in more detail later
(Chapter Five), but here we wish to note briefly the fundamental connection between personality and adjustment, a connection that makes it
necessary to include the study of personality in the psychology of adjustment. The basically important fact is that, in any attempt to cope with
people or with varying situations and problems, one's personality ,always
plays a predominant role. After all, adjustment processes are in themselves responses, and these responses are direct expressions of personality;
they are, in fact, the objective manifestations of personality. Therefore,
we may expect that their form and content will be determined in large
measure by the make-up of the personality they manifest.
The point is easy to illustrate. Suppose that both Individual A and
Individual B experience a seriously' traumatic incident, like the sudden
loss of both parents, expulsion from school, the breakup of the home, or
a sexual attack. This kind of situation obviously requires adjustment of
the highest order. Now, Individual A is a well-integrated, mature, and
emotionally stable person, with a sound scale of values and a healthy outlook on life. Throughout childhood and adolescence his physical, intellectual, social, and emotional development has proceeded normally. He
has learned to function at a high level of efficiency, to discipline himself
when necessary, and to tackle problems in ,a forthright and intelligent
manner. He has, in short, a well-adjusted, well-developed, and wellintegrated personality. Individual B, onithe other hand, is just the opposite: immature, selfish, shortsighted, emotionally unstable, and lacking in
self-discipline. He has what is called an inadequate personality. We know,
of course, how these two people are going to react to the crisis in their
lives. From the one, we can reasonably expect a mature,,iQt.elligent adjustment; from the other a deepening of his own persQnal inadequacies.
Clearly, the deciding factor in these instan,ces, is the personality of each
individual. Thus, in order to understand-the "process of adjustment in the
best and fullest sense of the term, we must learn what we can regardingthe internal make-up of personality, the conditions of its development,
the manner in which personal characteristics emerge, and the principles
governing personal integration. We shall direct our attention to these
problems in Chapter Five.
/
Where does mental health fit into the,;pic}ure? Is that also an aspect
of adjustment psychology? Part of the ans\ver to these questions is contained in our discussion of mental health in relation to adjustment in
Chapter Three. But it will do no harm to anticipate that discussion in a
/'

22

The Scientific Study of Adjustment


small way here in order to clarify the relation of mental health to adjustment. You know, or you have already guessed, that the concept of adjustment is broader in content than mental health. It refers to a great many
responses and ways of behaving that have little to do with the condition
of one's mind. But it is nevertheless true that a healthy mental life is an
important part of the process of adjustment. It is a special phase of the
total adjustment pattern. From personal experiences or observations, one
can surmise that a person with obsessive ideas, delusions of persecution,
morbid fears, or chronic worry and anxiety is not well adjusted to reality.
He may manage to get along in his job, in his school work, with members
of his family, or in his social relations, but there are periods when his
mental difficulties get in the way of a happy or wholesome existence.
Personality is an integrated totality, and it is not likely that harmony
in one area of human response can be maintained when there is serious
disharmony in another.
Mental health, therefore, may be looked at in two ways: as a special
phase of the total adjustment pattern and as an important condition of
adjustment. In this it is exactly like physical health which may also be
regarded as an 'aspect or as a necessary condition for good physical adjustment. In our study of human adjustment, therefore, we must take into
account the nature, conditions, and criteria of mental health. This we have
done in Chapters Three and Four, and throughout the remainder of the
book the facts relating to mental health will be constantly brought into
line with our interpretation of adjustment.
Aims of Adjustment Psychology
You will recall that in the opening chapter we outlined briefly the general
and practical aims that can be realized through the study of adjustment.
Now we can be more specific and name the aims that govern the psychology of adjustment. The specific aims stem from the responsibility of
giving a complete explanation of the process of adjustment, which is the
general aim set forth in the preceding chapter. Here are the specific aims.
1. To determine the relations between adjustment psychology and

other fields, such as mental hygiene, abnormal and clinical psychology, psychiatry, and psychotherapy
2. To determine the nature of and relations between certain basic
concepts, including ~djustment and maladjustment, normality and
abnormality, mental health and illness, mental efficiency, maturity,
and morality
3. To define the general and specific criteria of adjustment and mental
health
4. To oudine and define the conditions and determinants of adjustment and mental health

23

The Study of Adjustment


5. To define the relations between adjus~ment and personality
6. To explain the basic dynamics of the adjustment process
7. To determine the relations between alijustment, conflict, frustration,
and stress
\
8. To outline and explain the principal'l?echanisms of adjustment
9. To study the nature, conditions, an~ characteristics of personal,
social, vocational, and marital adjustment
10. To develop basic principles of mental hygiene

Only to the extent that these specific aims are realized will it be possible
for us to develop a complete psychology of adjustment and mental health.
It is for this reason that we have organized the text in its present form.
BACKGROUND AND THEORIES

Historical Roots of Adjustment Psychology


Now that we are acquainted with the subject matter, scope, and aims of
adjustment psychology, we may investigate briefly its beginnings, and
then trace its development, particularly as this development is reflected
in the viewpoints and theories advanced periodically to explain the adjustment process. In this way we will understand the psychology of adjustment better, and we will also be in a better position to grasp the complex
relations between this field of study and others, such as abnormal psychology, psychiatry, and mental hygiene.
1. PSYCHIATRY AND MEDICAL PSYCHOLOGY. Several important movements and theories contributed to the growth of adjustment psychology.
'Perhaps the most important was the rapid expansion of psychiatry and
medical psychology during the latter part of the nineteenth century.s
Both fields are, of course, intimately concerned with mental disorder and
maladjustment, and it was therefore inevitable that a great deal of interest
should be directed toward the nature, conditions, and dynamics of adjustment and mental health.
. ~ - ~ ......
2. EXPERIMENTAL AND EMPIRICAL PSYCHOLOGY. Significantly, while
this expansion was taking place, experimental and empirical psychology
was developing rapidly in both Europe and America; and, since psychology deals with all mental and behavioral processes, both normal and'
abnormal, the psychology of adjustment occurred as a natural outgrowth
of developments in both psychology and psychiatry.
3. PSYCHOANALYSIS. Within the broad framework of psychiatry,
another historical development of major significance -for adjustment psy------,

2 See Shaffer, L. F. The psychology of adju-;';;ent. Boston: Houghton Miffi.ih~


1936, pp. 18-20.
g See Zilboorg, G., & Henry, G. W. A history of medical psychology. New
York: Norton, 1941.

24

The Scientific Study of Adjustment


chology was the growth of psychoanalysis under the genius and leadership of Sigmund Freud, a Viennese psychiatrist. 4 Although psychoanalysis
is primarily a method of treatment of mental and personality disorders,
behind the technique is a body of doctrine and theory that has many
implications for the study of human adjustment. We shall discuss some of
these ideas a little later in this section. For the psychology of adjustment,
the main point of interest in Freud's theories is his psychological dynamics.
Classical psychiatry had provided many concepts for understanding the
causes and conditions of psychological disorders, and, later on, the new
empirical psychology was to provide additional concepts and theories
along these lines; but Freud's doctrine was unique in its emphasis on the
dynamic role of sex and love and of the unconscious in the genesis and
development' of personality and of mental disorders. As we will see in
subsequent discussions, this orientation has provided the psychology of
adjustment with several indispensable concepts for understanding and
interpreting both adjustive and maladjustive responses.
4. EVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGY. Another theory of historical importance
in the growth of adjustment psychology was evolutionary biology, which
strongly influenced the psychologists of the early scientific period. As
you probably know from your study of biology, evolutionary thinking
has always been adjustment-minded. The development of organic structures and functions was consistently interpreted in terms of their adjustment value for the organism. This sort of thinking provides the means
by which the development of new structures or functions can be properly
explained or evaluated.
5. FUNCTIONALISM AND BEHAVIORISM. The clearest expression of the
amalgamation of psychology and evolutionary biology was the school
of functionalism which flourished during the early part of the present
century. Characteristically, in answer to the question, what are mental
processes and behavior for, the functionalist replied that they serve the
welfare or adjustment of the organism. Similarly, the school of behaviorism, with its roots also planted deeply in the doctrine of evolution,
furthered the development of adjustment psychology. The problem of
adjustment is essentially a practical one, and behaviorism, with its continuous emphasis on psychology as a practical discipline, helped to create
a deeper concern for and interest in human problems. Both schools of
thought were instrumental also in providing concepts and techniques for
the scientific study of adju~tment, so that their influence on the psychology of adjustment assumed several forms."
4 A good summary and evaluation of psychoanalysis will be found in Brown, ]. F.
The psychodynamics of abnormal behavior. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1940, Chaps.
IX-XII.
5 A good, brief account of these viewpoints will be found in Woodworth, R. S.
Contemporary schools of psychology. (Rev. ed.), N~ York: Ronald, 1948.

'1Y

25

The Study of Adjustment


6. MENTAL HYGIENE MOVEMENT. We may mention, finally, the
growth of the mental hygiene movement, particularly in the United
States. 6 Where psychiatrists and psychoanal?,sts were interested in the
development and application of treatment p~ocedures for the alleviation
or cure of personality disorders and maladj~stments, and scientific psychology was interested in a more thorough uhderstanding of the various
processes involved, the mental hygienists diredted their efforts toward the
development of practical principles for the effective prevention of mental
disorders. This orientation can have a profound effect on the understanding and interpretation of adjustment because the principles that are
effective in preventing personality disorders are a gateway to ,the understanding of the causes and conditions that precipitate such disorders.
Admittedly, this is putting the cart before the horse; yet it has worked,
and the psychology of adjustment is indebted to mental hygiene for the
discovery of many insights into the nature and characteristics of human
adjustment.
7. iNCREASE OF MENTAL DISORDER. The increasing interest in problems of adjustment and mental health, spurred on by the developments
just described, was markedly affected also by the continuous increase of
mental disorder and maladjustmsnt discussed in the preceding chapter.
In part, this rising incidence reflects the increasing complexity, industrialization, and urbanization of modern society; but, as if this were not
enough, we have had to go through the agonizing and traumatic experience of two full-scale world wars and a major depression. Whatever the
causes (Chapter Six), maladjustment continues to increase year by year,
and this fact imposes the necessity for a careful and continuing study of
the conditions, causes, and dynamics of the adjustment process. This
requirement, as much as any other factor, has contributed to the continuous growth of the psychology of ~djustment.

Approaches to the Study of Adjustment


1. PSYCHOANALYSIS. This brief historical survey_leads
right into the
.-.....,
problem of the different 'approaches to the understandingand interpretation of the adjustment process. Foremost among these 'is the theory of
psychoanalysis, which, as we noted, is one of the historical antecedents
of adjustment psychology. According to the viewpoint of psychbanalysis,-the interpretation of adjustment and maladjustment requires the acceptance of several basic concepts. 7 The first of these is the doctrine of the
unconscious, according to which all behavior, mental processes, symptoms, ;nd adjustment mechanisms are determined in
large measure by
r
psychic factors (instinctual drives, repres~~.:)vishes, 'complexes) of which
For a brief history of the mental hygiene movement, see Chap. XVII.
For a thorough review'of the doctrines and developments of psychoanalysis,
see Mullahy, P. Oedipus: myth and complex. New York: Hermitage, 1948.
6

26

The Scientific Study of Adjustment


the individual himself is unaware. This notion is complemented by the
theory of psychological dynamics, which means that unconscious psychic
factors functIon as powerful forces that demand expression in behavior or
response of some kind. Thus the wish to kill or the desire for sexual
expression may, because of strong repressive influences of a social or
moral nature, "come to the surface" in the form of dreams, symbolic acts,
neurotic symptoms, or adjustment mechanisms, such as sublimation,
rationalization, and projection. As one can readily guess, the idea of psychological dynamics leads to psychic determinism, according to which
the responses that result from unconscious drives are necessitated by the
strength of the motivating conditions, thus leaving no room for freedom
or self-determination. This part of the total theory is of particular significance for the principles of adjustment and mental hygiene because of
the importance of self-discipline for the achievement and maintenance of
adjustment.
These three principles of psychoanalysis are complemented by the
theory of psychosexual development, the pleasure principle, the reality
principle, and the idea of psychic formation or structure. Each one of
these different parts of the total theory are fitted together into a coordinated whole. The theory of psychosexual development supposes different stages of sexuality, beginning in infancy and progressing through
childhood and adolescence, and dominated throughout by the factor of
pleasure. If this development is normal and if the sexual urge (libido) is
allowed adequate gratification, the person should remain free of conflicts,
symptoms, or personality disturbances. If, on the other hand, restrictive
measures, originating in the environment or society, inhibit normal gratifications, some kind of distortion of personality or behavior will result.
These ideas can be understood better by studying the analytic interpretation of personality formation or psy chic structure (Figure 3). The
psychic structure has three parts: id, ego, and superego. The id is a
personalized version of the unconscious; it is the hidden, primitive,
pleasure-dominated, unmoral part of personality. The ego mediates between the id and reality; it is the conscious, knowing "1," which gradually
emerges out of the conflict between the strivings of the id and the
impositions of reality. The superego embodies the incorporated taboos,
rules, laws, and proscriptions of culture and society; it is the "public
conscience" incorporated within the structure of the personality. It is
closely related to both the id on the one hand and reality on the other,
acting to control the strivings of the id through the restrictions imposed
by social or moral codes.
The connection between these concepts and the process of adjustment can be readily clarified. If, in the process of growing up, everything
goes well, good adjustment is assured; if not, maladjustment results. In
oth" word,_ If psychos,",",l developmem ~ non",l and adeq:~e, If

The Study of Adjustment


pleasure does not: become too dominating a force, if the ego achieves
strength and security, if the id does not dominate the ego or the superego,
if the relarions between the ego and reality ~!e adequate, if the superego

General Biological

En~rgy

Eros or Life Drives

Libido Impulses

I
guided by

I
Pleasure Principle
I
1
Self-love, love of
expressed by

others, uninhibited
pursuit of pleasure

Thanatos or Death Drh'e

Ego Impulses

guided by

I
Reality Principle

I
expressed by

Death and Aggression


Impulses
guided by

Nirvana Principle

SatiSfYinl needs of
the body in a socially
approved manner

expressed bv

Destructiveness
tow'ard others
and toward
self

Use of sublimation
and repression
Located in the
unconscious

Represented by
the id

Located in the
conscious and I
unconscious

Represented by the
ego and superego

Located in the
unconscIous

~Repre~~ed

by

the id

Fig, 3-Schematic representation of some psychoanalytic concepts


and their interrelations. By permission from Abnormal psychology,
by J. D. Page. Copyright, 1947. McGraw-liill Book Company, Inc.,
p. 186.
'I

does not become overdeveloped, and if nee5-Lg'ratjfications can be brought


effectively into line with the demands of reality and of the superego, then
the organism should remain relatively free of damaging conflicts,symptom -formation, or personality disturbances. But let us suppose that the

" f
'28

\,\

The Scientific Study of Adjustment


impulses of the id get out of hand. In that case the ego is weakened,
relations with reality become impaired, and there is a strong likelihood
of symptom formation or neurosis. Or, again, if the superego becomes
overdeveloped, damaging guilt feelings and neurotic conflicts result,
especially regarding sexual impulses and actions. Such guilt feelings and
conBicts are almost certain to develop into personality disturbances.
Without going further into the many ramifications of this complex
theory, let us ask ourselves what it means to the psychology of adjustmeI1t. Are its basic concepts and principles sound? Do they help us to
understand the problems of adjustment more thoroughly? First of all,
let us note that the classical psychoanalysis of the Freudian school has
been partially abandoned or radically altered by many psychoanalysts
themselves, including Carl lung, Alfred Adler, Otto Rank, Karen Horney,
and. Eric Fromm. 8 Their interpretations differ considerably from those
of the Freudian group. Here are the main criticisms of the classical school,
made by one or another of these psychoanalysts: (1) the doctrine of the
unconscious is difficult to substantiate scientifically; (2) there are too
many gross generalizations based on restricted clinical experience, especially in the matter of symbolization and symptom formation; (3) the
concept of infantile sexuality is purely inferential and based on clinical
experience with adults rather than with children; (4) the unrestrained
emphasis on sex and its role in the development of personality disorders
is unwarranted; (5) normality is interpreted entirely in terms of abnormal
behavior; (6) there is too little attention given to social determinants of
personality and its disturbances; (7) the theory of psychic determinism
is fatalistic and leaves no room for treatment that utilizes the patient's
capacities for self-realization; (8) the emphasis on pleasure as the dominant
motivating force is unrealistic and unwarranted; (9) the doctrine of
psychic structure is purely conceptual and difficult to apply consistently;
(10) there is little room in the total theory for the influence of either
morality or religion in the achievement of adjustment and mental health.
These difficulties are serious, and they limit the value of psychoanalytic doctrine for the psychology of adjustment. Still, as we have
already intimated, parts of the theory are very useful, and some parts are
indispensable. In our own interpretation of the adjustment process in
succeeding pages, we shall take what is good in psychoanalytic theory
and incorporate it with our interpretations; those elements that are
unscientific or questionable we shall simply leave out. 9
See Mullahy. Op. cit., Chaps. V-X, for a concise summary of these viewpoints.
For a good evaluation of psychoanalysis, see Page, J. D. Abnormal psychology.
New York: McGraw-Hill, 1947, pp. 193-198. Sears, R. R. Survey of objective studies
of psychoanalytic concepts. New York: Social Science Research Council, 1943. A
good summary and evaluation of psychoanalysis is ~ntained in Thorpe, L. P. The
psychology of mental healtb. New York: Ronald; 195 i,Chap. III; Nuttin, J. Psycho8
9

..

2$1

The Study of Adjustment


2. BEHAVIORISM. A healthy antidote to the overstatements and
unwarranted generalizations of psychoanalysis was the school of behaviorism, founded by John Watson, which Also established a theoretical
groundwork for the interpretation of adjustment. The contrast between
these two viewpoints is extreme, and you mat find .it somewhat difficult
to understand how both can be applied to the
problem of adjustment.
I
Behaviorism categorically denies every major doctrine of psychoanalysis
and, in fact, most of the interpretations of classical psychology. Consciousness, mind, the unconscious, free will, morality, the soul-all cease
to exist, as far as the behaviorist is concerned. There is no mind, and
therefore there is no mental illness in the usual sense of the term. There
is no unconscious, and therefore there can be no psychic determinism
of the type posited by Freud. There is no consciousness, and therefore no
psychological freedom. You can see readily enough what these negations
mean for the interpretation of adjustment and mental health.
According to behaviorism, all human responses fall into one simple
category-behavior. There is no real difference between such divergent
responses as walking, talking, thinking, "mental" conflict, frustration,
visceral reactions, imagination, dreaming, and wanting. There are practically no innate responses (with the possible exception of reflexes); thus
all responses are habitual, at least those that count in the adjustments of
the organism. Personality is not a psychophysical entity; composed of
mind and body, or of mental and physical processes; it is rather an
organized totality of habit responses acquired in the course of develop- .
ment, training, and learning. The organism begins life with an extremely
simple repertoire of responses, and, through the mechanism of conditioning, it gradually acquires a wide range of responses by which it strives
to meet the demands of its own nature
those imposed by the environment. In this view, then, adjustment is a process of adapting acquired
behavior responses to the needs of the moment; maladjustment occurs
when the habits formed are ill-suited to these requirements. Personality
disturbances and maladjustment are simply a matt;;' of~baQ__habits. Habits
are bad when they are inefficient, poorly formed, or lwt suited to the'
demands imposed on the organism. Thus the secret of effective living
and good adjustment is proper conditioning from infancy. Everyone
starts with the same equipment, but difficulties arise because of the ineffi-~cient application of methods of training. 10
.
In this doctrine, we have the opposite extreme in the interpretation
of adjustment and personality. Where psychoanalysis is extremely subjec-

qr

analysis and personality. (Trans. by G. Lamb.):'=-New York: Sheed & Ward;


Dalbiez, R. Psychoanalytif_q} method and t]Je ddctrine of Freud. (Trans. by T. F.
Lindsay.) 2 vols. New York: Longmans, Green, 1941.
10 For a good example of the fusion of behavioristic concepts and adjustment
psychology, see Shaffer., Op. cit.

30

The Scientific Study of Adjustment


tive in its viewpoint, behaviorism is just as extremely objective. For Freud,
the study of behavior is unimportant, and the study of psychic processes
is of primary significance; for Watson, the only psychological reality is
behavior, and the study of psychic processes is a waste of time.
Watson's crude objectivism has been largely rejected by contemporary psychologists, because it is wholly unrealistic. Whatever theory
requires, the fact is that mental disease exists, and there are numerous
personality disturbances that cannot be interpreted in terms of bad habits.
There is no way in which we can successfully dispense with such basic
concepts as psychological needs, mental conflict, self-determination, feel~
ings of guilt and inferiority, psychic trauma, and a host of other mentalistic concepts. The mind-body entity is a reality that forces itself into the
picture regardless of any theorizing. For these reasons a pure objectivism
is doomed to failure.
Nevertheless, the value of behaviorism for the study of adjustment
derives from its emphasis on behavior and its depreciation of a purely
subjective approach. This emphasis and depreciation led to a better understanding and interpretation of the role of environmental factors in the
development of personality and in adjustment and to a better understanding of the significant part learning (conditioning) plays in the
process of adjustment. Moreover, behaviorism, in contrast with psychoanalysis, put a great deal of stress on the experimental and scientific study
of behavior and personality, thus paving the way for the development of
specialized methods and techniques, which are of great value in the study
of adjustment. It promoted the idea that maladjustments are, like other
forms of behavior, learned responses, and that proper training is therefore more important in human development than such "mystical" factors
as psychic trauma, Oedipal relations, or castration anxiety. These attitudes of behaviorism were very important in rescuing adjustment psychology, mental hygiene, and abnormal psychology from the morass of
confused thinking and terminology that had become a part of psychological theory. Many faults and limitations in behaviorism prevented it from
providing a sound basis for the psychology of adjustment; but it served
a useful purpose and left us some basic concepts that are just as important and necessary as those contributed by psychoanalysis.
3. PSYCHOLOGICAL VIEWPOINT. In outJining the theoretical background and development of adjustment psychology, we have quite deliberately chosen the two extremes of behaviorism and psychoanalysis.
There are other viewpoints that we could use as examples, but we are
.going to limit ourselves to the description of one other method of interpretation, and that is the psychological viewpoint of adjustment. Neither
behaviorism nor psychoanalysis are psychological viewpoints in the strict
sense of the term; they are theoretical rather than empirical interpretations
of human nature. By psychological we mear~ standpoint that is free

",y

31

The Study of Adjustment


of theoretical preconceptions or special pleading and undertakes to study
and interpret human nature as it is known empirically through methods
of scientific investigation. This approach uti~izes concepts and techniques
that have been empirically validated and that are recognized as a part
of scientific psychology. In this view, for I example, personality is not
conceived in terms demanded by some theo~y, as we saw to be true of
psychoanalysis, but in terms of what person~lity actually is or as it can
be known by means of carefully devised methods and techniques. Mental
disorder is not stubbornly interpreted as a faulty habit pattern, which it
certainly is not, but as a kind of difficulty that exists in the psychological
order.
In the study of adjustment and maladjustment, from this viewpoint,
everything that scientific investigation has revealed about learning and
conditioning, conflict and frustration, habit formation and personality
development, needs and emotions, and the like, .is applied in a careful
scientific manner. Contrast this with the psychoanalytic appeal to infantile sexuality, the Oedipus situation, latent homosexuality, castration
anxiety, oral needs, and so on, and you will readily see the difference
between a theoretical and a scientific approach to human adjustment.
This is not to eschew or deride all theoretical formulations; but, from
the standpoint of scientific psychology and the understanding of human
adjustment, it is better to take man as he is rather than as interpreted
by a theory. In the explanation of mental or personality dison;lers, it is
better to utilize sound principles of development, conditioning, learnmg, or habit formation than to fall back on theoretical constructs
like oral eroticism, subvocalization, father fixation, or sexual symbolism. In relating adjustment to the dynamics of personality, it is more
scientifically correct to recognize the existence and influence of all motivating factors than to limit motivation to libido, sex, or the feeling of
inferiority.
Anyone of these notions (for instance, the theory of inferiority)
may be valid and distinctly useful when correctly- interpreted and carefully applied to clinical situations. In other words, marly of the concepts
supplied by different schools of thought can be incorporated with viewpoints and practices that are empirically:. valid. It is not difficult to understand that a child can be readily conditioned to inferiority or that
incestuous relations with the parents can be learned through faulty
environmental conditions. But, in each instance, the validity of the interpretation should be tested by rigorous standards of investigation. We know
from empirical studies that learning has a great ,deal to do with the
formation of personality and the acquisit.ion -of adjustment patterns; we
do not know that all motivation is basically sexual or that every child
passes through a narcissistic phase of development. In succeeding chapters,
we shall try to adhere to this empirical approach to the study of human

32

The Scientific Study of Adjustment


adjustment, utilizing theoretical formulations only when they are necessary to understanding and interpretation.
METHODS

ll

Difficulties of Investigation
The foregoing statement of the psychological approach to the study of
adjustment raises the question of what methods we can employ in this
study. We must frankly recognize that there are difficulties here that are
not encountered in other fields of investigation. It is not too difficult to
study certain forms of adjustment, such as the academic and social, or to
secure data on different patterns of adjustment, as has been done for
marital situations, or even to create experimental conditions by which
one or another form of adjustment can be investigated; but it is very
difficult to investigate maladjustment by the usual methods of science.
Mental disorder and maladjustment can be observed and studied clinically,
and this method has yielded a great deal of valuable data; but the experimental study of adjustment problems is largely precluded by the nature
of the problems themselves. We shall return to this question a little later
in our discussionP
The difficulties inherent in the study of adjustment are complicated
by certain other conditions that often characterize this area of investigation. Some of these we have already alluded to in our critical evaluation
of theories in the preceding section.
1. SUBJECTIVITY. One may, for example, expect to encounter a
great deal of subjectivity, a priori reasoning, and prejudice in the interpretation of adjustment problems. These problems are personal and touch
all of us at one point or another. For this reason, it is difficult to maintain
a high level of objectivity in our thinking about adjustment problems.
The significance of .symptoms, their etiology, and so on, are very likely
to be interpreted in terms of our own feelings and prejudices or in terms
of a favored theoretical viewpoint. Thus, if we ourselves are the "victims"
of inferiority or guilt feelings, or if we are convinced of the validity of
the Adlerian concept of inferiority, we are likely to interpret inferiority
in terms of these personal characteristics. This we must avoid doing
whenever possible.
2. UNCRITICAL ATTITUDES. Closely allied to the limitation of bias is
the limitation of uncritical attitudes. In scientific investigation we cannot
llIbid., Chap. I.
12 In this connection, see Pasamanick, B. Patterns of research in mental health.
Psychiat. Quart., 1952,26, 477-589; Weil, R. J. Problems of interdisciplinary research
in mental health. Bull. marit. psychol. Assoc., 1952 (Dec.), 29-36; Felix, R. H. The
technique of mass approach to the problems of mental health. Neuropsychiat., 1952,2,
'48-62.
,

11
't)

33

The Study of Adjustment


afford the luxury of purely subjective impressions; we must at all times
maintain a severely critical attitude toward theoretical interpretations and
toward personal impressions or conviction* that stand in the way of
careful observation and sound thinking. The fact that a relative is in a
mental hospital, or that homosexuality is cohsidered socially undesirable
and morally bad, or that divorce is contrary~to our religious beliefs cannot be allowed to affect our critical evaluation of these phenomena. We
must learn to accept the phenomena as they are and to understand them
as special instances of maladjustment. Understanding rather than blame,
censure, or criticism should always be the goal of-the investigator in this
field.
3. UNWARRANTED GENERALIZATIONS. We must be careful, too, of
unwarranted generalizations, such as so many of those that characterize
the several schools described earlier. Because sexuality is prominent in
some instances of neurosis does not mean that it is a primary factor in all
of them. Nor can we contend that bad habits are the substance of maladjustment because we find them so often associated with poor adjustment. This kind of scientifically badrgeneralization has given rise to many
false notions regarding mental disorder and maladjustment. It is a constant characteristic of those theoretical formulations that seek to explain
all phenomena of one kind in terms of an oversimplified concept. Human
nature and conduct do not readily fall into a pattern that is created in the
image of a pet theory or belief.
There is one other thing that bears watching in scientific investigation, particularly in a field like adjustment psychology. That is the lavish
and uncritical use of such terms as "cause," "effect," and "determinant."
What exactly is meant by saying that parental rejection "causes" maladjustment, or that damage to the brain "causes" a psychosis? We know
that there are countless instances where these "causes" do not produce
the expected effects. We have to be careful too, of the jump from one
order ()f reality to another. Brain damage or parental rejection, to use
the same examples; may be only the conditions-under.. which bad effects
sometimes result. However important it may be in anygiven instance,;
a condition is not a cause. Nor are so-called "determiri"ants" to be interpreted always as causes. We know, for example, that broken homes are
often determinants of juvenile delin'quency, but that does not mean that
broken homes cause delinquency. You can see that the whole question of
the etiology of neurotic, psychotic, and other personality disturbances
is bound up with the p'roblem of the meaning of causality. If, indeed,
we could expertly separate causes from conditions and conditions
from determinants, we 'would have takety'a:::gmg ~tep toward the better
understanding of human adjustment. In- any event, the difficulties
suggested here should make us cautious about the careless use of such
terms.

34

The Scientific Study of Adjustment


Direct Observation
There are several methods available to the student of adjustment, the most
obvious being direct observation. You can learn a great deal about adjustment just by closely observing the way in which people around you cope
with problems as they arise. Faced with the same difficulty or frustration, the first person will make a headlong attack on the problem, the
second will curse and swear, a third will sit down calmly to think it over,
and ,a fourth will burst into tears. This kind of observation tells us something about the possible range of adjustive responses and something about
the effect of individual differences on adjustment. Discernible also in
situations like these is a link between the nature of the difficulty and the
kind of response it calls forth.
1. EXPERIMENTAL STUDY. Direct observation of this kind can be
complemented by the deliberate arrangement of situations that require
some adjustment. This comes close to the experimental study of adjustment. With children, for example, we can easily arrange situations in
which the nature, characteristics, and degree of social adjustment can be
readily observed. In fact, there are several excellent sound films that
depict this type of observation very clearly. In some instances, like marital
adjustment, the situation cannot be experimentally manipulated; therefore,
other techniques must be brought into play.
2. STATISTICAL ANALYSIS. The most common adjunct to direct observation is statistical analysis. If, for example, we wish to know the extent
of maladjustment, we fall back on whatever statistics are available regarding the incidence of neurosis, psychosis, maladjustment in schooi, and so
on. If we wish to know the magnitude of the problem of marital adjustment, then the number of divorces, broken homes, and desertions may
be used as an index. Statistical analysis of the problems of adjustment is
often coupled with empirical studies that employ such techniques as the
interview, the personality questionnaire, or the rating scale to elicit the
information that is necessary for statistical treatment. If, for example, we
were interested in familial determinants of maladjustment or mental disorder, we would have to gather data on the incidence of mental disorder
among members of the families of disturbed individuals, after which we
could treat the data statistically in order to discover any significant patterns that might exist in the family backgrounds. These methods, as we
can see, are common to all sci~ntific observation of this kind and are
certainly not peculiar to the- study of adjustment.
ClinIcal Observation
More closely identified with the psychology of adjustment is the clinical
methodY In the use of this method, we are, of course, dealing almost
13

A good description of

,hi,

.ppMoh will ~OUOd ;0 Shaffer, G. W., &

35

The Study of Adjustment


entirely with instances of maladjustment, since the normal person is not
likely to present himself for clinical study. A, great deal of our knowledge
of human adjustment has been derived. from observation of this kind. By
studying the manner in which clinical patients or clients react to the
stresses and strains of adult living, and by adalyzing the relation between
symptomatic behavior and its various detedninants, we often learn important facts about human adjustment. Th~ psychology of adjustment
did not come into being because the majority of people are normal or
well adjusted, but because there are so many persons who are poorly
adjusted. It was natural, therefore, that the starting point of this field of
study should have been the psychological or psychiatric clinic, where, in
the course of a day, many varieties of adjustment are manifested. We
should remind ourselves here that maladjustive responses are merely
peculiar or bizarre ways of adjusting and that therefore the study of these
maladjustments will lead directly to a better understanding of adjustment
III all its different phases.

Personality Study
The clinical approach to the understanding of adjustment relies heavily
on the careful study, classification, and interpretation of symptoms,
symptomatic behavior, and the relations between these indicators of maladjustment and the causes and conditions that contributed to their
development. An important adjunct to this approach is personality study,
since all adjustments and maladjustments are direct manifest~tions of
personality make-up. There are many avenues to the study of personality,l4 In clinical work, perhaps the most prominent is the case-history
technique, by which the clinician brings together in minute detail the
entire background of the client. The .case history often brings to light
many factors that contributed to the patient's pattern of adjustment.
Parent-child relations, early schooling, sibling rivalries, parental discipline, marital strife, economic deprivation, and many similar factors can
be of great importance in understanding both ~pers.0!1ality and patterns
of adjustment.
, -.
Analysis of personality can be carried further by the use of personality questionnaires, rating scales, and .inventories, which are being employed extensively in clinical work at the present time. In adClition, there
are now available the various projective devices for the' analysis of personality, including the Rorschach Psychodiagnostic Test, the Thematic
Apperception Test, and the Sentence Completion Test. All these are
instruments for the appraisal of individual personaljty or adjustment level
Lazarus, R. S. Fundamental concepts in clinicttlPsychology. New York: McGrawHill, 1952, especially Chaps. II and III.
14lbid., Chaps. VI-VIII. See also Harrower, M. Appraising personality. New
York: Norton, 1952.

36

The Scientific Study of Adjustment


rather than for the general study of adjustment. But the data yielded by
individual appraisals, when brought together and carefully analyzed, can
shed a great deal of light on the general problem of personality and
adjustment.

Experimental Approach
We have already intimated that the application of experimental design to
the study of human adjustment is limited because we cannot manipulate
variables that involve human suffering. We cannot, in other words,
experimentally produce maladjustment or neurotic and psychotic symptoms in human subjects in order to test various hypotheses regarding the
development of maladjustive responsesY Still, advances have been made
along these lines by the use of animal subjects. Various investigators
have produced what are called "experimental neuroses" in animals, with
results that have been very useful to the better understanding of similar
reactions in human subjects. 16 These results must be used with extreme
caution because of the gap that separates human and animal reactions. We
have no way of knowing the character or quality of an animal's internal
reactions to situations involving stress or frustration. We can only observe
overt behavior; and, in the case of human subjects, it is usually the internal
condition that is most significant from the standpoint of normality or
adjustment. Studies of animals are particularly helpful in clarifying the
relation between overt "neurotic" behavior and the conditions that seem
to favor its development, a relation that is of considerable importance in
the interpretation of adjustment.
There are other studies of an experimental nature concerning such
factors as frustration and conflict that are also important to the study of
adjustment. Many of these investigations have utilized human subjects,
and the results have helped to clarify a number of problems in this area.
15 This has been dime, however, in limited instances. See Krasnagorski, N. 1.
The conditioned reflex and children's neuroses. Amer. ]. Dis. Child., 1925, 30, 753768. See also the article by Lloyd, W., & Heinstein, M. An experimental approach to
mental health in the program of a children's hospital. Ment. Hyg., N.Y., 1952, 36,

423--438.
16 We cannot take time here to summarize the many worth-while studies in this
area of research. The interested student will find the answers to many questions in
the following: Liddell, H. S. Conditioned reflex method and experimental neurosis.
In Hunt, J. McV. (Ed.) Personality and tbe bebavior disorders. New York: Ronald,
1944, I, 389-412; Gantt, W. A ..H. E;perimental basis for neurotic behavior. New
York: Harper, 1944; Masserman, J. H. Bebavior and neurosis. Chicago: Univer. of
Chicago Press, 1943; Page, J. D. Abnormal psycbology. New York: McGraw-Hill,
1947, pp. 106-109; Haggard, E. Some conditions determining adjustment during and
readjustment following experimentally induced stress. In Tomkins, S. S. (Ed.)
Contemporary psychopathology. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univer. Press, 1947,
pp. 529-544; Maslow, A: H., & Mittelmann, B. pri71i'p._les of abnormal psycbology.
(Rev. Ed.) New York: Harper, 1951, Chap. III.
:)

'J

37

The Study of Adjustment


In later chapters dealing with these facto,rs, we shall have occasion to
refer to these studies. Right now, it is important for us to realize the
possibilities of utilizing exact experimental\ methods, in a trllly scientific
attack on the problem of adjustment and mental health.
,\
ADJUSTMENT PSYCHOLOGY AND RELATED FIELDS OF STUDY
I

Adjustment Psychology and Abnormal Psycbology


Repeated references in preceding discussions to maladjustment and to
neurotic and psychotic disorders must have provoked the question, what
is the difference between the psychology of adjustment and abnormal
psychology? Do they not have the same subject matter? It is clear, of
course, that these two fields touch at many points, and there is bound
to be a certain amount of overlapping. But there are important differences
that, clearly understood, will help us to understand both fields better.
The primary aim of adjustment psychology, as we have stated several
times, is the understanding of adjustment in all its different phases; the
primary aim of abnormal psychology is the explanation of abnormalities
of all kinds.H Thus, for one thing; the scope of the latter field of study
is considerably broader than th~t of adjustment' psychology. Moreover,
adjustment psychology is oriented as much to normal as to abnormal
responses; that is, it is as much interested in understanding adjustment as
maladjustment. This, too, constitutes an important distinction.
Finally, there is the fact that adjustment psychology, though basically
empirical in nature, constitutes the groundwork for the development of
practical principles, principles that are utilized extensively in psychiatry
and mental hygiene. Abnormal psychology, however, is purely empirical
and is not directed toward the formulation of practical rules of any kind.
Nevertheless, there is a fundamental ~onnection we cannot overlook.
Abnormal psychology investigates all phases of maladjustment and abnormality; it is therefore basic to the study of adjustment. It provides many
of the ;facts, classifications, and interpretations necessary to a complete
fields overlap
psychology of adjustment. It is at this point that the
considerably.

two

Adjustment Psychology and Mental Hygiene


From what was said in the preceding paragraph, the connection between
adjustment psychology and mental hygiene is clear. Mental hygiene is
essentially an art directed toward the prevention of mental disorder and
maladjustment. It is a set of practical rules and principles derived from
the scientific study of adjustment and mentaLhealth
~Chapter Seventeen).
_.r
In the same way, therefore, in which abriormal psychology is basic to the
17

See Page. Op. cit., pp. 16-21.

The Scientific Study of Adjustment


psychology of adjustment, so the latter is basic to mental hygiene. It is
from the careful study of the nature, conditions, and dynamics of adjustment and mental health that the principles of mental hygiene emerge.
This fact explains the arrangement of this book; the discussion of mental
hygiene follows the explanation of the different aspects of the adjustment
process.
I

Clinical Psychology and Psychiatry

Closely related to mental hygiene are the fields of clinical psychology


and psychiatry, both of which, like mental hygiene, are dependent upon
adjustment psychology for basic facts and interpretations regarding
adjustment. 18 Whenever possible, clinical psychologists and psychiatrists
will exploit the principles of mental hygiene; but, in the nature of the
case, most of their efforts are directed toward the treatment or cure of
mental disorder and maladjustment rather than toward their prevention,
for these disorders already exist by the time they come to the attention
of the clinician. Actually, the dividing line between prevention and treatment is extremely thin; and it usually turns out that the skilled clinician
is well versed in all the necessary basic sciences, such as abnormal and
adjustment psychology, as well as in the practical arts necessary to the
treatment of personality disorders.
'
These are only some of the relations between adjustment psychology
and other fields. We should realize that, because adjustment pervades
every area of human life, other important relations could also be drawn.
The facts and principles of adjustment psychology have serious implications for education, for the practice of medicine, and for religion. Some
of these implications will be brought out in subsequent discussions, and
we can defer extended consideration of them until that time.
SUMMARY

In this chapter, we have tried to indicate what the study of adjustment means. Firs!, we explained the connection between general psychology and the psychology of adjustment, pointing out that the two
fields are similar but that the latter is specifically oriented toward the
understanding of the adjustment process. _This point was brought out
more clearly by our examination of the subject matter and aims of adjustment psychology, which we saw fo be more specific and in some respects
quite different from the broader orientation of general psychology. The
general aim of this study is the understanding of adjustment processes,
18 See Cattell, R. B., The meaning of clinical psychology. In Pennington, L. A.
and Berg, I. A. (Eds.) An introduction to clinical psychology. (2nd Ed.) New

Yo,k, Ron"'d, 1954. 3->'

. ~

3~

The Study of Adjustment


and the specific aims include the explanation and description of the conditions, dynamics, basic concepts, criteria, and varieties of adjustive
response. Included in this survey is a description of the nature and conditions of mental health and its relation to adjustment.
Further light was shed on the nature of a~justment psychology by a
brief consideration of its historical backgrourid and some of the theoretical interpretations that have been advanced fof the explanation of adjustment and maladjustment. We saw, in fact, that the two theories of
psychoanalysis and behaviorism had played a definite role in furthering
the development of adjustment psychology. These influences were complemented by the rise of psychiatry and medical psychology and by the
effect of evolutionary biology, particularly as it was reflected in the
school of functionalism. Our critical evaluation of the schools of behaviorism and psychoanalysis brought out that they have contributed many
worth-while concepts and attitudes to the study of adjustment but that a
strictly psychological viewpoint is more effective in the study of adjustment than is any restricted theoretical interpretation.
In the last part of the chapter, we dealt briefly with methods used in
the study of adjustment and with the relations between adjustment psychology and other fields of investigation and practice. We noted that
adjustment could be studied by direct observation, experimentation, clinical analysis, and personality evaluation. Several difficulties of methodology were brought out, but on the whole the process of adjustment can
be effectively studied from several different angles in a precise sCientific
manner. As a final point, we emphasized certain relations between adjustment psychology on the one hand and abnormal psychology, mental
hygiene, clinical psychology, and psychiatry on the other. We saw that,
as abnormal psychology is basic to the psychology of adjustment, so the
latter is basic to mental hygiene, clinical psychology, and psychiatry.
All of these fields are closely related, and all of them have implications
for specialties like education and medicine, which lie outside the pale of
~ ----~ ,
academic psychology.
QUESTIONS, EXERCISES, AND PROJECTS

1. Select five textbooks in the field of abnormal psychology and explain


or reproduce the definitions they give of, abnormal psychology.

2. Write a short term paper on the application of projective techniques


to the understanding of personality and adjustment.

3. What are the essential items necessary to_a- good c~se history?' What
authorities can you cite to substantiate'" your answer?
4. Why is the experimel1tal method of limited value in the study of
adjustment?
40

The Scientific Study of Adjustment

5. Describe five critical observations commonly mentioned in connec~


tion with psychoanalysis.
6. What is an "experimental neurosis"?
7. What are some of the pitfalls to avoid in scientific investigation?
8. What is the difference between a "cause" and a "condition" of personality disorder? Exemplify.
9. '''hat is mental hygiene, and how is it distinguished from psychotherapy?
10. Write a brief account of the difference between clinical psychology
and psychiatry.
11. Explain in your own words the distinction between the psychology
of adjustment and the psychology of mental health.
12. Describe some of the specific aims of the psychology of adjustment.
SELECTED READINGS

J. F. The psychodynamics of abnormal behavior. New York:


McGraw-Hill, 1940. Chaps. II, III, XXII.
CAMERON, N., & MAGARET, A. Behavior pathology. Boston: Houghton
iVlifflin, 1951. Chap. I.
GANTT, W. A. H. Experimental basis for neurotic behavior. New York:
Harper, 1944.
BROWN,

J. MCV. (Ed.) Personality and the bebavior disorders. 2 vols. New


York: Ronald, 1944. Vol. I, Parts II, III.
MULLAHY, P. Oedipus: mytb and complex. New York: Hermitage, 1948.

HUNT,

w. L., & JOHNSON, L. s. Personality and adjustment. New York:


McGraw-Hill, 1,953. Chap. II.
SHAFFER, L. F. Tbe psycbology of adjustment. Boston: Houghton Mifflin,
1936. Chaps. I, II, XIV.
SHERMAN, M. Basic problems of bebavior. New York: Longmans, Green,
1941. Chap. II.
VANDERVELDT, J. H., & ODENWALD, R. P. Psycbiatry and Catbolicism. New
York: McGraw-Hill, 1952. Chaps. III, IV.
WHITE, R. w. Live)' in progress.. New York: Dryden, 1952. Chaps. I, III.
ZILBOORG, G., & HENRY, G. W. A history of medical psychology. New York:
Norton, 1941.
PATTY,

41

PART

TWO

]\Jature and Conditions


of Adjustment

~ THREE

BASIC CONCEPTS FOR ADJUSTMENT


PSYCHOLOGY
Meaning of adjustment. Adjustment and individual variatIon. Adjustment
and morality. Meaning of mental health. Mental efficiency. Normality and
adjustment. Individual versus group normality. Abnormality. Pathological and psychological concepts of abnormality. Maturity and adjustment.

ADJUSTMENT AND MALADJUSTMENT

Meaning of Adjustment

A great deal of confusion and misunderstanding can be avoided in the


discussion of any subject by a clarification of terms that are basic to the
subject itself. In this instance, the term "adjustment" is an example. Certainly, if we cannot make up our mind about what adjustment is, we are
not going to get very far with determining its criteria, conditions, or
principles. 1 Similarly, we must make sure that related terms, such as
"normality," "abnormality," "maladjustment," "mental health," and "personality," are clearly understood. Of course, terms like these are not
peculiar to adjustment psychology; they are common to many different
fields, for instance, child, adolescent, abnormal, and clinical psychology.
But the imp'orrant fact is that they have a special significance for the psychology of adjustment, regardless of their importance for other fields of
investigation. They occur repeatedly throughout discussions of this kind,
lOne writer remarks, "One of the first steps in solving a problem is to achieve
a satisfactory definition of its nature, i.e., directions become clear once a clear perception of basic issues is achieved. In the field of mental hygiene, there has been
some confusion concerning exactly what constitutes good personality adjustment.
Laymen look to mental hygiene for practical answers to the question of how to
achieve mental health, success and happiness. In contrast, psychiatric conceptions of
healthy adjustment stress deeper emotional factors on subconscious levels with
success and happiness being regarded as symptoms rather than basic factors."-Tyson,
R. Current mental hygiene practice. ]. clin. psychol., Monogr. Supp!. No.8, Jan.,
1951, p. 9. Reprinted by permission. See also Simburg, E. J. The misuse and abuse
of """J" men"! h,~,h con"p". Mm'. IIyg., N.Y.~52' 36, 589-599.
45

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


and understanding their meaning is essential for a solid grasp of the
fundamentals of human adjustment an,d mental health. For adjustment
psychology, the most important of thde terms is "adjustment." It is not
an easy term to define, partly because it has many meanings, and partly
because the criteria for evaluating adj~stment have not been generally
agreed on. 2 Then there is the circums't~nce, to be discussed more fully
later on, that adjustment and maladjustment have common boundaries, so
that the meaning of adjustment is somewhat obscure and ambiguous.
To illustrate these points, let us consider the cases of Johnny M. and
Helen C. Both of these youngsters were about the same age (fifteen and
sixteen, respectively), and from much the same social and economic backgrounds. But there the similarity ended. Johnny was a happy, carefree
young man, who got along well in school, was liked by his schoolmates
and teachers, had a deep interest in sports and hobbies, loved his parents, and
had already decided on what he wanted to be when he finished high school
and entered college. Helen, on the other hand, was the opposite. She was a
moody child, hostile toward her parents, jealous of other children in the
family, uninterested in school work or social activities, and without close
friends. She had twice run away from home, and was showing definite
signs of failure in school. We" would say of Helen that she is emotionally
disturbed, poorly adjusted to almost every aspect of the environment, or,
in a word, maladjusted. The verdict in the case of Johnny, of course, is
that he is a well-adjusted adolescent who would probably sail right. into
adulthood with a minimum of mental conflict, frustration, or Jnhappiness.
What is the difference between these two young people? Why do
we say that one is well adjusted and the other maladjusted? Is it the relation between them and the environments in which thev live? Is'it the
state of their own personal feelings? :Is it the manner in ~hich they shape
their lives? Is it the range and depth of their interests and goals? We
could say very simply that adjustment is determined by how well you
get along with yourself and with othe,rs-not ~ bad notion. But there are
difficulties in this simple way of stating the n;eaning of adjustment.
Strangely enough, the inefficient way in which Helen responded to circumstances and people must also be regarded as adjustment. Hostilities,
jealousies, moodiness, and the like were her own way of coping -with
different situations. Admittedly, these are not wholesome or desirable
ways of reacting to fhings, but they are no less adjustive for that reason. 3
I

See Dunlap, K. P.ersonal adjustment. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1946, pp. 7-13,
for a discussion of the meaning of adjustment and related'terms. Also, McKinney, F.
The psychology of personal adjustment. (2!].d::':Ea.) :New York: Wiley, 1949, pp.
2

659-675.

-'

"From the biological standpoint all modes of response-direct or indirect,


adequate or inadequate-are adjustive in aim. They represent, the best of which the
organism is capable under the total exi~ting conditions. Presumably an attempt is
3

46

Basic Concepts for Adjustment Psychology


This is a lesson that you want to learn early in the study of human
ddjustment-it is not the kind of behavior that determines whether we are
dealing with adjustment processes, but the way in which behavior is
used. Whether inner demands or environmental stresses are met by
prayer, delinquency, neurotic symptoms, psychotic episodes, laughter,
joyousness, or fraternizing with club members-to mention just a few of
thousands of possibilities-the concept of adjustment is applicable as long
as the response serves to reduce or to mitigate the demands made of the
person. When such responses are inefficient, unwholesome (that is, detrimental to personal well-being), or pathological, they are designated as
"maladjustment."
1. ADJUSTMENT AS ADAPTATION. Historically, the meaning of the
term "adjustment" has gone through almost as many changes as the term
"personality," and it is worthy of note that the two terms have, as far
as psychology is concerned, developed side by side. At first, because of
the strong influence of evolutionary thinking on psychology, adjustment
was likened to, or identified with, adaptation, a notion that had been
emphasized a Igreat deal in the development of scientific biology. That
there are significant similarities between these two ideas is unquestionable;
but the complex processes of human adjustment cannot be readily fitted
into the concept of simple biological adaptation of the type exemplified
in the animal world by the building of a nest or the spinning of a web.
We may say that the simpler adaptations of lower organic species to the
requirements of the environment are the prototypes of all such responses,
from which we can, by diligent study, learn a great deal about more
complex responses. But there the analogy and the usefulness end, because
the complexities of human personality and of the relations between personality and environment make it impossible to interpret adjustment in
terms of biological a9 aptation.
Variations of the adaptation interpretation of adjustment have been
tried, but with the same lack of success. The notion of adjustment as selfmaintenance or survival is applicable to health or physical well-being,
not to adjustment in the psychological sense. Similarly, the ideas expressed
in such phrases as "satisfactory relation of an organism to its environment," and "adaptation to the demands of reality" are either so simplified
or so ambiguous that they are largely useless in defining adjustment.
Surely, a satisfactory relation to one's environment is part of adjustment;
but it is difficult to determine what satisfactory means in this connection.
Tn like manner, the concept of adjustment as "conformity to the environment" is unclear and misleading, because conformity in some instances is
being made in every case to preserve integrated functioning by thE restoration of
equilibrium."-Rosenzweig, S. An outline of frustrati~theOry. In Hunt, ]. MeV.
(Ed.? Personality and tbe bebavior disorders. New. ,', rIc Ronald, 1944, I, 384.
Rep;:mted by permission.

47

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


the very factor that leads to serious distufbances in behavior. If the idea
of adaptation to the demands of reality is intended ,to suggest the necessity for the human organism to govern
mold itself in response to the
conditions imposed on it or to manipulate Ithese conditions in such a way
that the requirements of reality are efficiehtly controlled, then certainly
we are carried a long way toward the true meaning of human adjustment.
2. ADJUSTMENT AS CONFORMITY. Running through many interpretations of adjustment is the idea that adjustment requires, or at least
always involves, conformity to some norm, in which case the concept
becomes inextricably bound up with the problem of normality. We shall
deal with this problem in detail in a later section. Right now, we wish to
point out that the interpretation of adjustment as conformity to social,
political, moral, or other norms involves too many complications to be
useful. Admittedly, there are strong pressures that serve to prohibit
deviations of moral, social, or emotional behavior. Human beings are
constantly subjected to the demands of conformity and are threatened
at the same time with rejection, censure, or ostracism if they fail to conform to accepted standards and mores. And it is well to realize that between the norms or standard; set by society, or promulgated as moral
law, and the process of adjustment there are certain fundamental connections that we must take into account. Particularly when considering
the problem of normality, we shall have to define the relation between
normality in the psychological sense and efficient morality.
3. ADJUSTMENT AND INDIVIDUAL VARIATION. But the nature of adjustment cannot be stated as conformity. In trying to understand what adjustment signifies, we cannot ignore the great range of individual variations.
Brilliant children or geniuses do not: correspond to the normal pattern
either in capacity or in behavior; yet we cannot label them indiscriminately as lacking in adjustment. Social and cultural standards are often
too rigid or too unreasonable for intelligent conformity. There are laws,
traditions, or standards imposed on the group that iflaividual members
feel it is their privilege to reject; in some instances, like state laws governing divorce or sterilization in the United States, it is not only
a privilege but a responsibility for some members of the community
to reject them. This failure to conform cannot be regarded as maladjustment.
In addition, there is the difficulty that group standards vary considerably from one cultural organization to ano!iher. Cultural anthropologists have amassed a great deal of evigence to show that the norms.
governing acceptable behavior vary so mGch 'from one culture to another
that it would be impossible to work up a set of principles for adjustment
or mental health that could be applied universally. In the area of sexual
adjustment, for example, social taboos and practices are so different in
various societies that the concepts or principles of good sexual adjustment

qr

48

Basic Concepts for Adjustment Psychology


acceptable in our Western culture would be wholly inapplicable in other
societies. In some cultures, what we call promiscuity is a generally
accepted pattern of behavior; in others, sexual taboos are even more
rigid than in our own puritanical culture. Obviously, this extensive variation in social standards of what is right or wrong, acceptable or unacceptable, puts a decided crimp in any effort to force particular criteria
of adjustment into the procrustean bed of social or cultural conformity.
The concept of adjustment is essentially dynamic and cannot readily be
made to fit the idea of social conformity.
The difficulties inherent in the concept of adjustment as conformity
are exemplified in numerous cases of maladjustment. For example, let us
take the case of Robert. Robert was an extremely shy, retiring young
man of twenty-five when he first came to the Center. He had managed
to get through high school and two years of college, and was employed
as a bookkeeper and accountant in a small firm. He was rated as a "good"
employee by his supervisor; he adhered strictly to his duties and never
violated company rules, but he lacked initiative and drive. In fact, it was
generally agreed by those who knew him that Robert had settled down
to the life of a bookkeeper without thought of anything more enterprising
or remunerative.
Investigation showed that Robert was actually a bright young man
who had potentialities for achievement far beyond the work he was doing.
His case-history report also showed, however, that Robert had a domineering, punitive, and perfectionistic father, who ruled Robert and his
brothers and sisters with an inexorable will and iron hand. To his laws
and proscriptions no exceptions were allowed. Contrary views and
opinions were never tolerated. As a dutiful son, Robert, like the other
members of the family, conformed to the demands and rules laid down
by his father. Every -issue, from the choice of clothes to the choice of
friends, was decided for him. As a result, he never had the opportunity to
develop initiative, ambition, and independence of judgment or decision.
Robert is not a well-adjusted person today, primarily because the requirements of conformity to an imperious parent made it impossible for him
to achieve a high level of adjustment.
4. ADJUSTMENT AS MASTERY. Let us consider one other possibility
regarding the meaning of adjustment. According to some writers, adjustment means mastery, which implies the ability to plan and to organize
one's responses in such ,a way that conflicts, difficulties, and frustrations
tend to disappear in the face of efficient and mastering conduct. It means
mastery of self, so that drives, impulses, emotions, and habits are under
constant control and direction. It means mastery of the forces of the
environment-the ability to cope with reality i~~.n adequate and wholesome manner, that is, to deal effectively an :e,fficiently with people,
events, situations, and crises as they are met in 'Weryday life, and, when
49

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


necessary, to so manipulate environmental factors that the ends of adjustments are eventually served. 4
This notion of adjustment is certainly 1vorth while and contains some
of the most basic features of an acceptable, definition. Yet it is lacking in
one important aspect. It fails to take into atcount the limitations of individual capacities. Most persons do not pos~ess the abilities that this kind
of mastery requires. Leaders, geniuses, and above-average persons may
be expected to exhibit mastery of self and environment; but even in such
instances the degree of adjustment is often limited. This brings us to an
important principle regarding the nature of adjustment, namely, that each
person has his own level of adjustment, determined in large measure by
his innate capacities or acquired dispositions, and also by the peculiar
relation between these factors and the demands made on him. Thus, by
way of illustration, many soldiers in World War II cracked up under
the rigors and hardships of warfare; they became victims of battle fatigue
or neuropsychiatric disabilities. The same men, faced with the much less
rigorous trials and demands of ordinary civilian life, may never have
developed disabling symptoms. The failure of adjustment in such instances-and we may apply this Interpretation quite generally-is determined by the relation betwee9 the adjustment capacity of persons and
the character of the demands made on them. In the practice of mental
hygiene or psychotherapy, this principle must always be kept in mind.
5. DEFINITION OF ADJUSTMENT. From the strictly psychological
point of view, adjustment means many things. It implies the wholesome
reduction of the pressure of needs, reasonable skill in dealing with frustrations, the development of psychological mechanisms by which difficulties can be circumvented or overcome, the formation of symptoms,
the adoption of patterns of behavior required by varying situations, peace
of mind or tranquillity, the efficient :resolution of conflict, and learning
how to get along successfully with other people. These are only a few
of the qualities by which adjustment can be identified. 5 More of them
are brought out .later in our discussion of the 'CFiteria of adjustment and
mental health (Chapter Four). This multiphasic char~tei of the adjustive
4 Some writers regard mastery as a 4efinite personality need. According to
H. A. Carroll, "if the need for mastery is completely or for the most part -frustrated
over a long period of time, the individual will inevitably bec.ome maladjusted."Mental hygiene: the dynamics of adjustment. (2nd Ed.) New York: Prentice-Hall,

1951, p. 116.

5_See Tyson. Gp. cit., pp. 9-14, for a listing of the numerous characteristics of
good adjustment assigned by different writers. Here are a/few of them: adaptability,
capacity for affection, appropriate behavior, balanced life, cooperation, ability to
profit from experience, frustration tolerance1-:ioals, humor, insight, moderation,
objectivity, orientation, acceptance of reality, responsibility, self-control, self-toler-'
ance, sexual adjustment, need gratification, and interests. Sec also Chap. Four of the
text.

50

Basic Concepts for Adjustment Psychology


process makes it difficult to define adjustment. Another obstacle to definition is the fact that adjustment by itself is neither good nor bad; it is
simply an organism's individual, peculiar way of reacting to inner
demands or external situations. In some instances, this reaction (adjustment) is "efficient," "wholesome," "satisfying," and so on, and we say that
it is a. good adjustment. In others, the reaction is disabling, ineffective, or
pathological, and we say the adjustment is bad (maladjustment). However, \vhat we are particularly interested in determining are the qualities
of good adjustment, since these qualities must be known in order to understand and utilize the principles of adjustment most effectively. What we
learn about maladjustment will be helpful also, since these qualities must
be avoided if good adjustment is to be achieved.
Since adjustment in itself is neither good nor bad, we may define it
most simply as a process, imJOlving both mental and behavioral responses;
by which an individual strives to cope successfully with inner needs,
tensions, frustrations, and conflicts, and to effect a degree of harmony
between these inner demands and those imposed on him by the objective
world in which he lives. In this sense, the majority of responses fit into
the meaning of adjustment. Thus the boy who craves excitement and
turns to daydreaming in order to satisfy this inner demand is adjusting;
the sterile parents who want children and avail themselves of the procedure of adoption are adjusting; the child seething with hostility who
ruthlessly wrecks his toys or bites other children is adjusting; and the
housewife who stops eating fattening foods in order to improve her
figure and win back the attractions of her husband is adjusting.

Good Adjustment
We have already noted that some of these adjustments are good and
others are bad, ineffective, or damaging. We might ask, then, what is
good. adjustment? What is the well-adjusted person like? The welladjusted person is one whose responses are mature, efficient, satisfying,
and wholesome. By "efficient" we mean simply that they bring about the
desired result without too much expenditure of energy, undue waste of
time, or numerous errors. For example, the neurotic housewife is characteristically inefficient and never manages to complete the tasks that a
well-adjusted person will complete in half the time. The emotionally
disturbed student is notoriously inefficient- in completing assignments,
getting the necessary reading done; or answering all items in an examination. By "wholesome" we mean that the adjustive responses are suited to
man's nature, to his relations with his fellowmen, and to his relations with
God. Thus, swearing and blaspheming are unwholesome and maladjustive; jealousy and envy are unwholesome, whereas friendliness and
consideration of others are wholesome; a judgment based upon evidence,
experience, m ,uthority i, whol"ome, ,nd p~udice or "ce h'~~d "

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment

unwholesome. From this analysis we may conclude that wholesomeness


is the most characteristic feature of good adjustment. (See pages 62-64 of
this chapter.)
\
To state the matter concisely, then, we\may say that the well-adjusted
person is one who, within the limi~ations imposed by his own capacities
and personality make-up, has learned to re~ct to himself and his environI

Fig. 4-Good adjustment and poor. <l.,djustment.


You can't adjust to a situation by ignoring it or by running away from it.

ment in a mature, wholesome, efficient, and satisfying manner, and c-an


resolve mental conflicts, frustrations, and personal and. social difficulties
without developing symptomatic behavior. The weli-adjusted person,
therefore, is relatively free of disabling symptoms, such as chronic
anxiety, worry, scruples, obsessions, phobias, indecision, and psychosomatic disturbances that interfere with his_;rio-tal, social, religious, or vocational aims. He is a person who lives'in
helps to create a world of,
interpersonal relations and mutual enjoyments that contribute to the
continuous realization and growth of personality.

or

51

Basic Concepts for Adjustment Psychology


Adjustment as Relative
It must be emphasized that adjustment so defined is relative, not absolute,
in character. There is no such thing as a perfectly adjusted person. Adjustment is relative, first of all, because it must be judged or evaluated in
terms of a person's capacities to change and to meet the demands imposed on him. These capacities will vary with his personality and with his
developmental level. As one writer says,
Good adjustment cannot be defined once and for all in any simple
or complete fashion. It must be defined in terms of meeting the problem
appropriate to the level of development-what is good adjustment at
one age level may be poor adjustment at another. Viewed in this way,
growing up is a process of meeting stresses and strains in succession and
thus building the capacity to meet the problems of the next higher level. 6

Adjustment is relative, secondly, because its qualities vary to some


extent with the society or culture in which it occurs. And, finally, it is
relative because of certain individual variations. Every person has his
ups and downs in adjustment. Even the well-adjusted person occasionally
finds himself face to face with situations and problems that are beyond
the scope of his adjustive powers. There are times when mental conflicts
resist resolution, when he is torn between good and evil, when what he
does is decidedly unwholesome and inefficient. The most that we can say
is that some persons are characteristically well adjusted. Then, too, good
adjustment is not necessarily pervasive. The student sitting next to you
may be well adjusted emotionally or socially, but swamped by academic
difficulties. Many a husband meets the exigencies of his work with skill,
efficiency, and emotional poise, and must be accounted as vocationally
well adjusted, but he finds it impossible to live happily with his wife or
children. We must not lose sight of the fact, however, that maladjustment
is a creeping paralysis and will tend to spread from one part of the personality to another. The point to emphasize here is that good adjustment
is relative on a number_of counts and therefore should not be evaluated
by absolute standards.

Adjustment and Morality


The use of words like "good" and "bad" in reference to adjustment is
annoying to some psychologists because they regard such terms as essentially ethical in nature. Their use, therefore, places the psychologist in
the position of making value judgments regarding behavior, which no
6 Anderson, J. E. The psychology of development and personal adjustment. New
Yo,k, Hok, 1949, p. 429. R,p,;od by p,=;~;on. ~
53

Nature and (onditlO7lS of Adjustmem

good scientist is supposed to do. This, how'ever, is an extremely narrow


viewpoint, since it can be readily demonstrated that terms of this kind
are not peculiar to morality or to ethicallscience. ~veryone speaks of
good and bad health, without being concerned about moral implications.
Similarly, we have good and bad governmeht, good and bad economics,
good and bad politics, and good and bad ps~chology.
The objection to such terms, however, serves a point. We must
not regard maladjustive behavior as morally bad; and, by the same rule,
the well-adjusted person is not necessarily a paragon of virtue. Adjustment is not the same thing as virtue, and maladjustment is not the same
thing as sin. Nevertheless, morality and adjustment are closely related
to each other; and it often happens that the basic difficulty underlying
maladjustment is immorality. Certainly, wholesome adjustment, taken in
its fullest meaning, must include moral soundness; and, conversely,
chronic immorality must eventually lead to maladjustment.
But morality and adjustment do not have common boundaries. When
adjustment is characterized as good or wholesome, the reference is to
psychological rather than moral well-being. Just as physical health is
desirable, so mental health and wholesome adjustment are good for
people. Following the same line,jt is obvious that mental instability, poor
adjustment, emotional derangement, neurotic symptoms, and psychotic
episodes are psychologically bad. It is here that the dis~inction between
morality and adjustment stands out.7 Sin is primarily a moral evil, and
only secondarily maladjustive; maladjustment is primarily a psYC;hologic_a1
evil, and is morally bad only in those instances where the response is
moral as well as psychological. Thus, masturbation is both morally bad
and maladjustive; whereas symptoms like enuresis, nail-biting, migraine,
or neurotic fatigue are only maladjustive in nature, that is, they are psychologically unwholesome. This relation between morality and adjustment is of particular significance in the applications of mental hygiene and
psychotherapy to be discussed in a later section of this book (Chapters
Seventeen and Eighteen).
~

----_

AD JUSTMENT AND MENTAL HEALTH

Meaning of Mental Health

There is a great deal of misunderstanding and confusion concerning the


7 Schneiders, A. A. Psychology as a normative science. In Arnold, M. B., &
Gasson, J. A. (Eds.) Tbe buman person: an integral 'appro{lcb to tbe tbeory of personality. New York: Ronald, 1954, pp. 373-394; The..psych6logical bases of the moral
virtues. Presidential address, read at Americarr"Catholic Psychological Association,
September 6, 1953. See also \Nhite, V. The analyst and the confessor. Commonweal,
1948, 48, 346-349; Klein, D. B. Mental bygiene: tbe psycbology of personal adjustment. New York: Holt, 1944, pp. 20-22.

54

Basic Concepts for Adjustment Psychology


relation between adjustment and mental health. s It might be better if the
latter term were abandoned altogether; but that would create other
difficulties because of the firm hold that the term "mental hygiene" has
on our thinking. One purpose served by the term "mental health" is that
it puts emphasis on one of the most important facets of human adjustment. Certainly, mental health is a necessary condition of good adjustment; and, by the same rule, when a person is mentally healthy there is
little likelihood of serious maladjustment. We might say, then, that mental
health is the key to wholesome adjustment.
But the two concepts are not synonymous, any more than the
p~ychology of adjustment is identical with mental hygiene. The concept of adjustment is considerably broader in scope than mental health.
When, for example, we refer to academic, vocational, or marital adjustment and maladjustment, we are not thinking in terms of mental health.
A person may be vocationally maladjusted even though he is quite sound
mentally. To be unable to meet the requirements of a job or to be lacking
in efficiency or satisfaction is certainly not of itself indicative of mental
ill-health. However, if vocational difficulties lead to chronic frustration,
feelings of dejection, unhappiness, resentment, hostility, or delusions of
persecution, then we have a problem of mental health. Take the case of
Harold B. By the time he was ready for college he had decided to
become a teacher. But his father had planned all along for Harold to
step into his shoes in the real-estate business he owned. Harold thought a
great deal of his father, and, rather than disappoint him, took a business
course instead of one that would prepare him for teaching. All through
college, Harold disliked his subjects and built up a deep resentment
toward them. This resentment was transferred (unconsciously) to his
father. In due time, Harold entered his father's business, but he continued
to build up a strong dislike for his work. The emotional wedge between
him and his father continued to expand, and Harold became a bitter, disappointed, and hating young man.
Here we have an instance of the link between maladjustment and
mental ill-health. Bitterness, envy, jealousy, anxiety, and so on, are mental
~ymptoms of deep-seated conflicts and frustrations, in much the same
way that aching muscles, tiredness, headache, and nasal discharge are
signs of an infection. In the one case, there is mental ill-health and, in the
other, physical ill-health. Mental health, tnen, means freedom from disabling and disturbing symptoms that interfere with peace of mind,
emotional tranquillity, or mental efficiency.
But just as physical health means something more than the absence
s For a brief account of the nature of mental health, see Preston, G. H. The
substance of mental healtb. New York: Rinehart, 1943. See also Bernard, H. W.
Mental bygiene for classroom teacbers. New York: t1Graw-Hill, 1952, pp. 12-14.

/~

55

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


of disturbing symptoms, mental health also has a positive aspect. 9 Physical
hr,alth implies energy, stamin~, adequate strength for the requirements of
work, and a feeling of physical well-being. Mental health signifies the
ability to utilize our mental abilities effectively. The mentally healthy
person shows strength of purpose, coordination of effort, and steady
pursuit of well-chosen goals. Mental processes are organized and under
control. In the mentally healthy person there is integration as well as
peace of mind.
Clearly, these qualities of mental health are of fundamental importance to good adjustment. Reactions to the environment, to work, to
marriage, and to other interpersonal relations are constantly affected by
our state of mind. The unhappy or depressed student cannot study or
learn well; the anxious housewife finds it impossible to adjust adequately
to the requirements ~i ner family; the worried businessman does not
function well in business or sodal relations. Similarly, happiness, emotional stability, and mental efficiency are qualities of inestimable value in
the resolution of personal difficulties and the development of interpersonal
.relations. Mental health or ill-health, therefore, permeates human adjustment in all its aspects, and may be regarded both as a condition and as
an integral part of the total adjustment process. For this reason it is
necessary for us to determine the nature and conditions of mental health
and the principles that regulate its achievement, as part of our aim to
explain human adjustment in all its phases.

Mental Health and Mental Efficiency


You will have noticed that the idea of mental efficiency invariably creeps
into a discussion of mental health; but you must not confuse these two
terms. In order to clarify' the relations between them, let us again go
back to physical health. A child may be the he_althiest youngster you
9 Compare the definition presented in the Annual report, 1950, p. 53, of the
World Federation for Mental Health. There mental health is conceived as "not.,.
merely the absence of mental disorder, but as a state in which the individual lives
harmoniously with himself and others, adapting .to, and participating in, an everchanging social setting, and with the sense that he is achieving self-realization through
satisfaction of his basic needs." Reprinted by permission.
Similarly, the Expert Committee on Mental Health of the World Health Organization states, "The committee recognized the necessity for explaining as precisely as
possible what is meant by the terms 'mental health' and 'mental hygiene.' Mental
health was defined as a condition, subject to fluctuations due to biological and social
factors, which enables the individual to achieve a satisfactory synthesis of his own
potentially conflicting, instinctive drives; to form and maintain harmonious relations
wl~h others; and to participate in constructive changes in his social and' physical
environment. Mental hygiene was interpreted as referring to all the activ:ities and
techniques which encourage and maintain mental health."-Bul. IVorld Fed. Ment.
Hlth., 1951,3, 27-28. Reprinted by permission. See also Thorpe, L. P. The psychology
of mental health. New York: Ronald, 1950, pp. 4-6 and Chap. IV.

56

Basic Concepts for Adjustment Psychology


ever saw, but that does not mean he is efficient, although health may be
regarded as a necessary condition for efficient functioning. The tired,
sickly child neither plays nor studies effectively. Efficiency of any kind
refers to the use of capacities and functions in such a way that the best
possible effect is produced under the circumstances that exist at the time.
The efficient person does not waste effort; the desired effect, whether it
is writing a term paper or winning a tennis match, is brought about in
the briefest time and with as few errors as possible. This is true whether
we are thinking of physical efficiency or of mental efficiency, which,
incidentally, are closely dependent on each other.10
Mental efficiency, then, refers to the effective use of our powers of
observation, imagination, learning, thinking, and willing. It requires, for
example, the application of logical principles to judgment and reasoning
so that we arrive at the most probable conclusions. It means using principles and methods of learning in a way that promotes the rapid acquisition of knowledge and skills." Mental efficiency is dependent upon the
organization and control of all mental processes to the end that we do
not become victims of our own imagination or wishful thinking. And it
means, finally, the constant development of mental functions, especially
observation and thinking, so that there is continuous growth in knowledge and in the clear apprehension of truth and reality.
To achieve mental efficiency you have to be mentally healthy. If you
have deep-seated prejudices, hostilities, or fears, you cannot organize and
control your thinking in the way required for mental efficiency. Worry,
anxiety, obsessions, compulsions, phobias, and the like are the enemies of
logic and truth. Suppose, for example, that you have an intense dislike
of Negroes. How, with this bias, are you going to think efficiently about
such problems as racial equality? Suppose you are obsessed with the
notion that the Russians will destroy our country with atomic bombs.
How, in such a state of mind, can you plan intelligently for the future?
How can you study and learn if you are in constant emotional turmoil
because your fiancee jilted you? What happens to your perception
of reality when you daydream yourself into an unreal world created
by your imagination? You can see that mental health stands in
the same relation to mental efficiency that physical health does
to physical efficiencyY Just as the sick child cannot play well, so the
10 Jones considers efficiency to be one of the three main aspects of mental health
and normality, the other two being happiness and adaptation to reality. See Jones, E.
The concept of a normal mind, Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 1942, 23, 1-8.
11 See Chap. Sixteen on the relation between mental efficiency and academic
adjustment.
12 Under the heading of Efficiency of Mental Functioning, Babcock states, "This
concerns the adequacy with which potential abstract-verbal ability can function and
is related to the health of the neuro-physiological system. A weak neurological system
decreases mental ability in varying degrees according to the extent of the weakness

57

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


emotionally disturbed person cannot tit-serve, or think, or learn
effectively.

NORMALITY AND ABNORMALITY

Normality and Adjustment


:\
In many of the foregoing interpretations you will have gained the
impression that good adjustment is very similar to being normal, and
that maladjustive behavior is the same thing as abnormality. These concepts are closdy related; but here, too, we must be careful to avoid the
wrong impre!)J.ion. You would not want to say, for example, that every
academically maladjusted student is abnormal; nor is it correct to say
that all abnormal persons are maladjusted. This confusion of terms is
regrettable, and we should try to straighten them out as best we canY
Statistical Normality
One major difficulty here is the ambiguous use of the term "normal."
Normal means literally "conformity' to a norm or standard of some kind."
When we are told that the rainfall this year is normal, we understand
that the norm is the average amount of rainfall in preceding years.
Normal height of males means the average computed from a large sample
of men. These kinds of norm are referred to as statistical norms, since
they are derived statistically from sampling a large group of items. In
this connection, then, abnormal means any deviation from the average or
central tendency, determined for the sample. Thus, in America; a sevenfoot man is abnormally tall because the average height of men is five feet
nine inches. 14
and the age at which the brain and developing mind are affected. Among normally
functioning persons this phase is closely correlated with abstract-verbal level . . .
When the relation is substantially changed however, there is either unusually quick
mental functioning with poor control, or very slow functioning. Both kinds tend to
cause difficulty in adjustment."-Babcock, H'. Psycbological and psycbiatric concepts
of normality. Bull. No. 27. New York: Vocational AdjustmeQ!._Bureau, pp. 4-5.
(Italics mine.) Reprinted by permission.
13 See the discussion of normal adjustment in Chap. Ten..
14 A good statement of the problems encount~red in defining normality will be
found in Mowrer, O. H. What is normal b'ehavior? In Pennington,. L., & Berg,. I.
(Eds.) An introduction to clinical psycbology. New York: Ronald, 1948, Chap. II.
P. M. Symonds defines several meanings and criteria of normalitY in Dynamic psycbology. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1949, pp. 384-387. Other definitions
and concepts are found in Maslow, A. H., & Mittelman, B. ,Principles of abnormal
psycbo-Iogy. (Rev. Ed.) New York: Harper, 1951, pp. 12-)5; Page, J. D. Abnor:mal
psycbology. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1947, pp._1:-15; Steckle, L. C. Problems of
buman adjustment. New York: Harper, 1949, pp~79",82; Thibaut, J. W. The concept
of normality in clinical psychology. Psycbol. Rev., 1943, 50, 338-344; Jones, E.
Op. cit.; Maeder, L. A. M. Diagnostic criteria: the concept of normal and abnormal.
Family, 1941, 22, 171-179.

58

Basic Concepts for Adjustment Psychology


The statistical concept of normality can also be applied to human
behavior and adjustment, but the results are sometimes startling and often
somewhat discouraging. As an example, it has been determined statistically
that the "average" boy has begun the practice of masturbation by the
time he is fifteen years old; from this statistical statement some writers
conclude that the practice is normal, without making the least effort to
explain what this means. To add to the confusion they allow the implication that whatever is normal is natural; therefore, statistically normal

... 16
Z

AG ES:
218

44

N: 2 9 0 4,

104
IQ

Fig. 5-A ,curve plotted from sampling the IQ's of 2904 subjects,
ages 2-18. Modified from Terman, L. M., & Merrill, M. A.
Measuring intelligence (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1937), p. 37.

behavior is to be accepted regardless of its s~cial or moral defects. You


can see why "normality" must be defined with extreme care. There are
many instances of statistical normality that disclose conditions as undesirable as the one cited above. For example, six-year-old children normally have four to five dental cavities; it is normal for children to develop
certain diseases; and it is normal for the average man to smoke a pack
of cigarettes a day. In other words, normal can mean that which is
undesirable!
Following the same line, it can be shown that abnormality is something to be desired. Reference to Figure 5 will illustrate this point. There
you see plotted, in the form of a curve, the results of sampling the
intelligence quotients of a large group of students. In the center of the
curve are those scores that are "average," th~;iS' they cluster around
the statistically determined mean or average , e. To the extremes of
I

59

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


the curve are found those scores that are higher or lower than the
average. If average students in this group are normal, those with high
IQ's are abnormal, since abnormal, statistically, means deviation from the
average or norm. But it is better to have a high IQ than an average or
low IQ; therefore, it is desirable in some inst~nces to be abnormal.
From the standpoint of adjustment, the I difficulty of the statistical
concept of normality lies in the fact that the norm is derived from what
people are or do rather than from what the requirements of wholesome
living or human nature demand. It may be statistically normal to quarrel
with your wife, but it happens to be psychologically bad. For this reason
we must develop a norm or standard that is suited to the problems of
adjustment. But, first, we must consider other standards of normality if
we wish to be sure of our ground. 15

Individual versus Group Normality


The statistical concept of normality implies that normality is determined
by reference to what the group is like or what it does. To be like the
group in capacity or behavior is to be normal. Thus it is normal for
sixteen-year-old boys to want to drive a car. But normality may also be
determined by reference to standards set up by one individual for himself. This is a norm of consistency. It would certainly be regarded as
abnormal if a person who had never taken a drink in his life were suddenly to go on a one-day drinking spree. This behavior would violate
the standards set by the individual himself, and would ordimirily be
regarded more seriously than behavior that is a deviation from group
standards. A concept of normality based on consistency in behavior is
more acceptable than a group or statistical otie; but it, too, falls short of
an adequate standard for adjustment because its application is limited to
one person and because it often would be used to evaluate behavior that
would have little meaning for the understanding of adjustment. It may
be abnormal, from this standpoint, for person to arise at half past seven
in the morning instead of seven o'clock, but it is onittle_~gnificance.

Abnormality and Adjustment


The meaning of normality can be clarified somewhat by exploring further
the meaning of abnormality. We have already seen what the statistical
15 "Failure to grasp the true significance of the clinical frame of ~eference in
the analysis of basic mental conditions and to differentiate betWeen abstract-verbal
ability and mental efficiency have not only resulted in the societal-deviation explanation of maladjustment but have inspired such sophisticat~"d absurdities as 'normal
neuroses' and 'normal psychoses.' It would be as logical to speak of 'normal diseases'
and to st2 J that the health in a certain commu~ty was good when three-fourths of
the population were afflicted by some disease, normal in such a: case being defined
statistically instead of physiologically."-Babcock. Op. cit., p. 6. Reprinted by
permission.

60

Basic Concepts for Adjustment Psychology


concept of abnormality is., and we may now expand this notion to include
the ideas of subnormal, abnormal, and supernormal. Since abnormal means
deviation from some norm, then those factors that are "below" the normal
or average are referred to as subnormal, and those "above" the average
are supernormal. Thus, if the average man can lift one hundred pounds,
the lifting of two hundred pounds indicates supernormal strength. Similarly, a person who has an IQ of 80 is classified as subnormal because the
average is 100. But what about those persons who are just different without being above or below average? For example, there is the eccentric
person who wears three overcoats on a hot summer day; or the hobo
who ekes out an existence without regard for the obligation to work.
These, too, are deviations from group behavior, but they are deviations
also in the direction of pathology. These are the atypical or anormal
individuals, whose abnormalities we are more specifi~aIly concerned with
in the psychology of adjustment.
Findings reported by Moore confirm this interpretation of abnormality. In a study of the character traits of 110 normal individuals and
the prepsychotic character traits of 112 patients in mental hospitals, it
was found that the symptom "different from others" correlated most
significantly (.814) with the prepsychotic character of mental patients.
Other traits that showed a significantly high correlation were churlishness, peculiar personality, gloominess, slow to laughter, peculiar ideas in
early life, poor mixer, slow to make friends, and likes to be alone. 16 In
his discussion of the concept of abnormality, Thorpe also refers to eccentricity and difference as a criterion. One concept, he writes,
considers inadequate health as constituting a combination of traits which
are out of balance and in conflict with one another. On this basis, certain behavior characteristics may be exceptionally strong or unusually
weak, causing the individual to be "different" or eccentricY
As criteria of inadequate mental health, Thorpe lists the following.
1. Feelings of inadequacy
2. Feelings of insecurity
16 Moore, T. V. Personal mental hygiene. New York: Grune & Stratton, 1944,
p. 5. Compare Klein. Op. cit., pp. 13-14. Klein cites the experimental findings of
Maier on abnormal behavior in animals and the studies of sexual development in the
human female by Landis and his co-wo;kers in support of the hypothesis that normal
and abnormal represent a bimodal rather than a continuous distribution. Quoting such
authorities as Gordon Allport and N. R. F. Maier, he concludes that "with all due
respect to the fetish of the normal distribution curve, it is our belief that both a
quantitative and a qualitative dichotomy between the wholesome and the pathological is justified."-Op. cit., p. 14.
11 Thorpe, L. P., The psychology
Ronald, 1950,
p. 118. Reprinted by permission.

61

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


3.

4.
5.
6.
7.
8.

Lack of self-confidence
Insufficient self-understanding
Unsatisfactory social relationships
Emotional immaturity
Inadequate integration of personality, \
Pathology of nervous system structures18
I

It would be worth while to compare these ideas and criteria with the
criteria of mental health and adjustment described in the following
chapter.

The Pathological Concept of Abnormality


The use of the term "pathology" in the foregoing discussion introduces
another aspect of abnormality, but one that must be viewed with extreme
caution. Not all abnormality of the last type described above (anormality) is pathological; nor is all maladjustment pathological. The concept is
derived largely from the field of medicine. Pathology indicates disease
or morbidity of some kind. Since.it is normal for the organism to be
physically sound or healthy, any disruption of health is regarded as
abnormal. A heartbeat that is too rapid, a body temperature of 103
degrees, bleeding gums, ulcers, or tuberculosis are regarded as pathologicalor indicative of pathology, and therefore abnormal from the medical
point of view. Naturally, mental diseases, for example, the psychoses, fall
into the same category; therefore, there are many instances of maladjustment that are clearly abnormal, not only from the statistical point of
view, or from the concept of group standards, but also from the pathological or medical point of view. However, we must not conclude from
this that maladjustment and abnormality are identical in scope. There
are numerous instances of simple and nonpathological maladjustments
that cannot be characterized as abnormal in any sense. Reading deficiencies, truancy, disobedience, aggression, and so forth, are maladjustive,
but they are not abnormal in the way that physical~illI~ess and mental
disease are!9 ,

The Psychological Concept of Normality


The many variations in the meaning of normality and abnQrmality make it
difficult to utilize these terms in reference to the processes of adjustment,
unless we can develop and agree upon a norm or standard that does not
admit -exceptions. We know that good adjustment is desirable and malI

Ibid., pp. 119-120. ..,


.. -/~ /
For a discussion ofjr6e meaning of mental disease in relation to maladjustment,
see Marzolf, S. S. The disease concept in psychology. Psychol. Rev., 1947, 54, 211221. See also Bernard. Op. cit., Chao. III.
18
19

62

Basic Concepts for Adjustment Psychology


adjustment undesirable. 20 We can then ask ourselves, good or desirable
in what way, from what standpoint? What norm or standard is there to
determine the good or bad quality of adjustment?

Fig. 6-Schematic representation of relations between normality,


abnormality, adjustment, and maladjustment. Explanation in text.

The answers to these questions are implicit in the definition of adjustment in the preceding pages. Good adjustinent is that form of behavior
or response that is consonant v:ith man's nature or capacities, that furthers
or augments his relations v:iih his fellounnen, and that is in accord v:ith
his dependence on God. It is behavior that is wholesome, efficient, satisfying, and mature. And each one of these qualities is dependent on the
20

See Bernard, H. VV. Toward better personal adjustment. New York: McGraw-

Hill, lOll, pp. 18-20.

63

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


norm derived from man's nature and his relations to reality. This is what
we should mean when we refer to a person as being normal. This standard
is psychological rather than statistical, moral,I individual, or pathological.
There are many responses that are psychologically worth while and
beneficial, and these are normal and adjusti\\J; and there are many others
that are damaging to personality and to man'~\ interpersonal relations, and
these are abnormal and maladjustive. Having this standard, the psychology
of adjustment needs to become self-conscious and to evaluate itself correctly as a normative as well as an empirical science. 21
The several relations between normal and abnormal, adjustive and
maladjustive, subnormal and superior are indicated schematically in Figure
6. It is readily apparent from this illustration that the different forms of
abnormality and maladjustment are variously related to one another, but
yet distinguishable. In the center, we have placed normality, both in
the sense of good adjustment and statistical average. Extending from this
center of normality are the subnormal and supernormal categories-the
dull and deficient, the mentally defective, the bright, and the superior
groups. Similarly, extending from normality as good adjustment are, first
of all, the minor personality difficulties, simple maladjusted, and eccentric
categories; farther out (away from normality) are the psychoneurotic,
psychopathic, and psychotic groups. This arrangement has the advantage
of bringing together all varieties of abnormality in relation to the normal,
and of indicating qualitative as well as quantitative deviations. The greater
the distance from the center the greater is the quantitative deviation;
whereas around the peripheries of the circles are indicated the qualitative
variations. The outermost rim of the figure, then, represents abnormality
in all its different phases.
NORMALITY, ADJUSTMENT, AND MATURITY

Maturity and Adjustment


In any discussion of the nature and characteriStics. Qf adjustment, the
concept of maturity invariably enters the picture. Th~ -relation between
them is, in fact, very close. 22 Certainly, adjustment at the adult level
Schneiders. Op. cit.
For a thorough study of the relation between normality; adjustment, and
maturity, the reader is referred to King, W. F. Emotional maturity: its nature and
measurement. Unpublished doctor's dissertation, Harvard Univer., 1951. See especially pages 26, 27, 49, 69, and 93-94. Of the many indices of maturity, King emphasizes the following: acceptance of reality, assimilation of,- authority, responsibility,
self-dependence, objectivity, anxiety control, abi!J.!y-to accept unpleasant aspects of
life, including imperfection in self and others-as'well as criticism, mental health, and
complete development. See also Meyer, A. The meaning of maturity. In Fisher,
D. G, & Gruenberg, S. M. (Eds.) Our children. New York: Viking, 1932. According
to Meyer, maturity suggests a capacity for self-government and, self-dependence, and
21

22

64

Basic Concepts for Adjustment Psychology


requires a high level of maturity; and even at earlier levels of development
the degree of adjustment will vary with the degree of maturity. This fact
is brought out clearly in cases of deep-seated and widespread immaturity.
Paul M. is just seven years old. He was referred to the clinic because of
repeated difficulties in school, both of an academic and behavioral kind, and
because of his obvious babyish mannerisms. Examination revealed that Paul
is of average intelligence (95 IQ), but definitely below average in reading
skill and readiness for school work. His speech is retarded, his relations with
adults are babyish, and there is a serious lack of emotional control shown in
his crying and temper tantrums. Psychiatric diagnosis indicated that Paul is
operating at the level of a three- or four-year-old, and that his difficulties are
traceable to this failure of development, or immaturity.
The reason for this close relation between adjustment and maturity
is easy to see. Adjustment, as we have seen, requires meeting personal or
environmental demands in an efficient and wholesome manner. Each age
level brings with it new demands of a physical, intellectual, social, and
economic kind; and maturity is the factor that "supplies" the organism
with the skills, traits, or responses that are necessary for meeting these
demands. The adult world does not readily tolerate behavior of a childish
or adolescent kind in one who is supposed to be grown-up. The yardstick of acceptable response is realistic and mature behavior, traits, and
attitudes.
If we are to understand social deviation, we must extend our concept far beyond the small circle of those whom a society or rigid
convention labels misfits. We must include the indecisive, ineffectual
person whose search for security carries him repeatedly back to childlike dependence on others, and the pleasant, ingratiating, often successful
adult whose interpersonal relationships are a chain of superficial contacts. We must include the nomad whose restless wandering seems never
to bring him peace, and the sex deviant whose affectipnal development
does not reach an adult level. And we must include the antisocial rebel
who, through aggressive behavior, again and again provokes legal punishment which is powerless to deter him, and the timid, inadequate person
who never quite succeeds in achieving the vocational, economic, or
marital status of the average adult. To the behavior pathologist, all of
these persons illustrate sociat deviation, and they all show in their
behavior the unmistak;lble signs of biosocial immaturity.23

However, terms like "adult" and "mature" have multiple meanings,


a satisfying balance between the demands of one's own nature and the demands of
society.
23 Cameron, N., & Magaret, A. Behavior pathOlO~' Boston: Houghton Mifflin,
1951, pp. 188-189. Reprinted by permission.
.,
I

65

LV atztre and Conditions or Adjustment

and we must not use them carelessly. Maturity is not a single quality;
there are many facets to it, and each, one must be considered in determining criteria by which it can be evaluated\ Two of the most familiar
phases are physical and intellectual. maturity. These two constitute a good
starting point because, in the majority of inst~nces, the organism matures
physically and intellectually with little difficvlty. Where such development fails, the process of adjustment becomes more and more difficult.
1. PHYSICAL MATURITY. Physical maturity requires at least normal
growth with respect to such factors as size and weight, a degree of
strength, skill, and coordination required by everyday tasks, and such
physiological development as is necessary to maintain health, stamina, and
energy.
2. INTELLECTUAL MATURITY. Similarly, intellectual maturity requires
a degree of development that enables one to achieve a reasonable amount
of education, to profit by learning and experience, and to grow in the
ability to make sound, objective judgments. In the absence of any of
these qualities, we would have to consider a person intellectually imI
mature.
,
But this is only a small part of'maturity. Because human beings are
also emotional, social, moral, religious, and economic creatures, maturity
requires adequate development in these areas also. And here the yardsticks or criteria are not so readily determined. Overstreet, in his book
The Mature Mind, devotes an entire chapter to the criteria of maturity.
We will summarize these, and you will see how complex maturity is.24
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

Continuing interest in a wide range of knowledge


Acceptance of responsibility
The ability to articulate verbally and to communicate well with others
Creative sexual relations
Understanding relationship with others; growth from egocentricity
to sociocentricity
6.. Adequate .perspective; a philosophy of life - _

-----,__ .

To these criteria we could readily add others, but they are a good example
of what we have in mind. 25 The first one, of course, is a part of intellec24 Overstreet, H. A. The mature mind. New York: Norton,

1949, pp. 42-75.


See, for example, Vaughan, W. F: Personal and social adjust;ment. New York:
Odyssey, 1952, p. 5. He lists the following characteristics of maturity: self-reliance
(independence), satisfying social relations, honest self-esteem,' willingness to face
reality, balance, integration_# wise sense of values; see also Chap. III for a thorough
treatment of psychological maturity. McKinney (Op. cit., pp'. 672-682) lists complete
p~ysical growth, emancipation from the home, ~~p1'OSexu:1lity, appreciation of others,
delay of r~sponses, controlled and directed emotionality, control of environment, and
'philosopl~y of life as indicative of maturity. Compare these criteria with the criteria
'of adjustment in Chap. Four, and you will see how closely adjustment and maturity
' " ::"}d' McKinney remarks, "Many of ....the characteristics of the adjusted indi25

."

I'

Basic Concepts for Adjustment Psychology


tual maturity; the second is basic to adequate moral development; the
third, fourth, and fifth are intimately tied in with social maturity; and
the last one is related to both social and religious maturity.
3. EMOTIONAL MATURITY. Running through all these aspects of
maturity is emotional maturity. The emotional factors in human behavior
often stand in the way of wholesome development. Maturity requires
more than anything else the adequate development and control of feelings
and emotions, and both development and control are basic to good adjustment. Here again we see the intimate relation between adjustment and
maturity. Thus' the ill-tempered, highstrung, jealous, timid, hating, or
fearful person is neither emotianally mature nor well adjusted. Emotional
maturity requires at least three qualities: (1) adequacy of emotional
response, which means that these responses must be consonant with
developmental level-the adult who, like a child, utilizes crying or temper
tantrums to get what he wants is emotionally immature; (2) emotional
range and depth, which is an aspect of adequate development-the person
in whom feelings are superficial, as exemplified in the oversympathetic
person, or one who is lacking in feelings like friendliness, consideration,
love, and sympathy (the apathetic person) is emotionally immature; and,
finally, (3) emotional control, which labels as immature those persons
who are consistently victimized by fear or anxiety, anger, nlge, jealousy,
hatred, and the like. 26
Here, then, are some of the concepts fundamental to our study of
human adjustment. There are others, like personality, conflict, and frustration, that are just as important; but we will have an opportunity to
define these in later discussions. We have singled out for elaboration in
this chapter concepts that we must understand clearly at the outset of
our investigation; without them we would be hampered at every turn,
particularly in view of their complexity and ambiguity. You will appreciate this fact more as you get further into the study of adjustment.
SUMMARY

In this chapter, we undertook to define and clarify the concepts of


adjustment and maladjustment, mental health and mental efficiency, norvidual presume a certain degree of maturity."-Op. cit., p. 678. See also Katzenelbogen, S. Mental hygiene and personality problems. In Shore, M. ]., et al. Twentieth
century mental hygiene. New York:, .Social Sciences Publishers, 1950, pp. 39-40;
Bernard, H. W. Mental hygiene tor classroom teachers. New York: McGraw-Hill,
1952, pp. 17-22; Anderson. Op. cit., Chap. XVII; King, W. F. Op. cit., pp. 28-29, 30,
46-47; Allport, G. W. Personality: a psychological interpretation. New York: Holt,
1937, Chap. VIII.
26 Compare Saul, L. J. Emotional maturity. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1947, especially Part I, The achievement of maturity. See also Landis, C., Gullette, R., &
Jacobson,
Criteria of emotionality. Ped. Sem. & ~J'
genet. Psychol., 1925, 32, 209-

c:

.
I

67

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


mality and abnormality, and maturity. We also pointed out certain basic
relations between normality and adjustment, abnormality and maladjustment, adjustment and morality, mental health and adjustment, mental
health and mental efficiency, and adjustmedt and maturity, all of which
must be clearly understood for the study q human adjustment.
We considered first the meaning of adjdstment, and, after evaluating
various concepts, such as adaptation and 'conformity, we interpreted
adjustment to mean the ability, within personal limitations, to react to
oneself and one's environment in an efficient, wholesome, and satisfying
manner, which makes possible the resolving of conflicts, frustrations, and
difficulties without the development of symptomatic behavior. This, of
course, is good adjustment, which is more limited in meaning than the
broad concept of adjustment that applies to any behavior that is involved
in man's relation to himself or his environment.
Good adjustment, we saw, is closely related to morality, although
these two aspects of conduct do not have common boundaries, since
there are many responses that come within the scope of adjustment that
cannot be evaluated morally. Briefli, wholesome adjustment is important
to moral conduct, and morality is essential to adequate adjustment. A
similar relation was noted between adjustment and mental health, each
being complementary to the other, in the same way that maladjustment
and mental ill-health are complementary without being identical. In this
connection, the point was emphasized that mental health is a positive state
of mind, involving coordinated and integrated effort, and therefore
must not be regarded simply as the absence of disturbing symptoms. This
interpretation was easily brought into line with the concept of mental
efficiency, which we saw to be important to both mental health and
adjustment, although not identical with either. Efficiency of this kind is
simply the most effective use of mental functions.
The clarification of terms like adjustment and mental health paved
the way to an analysis of normality and abnormality. Normality, we saw,
has several meanings, only one of which can be effectively related to good
adjustment. This is psychological normality. Similarl~hen, psychological abnormality is equivalent to maladjustment. Th~se notions were
brought into line with the statistical, il1dividual, moral and pathological
concepts of normality and abnormality.
Finally, we discussed the relations between normality, adjustment,
and maturity. Maturity, which we interpreted in terms of several basic
criteria, .is fundamental to adjustment, particularly at the adult level;
therefore, the psychologically normal person has to; have reached a certain level of maturity. Particular emphasis w_lls-put on emotional maturity
because of its fundamental relation td aU-afpects of adjustment. Emotional
234; Farnsworth, P. R_ The measurement of emotional maturity.
1938,9,235-237; King, F. W. Op. cit., p. 103'.
I

68

J. soc. Psychol.,

Basic Concepts for Adjustment Psychology


maturity was interpreted as including emotional adequacy, emotional
range and depth, and emotional control, all of which are essential to good
adjustment and normality.

QUESTIONS, EXERCISES, AND PROJECTS

1. Explain in your own words why adaptation and conformity are not
equivalent to adjustment.
2. Select several persons from among your close acquaintances and explaih why you think they are well adjusted, normal, or maladjusted.
3. What rules would you give a child to help him achieve mental
efficiency?
4. Critically evaluate the concept of statistical normality as it applies to
moral and social conduct.
5. Are there any absolute standards of adjustment? Explain fully.
6. Discuss the relations between morality and adjustment; between immorality and maladjustment. What is meant by the statement in the
text that adjustment psychology must be normative in character?
7. Make a careful analysis of your own day-to-day behavior for a period
of one week, and list those responses that are (a) indicative of wholesome adjustment; (b) maladjustive; (c) indicative of mental inefficiency; (d) indicative of immaturity.
8. Describe five basic criteria of maturity.

SELECTED READINGS

J. A. (Eds.) The human person: an integral


approach to the-theory of personality. New York: Ronald, 1954.
Chap. XIII.
BERNARD, H. w. Mental hygiene for classroom teachers. New York:
McGraw-Hill; 1952. Chap. III.
BROWN, J. F. The psychodynamics of abnormal behavior. New York:
McGraw-Hill, 1943. Chap. I.
_
CAVANAGH, J. R., & MCGOLDRICK, J. B. Fundamental psychiatry. Milwaukee:
Bruce, 1953. Chap. III.
/
ARNOLD, M. B., & GAS SON,

w. Emotional maturity: its nature and measurement. Unpublished


doctor's dissertation, Harvard Univer., 1951.

KING, F.

Motivation and personality. New York: Harper, 1954.


Chap. XVII.
'\ "

MASLOW, A. H.

OVERSTREET, H. A.

The ma~tr. e mind. New York_[forton, 1949.

'tJ

69

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


PRESTON, G. H.

The substance of mental bealth. New York: Rinehart, 194).

Chaps. IX-XII.
SAUL, L.

J. Emotional maturity. Philadelphib.: Lippincott, 1947.

SYMONDS, P. M.

Dynamic psycbology.

N~'w\

York: Appleton-Century-

Crofts, 1949. Chap. XXI.


THORPE, L. P.

Tbe psycbology of mental health. New York: Ronald, 1950.

Chap. IV.
Current mental hygiene practice. ]. Clin. Psycbol. Monogr.
Suppl. No.8, Jan. 1951. Chap. II.

TYSON, R.

WHITE, R.

w. Lives in progress. New York: 'Dryden, 1952. Pp. 356-364.

70

"

~ FOUR

CRITERIA OF ADJUSTMENT AND


iVIENTAL HEALTH
Criteria in relation to the nature of adjustment. Definition of criteria. General criteria of adjustment. Specific criteria of adjustment: self-knowledge
and insight; self-acceptance; self-control and self-development; personal integration; well-defined goals; philosophy of life; sense of humor; sense of responsibility; maturity of response; worth-while habits; adaptability; freedom from
sympto1?latic responses; ability to get along with and interest in other people;
wide range of interests; satisfaction in work and play; adequate orientation.
Specific criteria of mental health: adequate contact with reality; healthy
attitudes; control of thought and imagination; mental efficiency; integration of
thought and conduct; integration of motives and resolution of confiicts; feelings of security and belonging; adequate concept of self; adequate egoidentification; healthy emotional life; mental tranquillity.

WHAT CRITERIA ARE

Criteria in Relation to the Nature of Adjustment


In the preceding chapter, we discussed at considerable length the nature
of adjustment and related concepts. There we saw that adjustment has
many different aspects and qualities, each one of which can be developed
into a criterion by which adjustment can be evaluated.! Some of these
criteria, therefore, such as maturity, emotional control, and efficiency,
are already familiar to us. However, because of the complex nature of
adjustment and also because of the important relation between adjustment
! The necessity of adequate criteria of normality and adjustment is recognized
by the majority of writers in this field. King, for example, quotes Levine to the
effect that definitions of normality in terms of the average "must be supplemented
by definitions of normality in terms of health, happiness, good functioning, and
maturity. This general fact calls for specific amplification. It calls for a detailed set
of criteria of psychiatric health and good functioning."-King, W. F. Emotional
maturity: its nature and measurement. Unpublished doctor's dissertation. Harvard

Uni""., 1951, p. 4.

7/ {'

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


and mental health, it is necessary to single out all the qualities that can be
attributed to these two concepts. In this way, we will learn a great deal
more about the nature of adjustment and other characteristics with which
it is related. We will see, for example, that the criteria for adjustment and
those used to evaluate mental health .are not\ exactly the same; 'and that,
despite basic similarities, criteria and principl~s of adjustment and mental
health must be clearly distinguished. This analysis will help us to a better
understanding of the other problems of adjustment psychology that are
taken up in later chapters; and it will prepare us for developing the basic
concepts and principles of mental hygiene and treatment that are studied
in the latter, part of the book. 2
Definition of Criteria
Now, what are these criteria like? What should one look for in determining whether one quality or another is a criterion of adjustment? Let
us take a simple example for purpos~s of illustration. Suppose you were
asked to list some of the standards or rules for healthful living. You would
probably say something like this: healthful living require.s good, nourishing food in sufficient quantity; a reasonable amount of exercise and recreation; cleanliness; and adequate Test. These, you would insist, are some
of the basic characteristics by which healthful living can be identified;
therefore, they are also the yardsticks for evaluating healt,hful living.
Anyone who disregards these requirements, you would say, is not living
healthfully.
.
Criteria of adjustment and mental heaith, then, are the standards,
norms, or yardsticks that we can use to determine the quality and the
degree of personal or social adjustment for any individual. Is this person
happy? Does he have insight into his rbotivations and conduct? Does he
have a sense of responsibility? Is he capable of adapting himself to new
or changing situations? These are some of the questions prompted by a
knowledge of the basic criteria of adjustment_and mental health. By
applying these criteria in a clinical situation dealini'let,us_say, with problem children, or in trying to help someone (or ourselves) to a better
understanding of his problems and adjustments, we are able to get a
clearer picture of a person's adjustment level.
These criteria, therefore, have significant practic;ll implications.
Without them, anyone working with problems of adjustment and mental
health would la'ck the guideposts that are necessary Jor effective treat2 A sobering note regarding criteria of adjustment )s introduced by several
writers who feel that the ideal of adjustment 2Jlay -lead to excessive conformity or
mediocrity. See, for example, White, R. W. Lives in progress. New York: Dryden,
1952, pp. 356-365; and Lindner, R. Prescription for rebellion. New York: Rinehart,
1952, Chaps. V and VI. Both of these writers seriously question the basic rationale
of adjustment psychology.

72

Criteria of Adjustment and Mental Health


ment. If we know what the standards of wholesome adjustment are, and
if we know how to identify the qualities of sound mental health, we are
in a position to direct our efforts intelligently and effectively. Moreover,
the criteria that we are going to discuss are the primary sources of the
principles that must be used in mental hygiene and remedial treatment
(Chapters Seventeen and Eighteen). Once we know, for example, that
maturity is a criterion of adjustment, we can work toward a set of
practical rules (principles) by which maturity can be promoted. All the
principles of mental hygiene and of counseling and psychotherapy have
been derived from a careful study of the nature and criteria of adjustment and mental health. This investigation has been helped considerably
by widespread clinical experience in the diagnosis, classification, and
treatment of personality and behavior disorders, experience that is the
proving ground of principles of mental health. In this way, science and
clinical application join hands in furthering the knowledge and the
effective treatment of problems in human adjustment.
General Criterion of Adjustment
In the preceding chapter, we worked out rather carefully the relation
between adjustment and normality; we saw that good adjustment is
primarily conformity to a psychological norm or standard, which is
determined by reference to man's relation to himself, to society, and to
God. This psychological norm may be regarded as a general criterion of
good adjustment or normality. This means simply that, in a general way,
adjustive responses can be evaluated as good or bad, wholesome or unwholesome, by comparing them with what man should do in the light
of his intrinsic make-up and in terms of his rights and obligations where
his fellowmen and God are concerned. From this general viewpoint, then,
we would say that delinquency and criminality (antisocial behavior),
blasphemy (irreligious behavior), and self-mutilation (antipersonal behavior) are all abnormal and maladjustive. Each one, as you can see,
violates one or another aspect of the psychological criterion of wholesome
adjustment.
Specific Criteria of Adjustment
This general criterion is very helpful in the evaluation of adjustive
response; but, in many instances, the exact relation between this standard
and adjustive behavior is notso easily determined. For example, nervous
habits, such as nail-biting and thumb-sucking, compulsions, obsessions,
lack of insight, and bad habits, cannot be as readily evaluated in t~rms of
our general criterion as can delinquency and criminality. To provide for
such situations, we must make explicit all the implications contained in
our general criterion. This we can do most effectively by defining and
clarifying a number of specific criteria tha!)pply to adjustment and

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73

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


mental health. It is easier, for example, to see why insight is important
to adjustment if we take time to define wI1at insight is and how it is
related to psychological well-being. In this -Jay, the possession of insight
is seen to be one of the specific criteria by ~vhich adjustment or mental
health can be adequately judged. .
As you will see in a moment, there are m;my such criteria; and when
we apply all of them to human behavior, we get a much more detailed
picture of what adjustment really involves. 3 We wish to emphasize, however, that all these specific criteria are actually evolved from and intrinsically rela~ed to the general criterion of normality already defined. This
fact is important. You must realize that when, in Chapter Three, we
referred to the standards of normality and adjustment, and in this chapter
to the criteria of adjustment and mental health, we are not shifting position at all. We are merely analyzing and interpreting the concepts of
adjustment, normality, and mental health in much greater detail so that
all the various aspects you should know about can be brought to light.
We can understand and rememger better the many specific criteria
of adjustment, by organizing them in terms of our general criterion of
psychological normality. This standard, as we noted, requires, first of all,
a proper attitude or perspective regarding oneself; we will therefore
begin with those criteria that have a bearing on this aspect of adjustment. 4
We will see, of course, that many of these have direct or indirect implications for other areas of adjustment and that we cannot always be sure
where one or another criterion belongs; but this fact is of little importance
as long as we keep in mind the basic relations among all phases of the
adjustment process.
1. SELF-KNOWLEDGE AND INSIGHT. We have referred several times to
insight as a criterion of adjustment. What is the nature of this characteristic, and what bearing does it have on psychological well-being? The
answer is quite simple. To meet demanqs made on US, to resolve conflicts
I \

3 Many writers in the field of mental hygiene and adJustm~nt have evolved such
criteria. See, for example, Tyson, R. Current mental hygie-:ne--practice. J. clin.
Psychol. Monogr. Suppl. No.8, Jan., 1951, pp. 9-16. This is one' of the most extensive lists of criteria to be found in the literature. Bernard, on the other hang,. lists
four factors basic to mental health: a fuller life, a happier life, a harmonious life,
and an effective life.-Bernard, H. W. Toward better~perional adjustment. New
York: McGraw-Hill, 1951, p. 18. See also Steckle, L. C:Problems ot-personal adjustment. New York: Harper, 1949, Chap. V, especially p. 96;~Val~ghan, W. F. Personal
and social adjustment. New York: Odyssey, 1952, pp. 5:__17; Thbrpe, L. P. The psychology of mental health. New York: Ronald, 1950, pp. 116-117, 242-244; Maslow,
A. H., & Mittelmann, B. Principles of abnormal psychology/ (Rev. Ed.) New York:
Harper, 1951, pp. 14-15; Symonds, P. M. Dynamil!..-psychology. New York: AppletonCentury-Crofts, 1949, pp. 387-398; Patty, W. L., & Johnson, L. S. Personality and
adjustment. New York: McGfaw-Hill, 1953, Chap. XVI.
4 In discussing the criteri'i'of maladjustment, Dunlap uses a, similar distinction.
See Dunlap, K. Personal -adjustment. New ~ork: McGraw-Hill, 1946, pp. 13-14.

74

Criteria of Adjustment and Mental Health


and frustrations, and to deal effectively with problems and situations so
as to achieve or promote good adjustment, we must know our own
capabilities and limitations. Obviously, the person who steps into a job
or marriage in the belief that he has all the necessary qualities, when
actually he has not, is courting disaster. Self-knowledge requires an intelligent inventory of personal assets and liabilities. By knowing what our
weaknesses are, we can try to minimize or eliminate their influence on our
daily adjustments.
The solution of these problems must begin with the courage and
determination to face the truth about oneself. There must be a willingness to acknowledge one's own shortcomings, failures, and guilt for
what they are, not rationalizing or finding comfort in what we may
call good reasons for bad conduct, or pitying oneself for the accumulation of circumstances which call for accounting. Gnothi Seauton, says
the ancient Greek adage-"know thyself." If we are to present to the
world an integrated and positive personality, we must begin by insisting
upon a transparency of soul within ourselves. 5

But this is not all, for good adjustment also requires self-insight.
Self-insight means an awareness of and perspective regarding one's basic
motivations, the effect that these motivations have on thinking fmd conduct, and the existence and functioning of personal peculiarities, mechanisms, and habits. For example, the person who fails to understand that
his blaming others for mistakes and weaknesses is a projection of his own
inadequacies is lacking in self-insight; or one who, after getting a clean
bill of health from his physician, cannot grasp the fact that his pains
and physical ailments are psychologically caused is falling short of this
criterion. Examples such as these could be multiplied a thousand times,
and you can see how important it is for us to achieve this kind of knowledge regarding ourselves. When we lack insight into our own motives,
conduct, or personality traits, we easily become confused and bewildered
by demands, conflicts, or problems. We tend, then, to find fault with
others or with our environment, to excuse or rationalize inadequate conduct, to project the blame for our own irresponsibilities, and to develop
defense or escape mechanisms, all of which are inimical to good adjustment.
We must not, however, take self-knowledge or insight to mean
morbid self-analysis. The chronically introspective person is no more
5 Magner, J. A. Personality and successful living. Milwaukee: Bruce, 1944, p. 209.
Reprinted by permission. See also the study by Calvin, A. D., & Holtzman, "V. H.
Adjustment and the discrepancy between self concept and inferred self. ]. consult.
Psychol., 1953, 17, 39-44. In this study of 79 male college students, it was found that
those students who show poor insight into their own level of adjustment are more
likcly w be =bdju,,,d ,h", 'ho", who ,h~ good ~h'.
75

A~(..~'e ~ 2, 6

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


adjusted than one lacking in self-knowledge, because he carries the
principle of self-insight to the extreme of self-concern. You can know
yourself and your motives, feelings, and nrsponses without becoming
morbidly absorbed in them, just as you can know the good and bad points
about your automobile without reacting motbidly.6 This knowledge is
sometimes referred to as emotional self-insight, which means a'wareness
of personal weaknesses, accompanied by a 'healthy emotional attitude
toward them. Many persons who have insight into their own motives
and feelings tend to discount or rationalize their effects or importance.
In order to meet the criterion of self-insight, we must avoid morbid selfscrutiny and excessive emotional reactions about the knowledge we
acquire regarding ourselves.
2. SELF-OBJECTIVITY AND SELF-ACCEPTANCE. Wholesome application
of the principle of self-knowledge leads to self-objectivity and eventually
to self-acceptance, which are two additional qualities by which adjustment
can be evaluated. 7 Adequate knowledge of self implies an objective attitude toward one's personal characteristics and liabilities, which is the
direct opposite of the subjectivity characteristic of disturbed and maladjusted persons. If, for example, someone has a strong feeling of inferiority, he can learn to recognize this quality in himself, appraise it objectively,
as he would any other aspect of his personality, and thus minimize the
damaging effects it can have on himself or on his relations with others.
Recognizing the existence of a feeling of inferiority and assessing the
effects it can have are part of the process of becoming objective with
respect to self. The person who lacks insight regarding such a factor in
his make-up may easily become its constant and unwilling victim.
Self-objectivity leads quite naturally to self-acceptance, a quality of
adjustment that must be carefully evaluated. Self-acceptance is the oppo1

6 As Magner says, acknowledging personal shortcomings "does not mean that we


are to become introverts to the point of questioning our hQnesty of motiv~ in every
act or decision . . . . Nevertheless the Christian practice of a daily examination of
conscien~e is of the utmost importance, beginning with ;'prayer~t9_ the Holy Spirit
for divine guidance, then a study of our actions and policies ,'in the light of our
underlying purposes and of our constant weaknesses and inclinations. We can then
fittingly end with an act of sorrow for what was wrong and a prayer for God's help
in the future."-Personality and successful living. Milwaukee: Bruce, 1944, pp. 209:"
210. Reprinted by permission.
7 Allport states very succinctly, "Integration, for the neurotic or for the normal
person, requires self-objectification. That is to say, it requires insight, a knowledge
of one's. values, a clear picture of one's assets and liabilities. Psychotherapy and
religion agree on this point."-Allport, G. W. The individual and his religion. New
York: Macmillan, 1950, p. 95. See also Taylor, C., &.Comb;' A. W. Self-acceptance
and adjustment. J. consult. Psychol., 1952, 16, 89-'lJi;Cohen, L. D. Level-of-aspiration
behavior and feelings of adequacy and self-acceptance. J. abnorm. soc. Psychol.,
1954, 49, 84-86; Zimmer, H. Self-acceptance and its relation to conflict. J. consult.
Psychol., 1954, 18, 447-449.

76

Criteria of Adjustment and Mental Health


site of self-negation and is based on an objective knowledge or appreciation of self. It does not mean self-condonement nor complaisance about
one's weaknesses; this attitude would only hinder the development of
wholesome adjustment. Adjustment also precludes the opposite extremefeelings of worthlessness, or inadequacy, the conviction of complete personal failure, and despair regarding one's capabilities. Adjustment requires
self-knowledge, insight, objective self-appraisal, and self-acceptance, on
the basis of which a program of self-development can be securely built.
To accept yourself as you are, however, does not mean that there is no
room for self-improvement. No well-integrated life is possible, writes
Harry Emerson Fosdick,
without an initial act of self-acceptance, as though to say: I, John Smith,
hereby accept myself, with my inherited endowments and handicaps
and with the elements in my environment that I cannot alter or control,
and, so accepting myself as my stint, I will now see what I can do with
this John Smith. When Margaret Fuller said, "I accept the universe,"
Carlyle's retort was "Gad! she'd better!" Accepting the universe, however, is for many people a simple matter compared with the far more
intimate act of accepting themselves. 8

3. SELF-CONTROL AND SELF-DEVELOPMENT. Our third criterion, as you


can surmise from the foregoing statements, involves the two factors of selfcontrol and self-development. Self-control means the personal direction
and regulation of one's impulses, thoughts, habits, emotions, attitudes, and
behavior in terms of ideals and principles that are self-imposed and in
terms of requirements imposed by law and by society. That this capacity
is necessary to good adjustment is incontestable; self-control, therefore, is
a part of man's obligations to himself and to society.9 Both personal and
social adjustment (Chapter Fifteen) require that we bring our thoughts,
feelings, and behavi9r into line with accepted or desirable standards. If
we find ourselves unable to control these factors in our personality, if,
in other words, we are compulsive, hysterical, or obsessive and the victims
of worry, anxiety, scruples, temper tantrums, nervous habits, and the like,
it is impossible for us to cope successfully with the tensions and problems
that come our way. The well-adjusted person is in control of his responses
without being rigid; he is adaptable without being impulsive and at loose
ends. Such a person directs his behavior toward the achievement of wellestablished personal goals.
Self-control is the groundwork of self-development, which means the
gradual and continuous growth of personality toward the goals of
8 Fosdick, H. E. On being a real person. New York: Harper, 1943, p. 53. Re-,
printed by permission. In this connection, see Sheerer, E. The relationship between
acceptance ~f self and acce?tance of ot~ers.
c~nS1U~p.sychol., 1949, ~3, 169-175.
9 For numerous expressIOns supportmg thiS View, 'e Tyson. Op. Cit., pp. 31-35.

!.

77

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


maturity and personal achievement. Each step in the process of growth
from infancy to adulthood should be a definite advance toward greater
maturity of thought, emotions, attitudes,! and conduct. Fixation of
responses at the level of infancy, childhood, or adolescence is contrary
to wholesome adjustment. We see instance~ of this sort of fixation (or,
at times, regression) in nail-biting, thumb-s~cking, bed-wetting, temper
tantrums, intense cravings for affection and attention, and similar responses. These examples indicate how closely self-control and self-development are related; one can use the same examples to illustrate either
quality. The reason for this is that self-development, understood as the
gradual realization of maturity, requires continuous growth in selfcontrol. The absence of this quality is a sure sign of immaturity and poor
adjustment.
The consistency with which contemporary writers in the field of
mental hygiene stress the necessity of self-discipline and the intrinsic
capacity of the human being for growth and creative expression is as
striking as it is encouraging. Starting with the idea that happiness is
ordered activity that seeks the fulfillment of desire in accordance with
our general good, Magner points but the major role of self-discipline.
/

Emphasis must be placed on self-discipline, for it is only on this


basis that a person can live maturely and creatively. External guidance
and correctives are generally necessary for the formation of character
and the development of sane attitudes and habits; but unless, this discipline, imposed from the outside, becomes assimilated by the individual
for his own guidance and personal responsibility, its value is very small.1
Compare this statement with the view of Fosdick. Man, he writes,
is the only creature that can consciously help to create itself. The fulfillment of the possibilities of its species may be the primary Junction of a
seedling tree, but the tree is unaware of that fact and cannot? deliberately
cooperate. Man alone consciously assists in--!h~ fUlfillment of his
nature . . . . We are not simply creatures; we-are self-creators. As
Wordsworth put it, "So build we up the Belu'g that' we are." 11
4. PERSONAL INTEGRATION. Personal growth and self-realization culminate in personal integration, which is one.. of the most significant charlO Magner, J. A. Personality and successful living. Milwaukee: Bruce, 1944, p. 53.
Reprinted by permission. (Italics mine.) Likewise, King states! that "a characteristic
of the 'emotionally mature individual is the possession of a sense of discipline which
is very little dependent upon coercion."-King. Op. cit., p~ 22. C. R. Rogers refers
to the same fact in his Counseling and psyt;,h.otberapy. New York: Houghton
Mifflin, 1942, p. 327.
-,
11 Fosdick, H. E. On being a real person. New York: Harper, 1943, p. 2. Reprinted by permission. (Italics mine.) See also Maslow, A. H. Motivation and per;:j;;.dity. New York: Harper, 1954, Chaps. ,XII, XIII.

78

Criteria of Adjustment and Mental Healtb


acteristics of the well-adjusted person and one of the best yardsticks for
determining adjustment level. It is a quality that depends fundamentally
on wholesome development and self-control and refers to the organization
and unification of the many diverse elements of personality into a wellknit, efficiently functioning whole. In the well-integrated person, thoughts
and desires, im'pulses and feelings, attitudes and conduct, and ideals and
motives do not exist or function as isolated parts. He does not experience
the ~eep-seated, emotionally disruptive conflicts that tear apart the personality of the neurotic patient, or the autonomous functioning of the
hysteric, or the splitting of personality that characterizes the schizophrenic patient. Rather, in him there is a basic harmony of striving and
conduct, a patterning of thoughts, feelings, and impulses that keeps the
personality on an even keel and makes possible the resolutions of conflicts
and the reduction of frustrations, without the necessity of developing
defense mechanisms or symptomatic behavior. Good adjustment requires
the efficient marshaling of personal capabilities for the effective handling
of day-to-day problems; and in this process personal integration plays a
dominant role. Allport states, "Psychology's chief contribution to mental
health is the concept of integration, a term less Biblical, but meaning
much the same as St. James's 'single-mindedness.' Integration means the
forging of approximate mental unity out of discordant impulses and
aspirations." 12
5. WELL-DEFINED GOALS AND GOAL DIRECTION. In the achievement
of personal integration, ideals and goals may be expected to exert a great
deal of influence. In adolescence particularly, where clearly defined goals
are often conspicuous by their absence, we can see the relation between
goals and adjustment on the one hand, and goal direction and integration
on the .0therY Ideals and goals are the nucleus around which integration
and adjustive behavior can be centered. The person with well-defined
goals acts with direction, purpose, and organized effort. Aimlessness,
boredom, lack of interest and incentive, and other disabling characteristics
are not likely to trouble the goal-directed person. For this reason, adolescents and young adults must be guided as early as possible to the crystallization of w(lrth-while goals, because in adolescence the forces of
disintegration find a ready soil.14 A good example of the effects of goal
12 Allport. Op. cit., p. 92. See also the discussion of integration by the same
author in Personality: a psychological-interpretation. New York: Holt, 1937, pp.
138-147; Vaughan. Op. cit., pp. 27f-284; Herr, V. V. Integration and self-ideal. In
Arnold, M. B., & Gasson, J. A. (Eds.) The human person: an integral approach to
the theory of personality. New York: Ronald, 1954, pp. 283-293; May, R. Man's
search for himself. New York: Norton, 1953.
13 See Thorpe. Op. cit., pp. 243-244.
14 See Dunlap. Op. cit., Chap. VII; Tyson. Op. cit., pp. 32-33; Schneiders, A. A.
P'ych"'gy 'f
Miiw,"k", Bm~. 1951. P~14-116.
79

,d"""",,,.

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment

striving is the study reported by Child and Whiting. 15 Analysis of incidents in the lives of 151 college students .indicated that the appearance
of renewed striving toward similar goals, as a response to goal attainment,
was associated with increase in the desire I for the attainment of similar
goals, increased confidence in the ability to\achieve similar goals, and the
appearance of new drives directed toward improvement of self-esteem.
The authors suggest the possibility that a general effect of goal attainment is reduction of tension.
6.

ADEQUATE PERSPECTIVE, SCALE OF VALUES, PHILOSOPHY OF

LIFE.

Closely related to the criterion of well-defined goals, is the notion that


adjustment requires an adequate philosophy of life or scale of values. A
scale of values not only contributes to the formulation of goals and ideals
but is important to the achievement of personal integration. By a scale
of values or philosophy of life we mean simply a set of ideas, truths,
beliefs, and principles tbat guide a person in his thinking, in his attitudes
and relations to himself and others, in his perspective regarding reality,
and in his social, moral, and religious behavior. The truths and principles
that a person holds determine his perspective, that is, how he regards
reality, whether as threatening, hostile, friendly, overwhelming, wholly
material, and so on. A person's perspective and philosophy of life determine how he evaluates his obligations and privileges with respect to
himself, society, or God. One's philosophy of life hinges on one's personal value system, that is, what one thinks is valuable or worth while or,
conversely, lacking in value. Thus, if a student regards higher education
as being valuable, his perspective or outlook on education will take form
according to this value. Similarly, if one's outlook is wholly materialistic,
antireligious, or pleasure dominated, one's behavior will continuously
reflect these attitudes. 16
What has all this to do with adjustmen,t and mental health? Adjustment, as we have emphasized repeatedly, requires the efficient handling
of problems and stresses that arise in daily life; and th~. solution of these
problems will be determined by how adequately one can evaluate the
elements in a problem situation. We often hear of people:ocing "all mixed
up," and therefore emotionally disturbed and unhappy. 'Such persons are
mixed up because they are not sure of what is good or bad, right or
wrong. They do not know what course to follow or how the problem
they face can be most effectively resolved. In other words" they lack the
knowledge, ideas, values, or principles that would enable them to reduce
15 Child, I. L., & Whiting, J. W. M. Effects of goal attainment: relaxation versus
renewed striving. J. abnorm. soc. Psychol., 1949, 45, 667-681.
16 On this point see Sheen, F. J. Peace of souL- New York: McGraw-Hill, 1949,
pp. 26-27. See also White. Gp. cit., pp. 352-356; Allport. The individual and his
religion, pp. 225-231. King (Gp. cit., pp. 80-81) points out that the ability to resolve
conflicts and abide by long-term values is necessary to emotional maturity.

80

Criteria of Adjustment and Mental Health

the indecision, vacillation, or conflict that is so emotionally disturbing..


The demands that life makes on people are of many different kinds,
corresponding to the different aspects of reality. Some of these demands
are social or economic, others are moral, religious, and personal. Each one
of these demands has some relation to a person's value system. Values
should be adequate to the requirements of good adjustment to life's
demands, and they should be organized in a way that makes them accessible l and useful in different situations. Let us take the matter of health
as an example. If health is regarded as a value, and the person is dynamically oriented to good health, then he is likely to meet health requirements efficiently by getting enough rest, eating regularly, exercising, and
so on. Such a person will avoid dissipation and will be physically well
adjusted. On the negative side, let us suppose a person regards money as
an end in itself rather than a means of livelihood or pleasure. In this case,
the accumulation of money may lead to miserliness, greed, and other
unfavorable qualities that impair the possibilities of good adjustment. An
adequate scale of values means an ordered value system in which all
things in life and all aspects of reality find their proper place. His value
system gives a person perspective in coping with situations and problems.
Good adjustment requires that we put first things first and relegate to the
bottom of our scale of values those of lesser significanceY
7. SENSE OF HUMOR. Adequate perspective contributes to, and is
complemented by, a healthy sense of humor.IS The capacity for humor
is natural to the human organism; and it is interesting to note how closely
humor and happiness, and lack of humor and unhappiness, are correlated.
The seriously disturbed person, the neurotic, and the psychotic are characteristically deficient in humor, whereas the happy, well-adjusted person
possesses a generous share of this quality. This relation is in part determined by one's perspective and in part by individual make-up. If reality
is regarded as threatening, hostile, or overpowering, there is little room
for joy and laughter: Similarly, where the prevailing feeling or attitude
of the person is one of sadness, melancholy, inadequacy, timidity, fear,
anxiety, or chronic worry, his sense of humor is likely to be blunted. The
difficulties; disappointments, and tribulations of our day-to-day existence
preclude the possibility of unalloyed joy and happiness; nevertheless, for
the well-adjusted person there are many opportunities for enjoyment. He
has a zest for living; and while life has many serious aspects, there is much
room also for joy and humor. It is-here that emotional balance, which we
will discuss later on, plays an important part.
8. SENSE OF RESPONSIBILITY. The capacity for humor, or the ability
17 In this connection, see Bernard. Op. cit., pp. 144-151; Magner, Op. cit., pp.
212-213; Tyson. Op. cit., pp. 33-34.
92-9;~ This relation is pointed up by Allpon in The 1~Vidual and his religion, pp.

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81

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


to see the less serious aspects of life, is not'tp be confused with irresponsibility. The well-adjusted person, while enjoying a zest for living, nevertheless understands and accepts his respo*sibilities.~9 The father who
refuses to provide for the welfare of his' children, the student who
neglects his studies, the teacher who ignoreh the needs of her pupils, or
the employee habitually late for work is II certainly not reacting adequately to the demands rightfully imposed on him; he must be considered maladjusted. Responsibility is an essential aspect of maturity, a
quality that is itself necessary to adjustment. The irresponsible adult is
immature and childish in his attitudes toward what is expected of him.
Inevitably, therefore, he fails-just as, in a grown-up world, a young
child would fail-to meet the demands that arise at home, in school, at
work, or in his social relations. We can see from this how important it
is to fulfill other requirements of adjustment, particularly those discussed
earlier under the headings of self-control, self-development, and adequate scale of values. The person who meets these criteria is not likely
to be irresponsible.
9. MATURITY OF RESPONSE. From everything that ~e have said in
this and the preceding chapter, it. is clear that maturity of response is an
essential criterion of effective adjustment. 2o We have already dealt with
this important quality in Chapter Three. Here we wish to emphasize its
function as a yardstick of adjustment and to develop further its implications for healthful living. Maturity, as we have seen, implies wholesome
and adequate development of basic struc,tures, capacities, and needs,
acceptance of responsibilities, and growth of personality and behavior
toward a well-ordered, satisfying adult life. The level of adjustment,
then, can be gauged from many different standpoints, where maturity is
concerned. Not only are physical, spcial, and emotional maturity required; there must also be maturity in the areas of morality and religion.
Cheating, lying, failing to keep promises, stealing, vandalism, and the like,
are clear instances of moral immaturity. Similarly, violations of the Ten
Commandments, failure to meet religious 06ligati<;>~_ swearing and
blaspheming, religious hatreds, prejudices, and persecutions-all are examples of religious immaturity. To state- the matter concisely, good
adjustment requires maturity in every department of human conduct and
personality; and to the extent that there is failure or defiCiency in any
one area, to that extent is maladjustment likely to occur. 21
19 Karen Horney emphasizes this point in Our inner conflicts. New York:
Norton, 1945, p. 242.
I
20 See the excellent treatment of immaturity..and adj{rstment in Cameron, N., &
Magaret, A. Behavior pathology. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1951, Chaps. VI and VII.
See also Warters, J. Achieving maturity. New York; McGraw-Hill, 1949; Symonds.
Op. cit., pp. 385-386.
21 <;;"c Vaughan. Op. cit., Chap. III, especially pp. 85-89.
,

82

Criteria of Adjustment and Mental Health


10. DEVELOPMENT OF WORTH-WHILE HABITS. We may assume that if
a person adequately meets the preceding criteria of adjustment, it is not
likely that he will fail to develop worth-while habits; yet worth-while
habits are a criterion that requires special emphasis. A great many of our
day-to-day adjustments are effected through the medium of habitual
behavior, and it is not uncommon for good adjustment to be impaired
by inefficient and faulty habit systems. Habits are particularly important
to th~ quality of efficiency, both mental and physical; and we have already
noted the close relation between efficiency and adjustment. This relation
is easy to understand. Since adjustment requires solving problems and
coping successfully with whatever demands arise in our daily lives, certainly we are better off if we have trained ourselves to respond quickly
and with a minimum of effort to such situations. The person, for example,
who has developed efficient work habits will meet the demands of his
job more effectively than one who has no work habits at all. W orthwhile habits are helpful also in marital relations, recreation, moral conduct, and many other areas where adjustment is necessary. Conversely,
inefficient and unwholesome habits, such as laziness, procrastination, indecision, uncritical judgment, prejudice, and tardiness, preclude or destroy good adjustment. The development of worth-while habits, as you
can see, is an aspect of the criteriQn of self-control and self-development,
which we described earlier in this chapter. 22
The possession of worth-while and wholesome habits is similar to
the possession of virtues, which are themselves habits of mind that are
important to the achievement of adjustment and mental health. Patience,
consideration of others, charity, forbearance, dependability, courage, and
integrity are typical of the great human virtues that can be crucial in
coping with conflicts or in achieving adjustment and peace of mind. 23
The patient mother, for example, has a much better chance of meeting
the requirements of motherhood than one who is chronically impatient.
The virtue of integrity has basic implications for many conflict situations
22 A thorough treatment of this aspect of mental hygiene and adjustment is
contained in Bernard: Op. cit., Chap. IV, Habit formation in a mental hygiene program. Bernard summarizes the importance of habits very well in his opening paragraph, "Mental hygiene has been defined as a way of life; and the manner of one's
life is in no small way determined by the habits ,,=hich have been formed. If man is
to acquire control over his life that is fundamental to mental health, he must guide
the formation and reformation of the -habits that constitute so large a part of his
daily living. Since habits are the foundation of many common activities, the person
who is interested in the achievement and maintenance of mental health must have
an understanqing of their nature and functioning."-p. 80. By permission from
Toward better personal adjustment, by H. W. Bernard. Copyright, 1951. McGrawHill Book Company, Inc.
23 ~ee, for example, Steckle, Op. cit., p. 95, where courage is used to identify the

w'lI-,dj~red ;"dividll,l.

83

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


that arise from day to day at work, at home, or at school. There is little
difference here, as you can see, between the notions of worth-while
habits and virtues; both function more or l~ss as dynamic dispositions to
respond in certain definite ways, and both are of great value in helping
to ensure efficient and wholeso~e adjustmehts. Here, again, self-control
and self-development, fortified by a sound, scale of values, can be exploited to great advantage in meeting this criterion, because the growth
of virtues is dependent on each one of these factors.
11. ADAPTABILITY. The relation we have just defined between habits
and adjustment makes it doubly important to emphasize another criterion
of good adjustment, namely, the capacity for change, or adaptability.
You already know from general psychology and from your own experience that habitual responses are likely to be invariable and rigid; whereas
adjustment, because of the constant changes in both personality and
environment, is dynamic in character. Some elasticity ot resilience, therefore, is necessary to keep pace with these constantly changing conditions.
Our emphasis on habits should not be taken to mean that adjustment is
favored by rigidity of response. ad the contrary, in numerous instances,
the fixity and rigidity of habit are detrimental to efficient adjustment.
The whole issue depends on the/kind of habit that is involved. There are
many habits, such as those described in the preceding section, that are of
such a nature that the necessity for change :lnd adaptation leaves them
untouched. Certainly, many religious, moral, and personal habits belong
to this category. For example, habits of cleanliness, good speech, heatness,
punctuality, logical thinking, charity, and chastity are not likely to require
a great deal of modification, because in all situations they contribute to
efficient adjustment. It is because of this quality that we used the adjective
"worth-while" in describing them.
Apart from these worth-while habits, however, there are many
fixed response patterns that must on occasion be disrupted, and others
substituted in their place. In adulthood, the dt;pendence of childhood
must be replaced by independence; and when one-loses,or.changes a job,
the old ways of doing things may have to bl: radically-- altered. If death
strikes mother or father, the remaining patent must adapt his responses
to the new situation. Many marriages Jiil from the outset because of the
reluctance of one or both of the partners to give up their old response
patterns and adopt new ones to fit the new situation. As we have indicated several times, adjustment is a dynamic process r'equirFng constant
change and adaptation; and the more fixed responses are, the more difficult it is to' meet changing demands. This fact_ lies behind the devastating
effects on personality of old-age retirement:'"Many men who have worked
for thirty or forty years, often in the same position, find it impossible to
adjust to the pattern of retirement. They are lost in a world of strange
and uninteresting activities and relations
that very quickly lead to dis,_,
84

Criteria of Adjustment and Mental Health


satisfaction, moodiness, or depression, qualities of mind that often are
the forerunners of serious maladjustment. Good adjustment, therefore,
depends on a high level of adaptability.
12. FREEDOM FROM DISABLING OR SYMPTOMATIC RESPONSES. The
absence of disabling responses is one of the most direct means of evaluating adjustment level. Maladjustment has a way of expressing itself
rather quickly in overt responses as well as in mental symptoms. The
person who shows no such telltale response is probably making a fair
or good adjustment. Thus, freedom from insomnia, sleepwalking, tics,
compulsive behavior, functional disturbances, psychosomatic ailments,
chronic fatigue, and the like, is a fairly good indication that the person
is reacting efficiently to situations as they arise. This criterion is not
absolute; at best, it is a rule of thumb for the quick evaluation of adjustment level, but it is certainly a good starting point for evaluation.
The twelve criteria so far described are, as we indicated earlier, most
directly related to personal adjustment. They refer specifically to qualities
and characteristics that the individual should possess within himself to
achieve or maintain adjustment. Let us now turn to those criteria that
affect his relations with others and with the world of reality.
13. ABILITY ITO GET ALONG WITH AND TAKE AN ACTIVE INTEREST IN
OTHER PEOPLE. Man is by nature a social being; therefore, in order to
meet the requirements or standards of good adjustment, he must be able
to get along with other people. This quality, of course, is the essence of
social adjustment. To get along with other people means a great many
things. It means, first of. all and perhaps most importantly, the development of wholesome, friendly relations. It means the enjoyment of human
companionship. It means respect for the rights, opinions, and personalities of persons with whom we come into contact. It means a high regard
for the personal integrity and worth of our fellowmen.
In addition, good adjustment requires a sincere interest in other
people. Social living involves participation in the experiences, hopes,
dreams, ambitions, disappointments, and failures of those with whom we
live. We cannot afford to be merely passive spectators in the daily drama
of social relations; we inust take an active interest in the lives of other
people. We must, therefore, develop within ourselves the virtues of
neighborly love, of sympathy, of compassion, and of sincere altruism.
Only with these qualities can we ~ashion a social order within which the
conflicts and difficulties of human relations can be adequately resolved.
14. WIDE RANGE OF INTERESTS IN WORK AND PLAY. The wholesome
social orientation of well-adjusted people is complemented by a wide
range of interests in both work and play. These interests are necessary
to adjustment because of the varying demands of both work and play.
It is difficult, if not impossible, to adjust well t? f,he requirements of work
that is uninteresting or even boring. Before ~1 there is distaste, then

85

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


revulsion, and finally hatred of the work that must be done. None of
these feelings is compatible with good vocational adjustment.
Moreover, like everything else, our voc~tions have a way of changing. We may decide to start a new career? or we may be summarily
moved from one kind of work to another; eiFher cllange requires a range
of work interests if we are to derive any I satisfaction from the shift.
Similarly, opportunities or changing social situations may force a shifting
about of our play (avocational) interests. In the course of time, we often
change membership in social groups, or we leave the family circle to
establish a home of our own, or we just grow up into adulthood, and
in all these changes there is the ever-recurring possibility that new play
and amusement patterns will emerge. Thus many a lonely wife has found
her reading interests of great value in filling hours that otherwise would
have been wasted in self-pity or frustration. And many others have
discovered that a wide range of interests has been the key to success in
both social and vocational adjustments. Here again we see that the constantly changing pattern of our lives and our interpersonal relations
requires certain qualities for adequate adjustment. In a much simpler
society, where change is the exception rather than the rule, some of the
criteria we have emphasized would have little validity.
15. SATISFACTION IN WORK AND PLAY. In addition to interest, good
adjustment requires that our work and play activities provide satisfying
experiences. The chances are, of course, that where there is interest
there will be satisfaction also. But interest is not the sole deterrriinant of
satisfyingness. The effects of play and work will be influenced also by
the nature of the activity, the conditions in, which it takes place, personal
gains that are derived, the extent to which abilities are utilized, the
absence of sources of conflict, and the degree of achievement realized.
Anyone of these factors might reduce the satisfaction normally associated
with the activity.' It is this possibility that forces us to recognize satisfaction, as an additional criterion of adjustment.,

.--....,.._

In most instances, the reason for an unmanagea1:l1e imagination and


for nervous hysteria is to be found, at least partially, in the failure to
develop positive outlooks through creative mental activity and intellectual interests. A person who is interested in the world of affairs, of books,
of hobbies, and above all in his own work, is not likely to become the
prey of every passing fancy, worry, or phantasm. A person with a wellstocked mind will not find it difficult to drive out mental weeds and
ro~~

The development of intellectual_imerests, of course, can hardly


serve a constructive purpose if it is merely an escape, even from noxious
mental and imaginative activity. There should always be, some positive objec:ive in view, some idea of making oneself more useful to society, some
,

86

Criteria of Adjustment and Mental Health


broadening and deepening of one's understanding and sympathies, some
expression of one's creative talents. For this reason, the careful selection
of a hobby, whether it be stamp collecting, music, art, or anyone of a
thousand activities that mean systematic and progressive mental development, is a wise and fruitful form of self-discipline.
Persons who can co-ordinate their activities in line with their
special work, and take their supreme interest and pleasure in their work,
have learned the inner secret of this development. 24

16. ADEQUATE ORIENTATION TO REALITY. As our final criterion of


adjustment, we include adequate orientation to reality in all its different
aspects. This implies'a proper perspective regarding the spatial world in
which we live, the important factor of time, and the existence of a
spiritual world that includes a Divine Being. Let us cite some examples
to illustrate the principle of orientation. The deluded person in a mental
hospital may believe that a part of his body is missing or that nonexistent
people are in his room. He is disoriented with respect to spatial realities
and is seriously maladjusted. So, too, the spiritualist who denies the
existence of the material world and acts as though it does not exist is
poorly adjusted to reality. The paranoiac who insists that he is God
is disoriented in regard to spiritual reality. You can see that good adjustment requires a truly realistic attitude, one that enables the person to
accept reality as it is rather than in terms of what his wishes or fears
determine that it shall be. If God exists, then we cannot afford to be
atheistic if we wish to maintain an adequate orientation to reality. If our
parents are dead, then we are maladjusted if we believe that they are
still a part of our reality.
Good adjustment necessitates, further, a proper orientation to time. 25
There are persons for whom the only worth-while aspects of life are those
that are a part of the past. They live in a dream world of past events.
They cherish thoughts of their childhood, when everything was happy
and serene. The present is an ugly reality, and the future a frightening
possibility. Similarly, persons who, through the mechanism of amnesia,
blot out the past, and those who have no regard for their future welfare are
poorly oriented to time. Among them are the people for whom the present
24

Magner, ]. A. Personality and successful living. Milwaukee:- Bruce, 1944, pp.

58-59. Reprinted by permission. (Italics mine.) See also Tyson. Op. cit., Chap. X.
25 In defining the -meaning oLmanlrity, Adolf Meyer emphasizes the importance
of a good orientation to temporal aspects of reality. He argues that hindsight, or the
capacity to use the past rather than merely suffer from it is necessary to adjustment;
that insight should be used to cope with present realities, and that creative opportunities can be realized through a healthy foresight.-The meaning of maturity. In
Fisher, D. C., & Gruenberg, S. M. (Eds.) Our children. New York: Viking Press,
1932, p. 168. Adequate orientation to other aspects of reality is emphasized in many
book, d~ling wiili ,he ,mblem nf .di"''"'w,.
~
87-

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


is the only important part of time. "Eat, drink, and be merry ... " is the
philosophy they live by, a philosophy that leaves no room for adequate
.
\
orientation to the future.
Finally, there are those for whom the future is the most important
reality, past and present being regarded merely as steppingstones to future
possibilities. The overambitious person belongs to this group; so does the
person who' overloads himself with insurance and retirement policies to
guarantee a future that he works himself to death to achieve. Proper
orientation to time is closely related to our sixth criterion regarding adequate perspective and a sound scale of values; fortified with these qualities,
it is not likely that one will become disoriented with respect to past,
present, or future.
Looking back at these sixteen criteria or yardsticks of good adjustment, you will see that they are closely related to each other. Very often,
in fact, one is actually a part of the other. Some of them, like self-insight,
adaptation, self-development, and adequate perspective permeate the
process of adjustment; others are less ,pervasive in character, yet of direct
importance to wholesome living. All of them are of inestimable value in
understanding and evaluating the adjustment process.

Specific Criteria of Menta!,'H ealth 26


You will recall that in Chapter Three we made a careful distinction
between adjustment and mental health, at the same time recognizing their
interdependence. This difference makes it necessary to identify and
describe the criteria of mental health as distinct from those of adjustment.
In this way, the meanings of and relations between adjustment and mental
health will be still further clarified.
1. ADEQUATE CONTACT WITH REALITY. The first of the criteria of
mental health, and one of the most important, is adequate contact with
reality. The close similarity between this concept and Criterion 16 of the
preceding section is apparent, and at times it is difficult to keep them
apart; yet proper orientation to reality is not the~ same_ thing as adequate
contact with reality. Orientation refers specifically to attitude toward
reality; contact refers to the manner in which or extent to which we
accept reality, reject it, or run away from it.27 Thus the person who 'overemphasizes the past is poorly oriented to reality, whereas one who substitutes fantasy for reality has rejected it. Poor orientation is most likely
to be associated with maladjustment and neurotic disorders; whereas
inadequate contact with reality is found characteristically in the mentally
;

In this connection, see Eaton, J. W. The assessment of mental health, Amer.


,. Psychiat., 1951, 108, 81-90; Smith, M. B. Opd;;;a of mental health, Psycbiatry,
1950, 13, 503-510.
21 For a good discussion of what facing reality means, see Vaughan. Op. cit.,
Chap. II, especially pp. 32-36.
26

88

Criteria of Adjustment and Mental Health


disordered patient, such as the schizophrenic. The boundary lines are not
sharp, and the distinction must not be overdrawn; rather, we should
think of the organism's relations to reality as being on a continuum,' with
very good contact or orientation at the one extreme, complete disorientation and extreme flight from reality at the other. Important here
is the fact that both good -adjustment and mental health absolutely require a wholesome relation with the world of things, people, events, and
other realities with which we come into daily contact.
2. HEALTHY ATTITUDES. A good, wholesome relation to reality is
helped along a great deal by sound, healthy attitudes. 28 These attitudes,
as you know from general psychology, are states of mind that we assume
toward our work, friends, religion, racial groups, death, and a thousand
other things that we run across in our lives. Take, for example, the attitude toward racial groups. It is impossible for us to be mentally healthy
when we are plagued by deep-seated hatreds and prejudices towards
Jews, or Negroes, or Orientals. Hatred and prejudice are to mental health
what certain bacteria and toxins are to physical health. 29 Similarly, if we
are anxious about or emotionally opposed to our work, it is difficult to
maintain mental stability. Or, if our concern about health leads to microphobia or hypochondria, mental health is in danger of disruption. It is
interesting and instructive to note that these basic attitudes are often
rooted in a person's scale of values (Criterion 6), and therefore the
development of healthy attitudes will depend largely on the fulfillment
of this requirement.
3. CONTROL OF THOUGHT AND IMAGINATION. Both of the foregoing
criteria are intimately related to the control of thought and imagination.
It is well known, for example, that imagination is the source of fantasy
thinking and daydreaming, mechanisms by which the disturbed or maladjusted person seeks to escape reality. An unbridled imagination, therefore, is detrimental to mental health because it impairs the relation between
mind and reality. Conversely, control of thinking can aid a great deal
in developing healthy attitudes, as well as in furthering a wholesome perspective regarding reality. In the absence of such control, people become
subject to obsessions, fixed ideas, phobias, flight of ideas, verbigeration,
and a host of other symptoms that characterize neurotic and psychotic
personalities. You will see, of course, that this criterion of mental health
is the counterpart of the criterion of self-control developed earlier in this
chapter (Criterion 3, pp. 77-78)"
4. MENTAL EFFICIENCY. The control of thought and other mental
abilities is of basic importance to the achievement of mental efficiency.
We have seen already (Chapter Three) that mental health and mental
Anderson, J. E. The relation of attitude to adjustment, Education, 1952,73,210.
On the effects of hatred and race prejudice on mental health, see Moore, T. V.
Pm_l m,""l
Chap. VI. Now Yo,k, G~ & SUanon, 1944. 89
28
29

b,,'m,.

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


efficiency are not the same thing; nor would it be correct to say that the
absence of efficiency is a sign of mental illness. Yet the capacity to utilize
factors like intelligence, volition, and meqlOry effecti~ely encourages
mental stability. It is certainly significant that emotionally disturbed,
neurotic, or psychotic persons are charact6ristically lacking in mental
efficiency. And, conversely, efficiency is ass6ciated with mentally stable
personalities. Mental efficiency, therefore, may be taken as a reliable signpost of mental stability.
5. INTEGRATION OF THOUGHT AND CONDUCT. Important to mental
health, also, is the integration of thought with conduct. Discrepancies
between what we think and what we do never foster mental stability.
Integration hinges on the factor of personal integrity, which itself may
be regarded as a criterion of healthiness of mind. Integrity is determined
by consistent and reliable behavior that instills faith, trust, and confidence
in those with whom one deals. The pathological liar, the swindler, the
moral psychopath, and the criminal ate all lacking in personal integrity
and are characterized by a pathologlcal mentality. In many such cases,
there is a consistent discrepancy between thought and conduct, which
impairs the organization of responses as well as mental stability. This
criterion should be related to/ the concept of personal integration
(Criterion 4, pp. 78-79) outlined in the preceding section.
6. INTEGRATION OF MOTIVES AND RESOLUTION OF CONFLICTS. The integration of thought with conduct is paralleled in the mentally healthy
person by the ability to integrate personal motivations. 3o This' quality,
too, is intrinsically related to the criterion of personal integration. It is
well known to those who deal with maladjustment and mental illness that
at the basis of many serious disturbances of personality is antagonism or
conflict between motives. The need for'affection or security may conflict
with certain personal desires; the sex drive may conflict with moral ideals
and principles; the craving for amusement ofte~ conflicts with ideals of
responsibility or with integrity. These divergent tendencies must be
brought into proper relation with each other ifmental stability is to be
maintained. Here, of course, the qualities of self-control, adequate scale
of values, mental efficiency, and maturity of response-will exert a great
deal of influence. By the application of these qualities integration of
motives can be achieved.
Integration of motives must be complemented by wholesome resolution of mental conflicts; and it goes without saying that/where- integration
exists _the expert handling of conflicts can be expected. This criterion"
therefore, may be interpreted simply as an extensi9n of the criterion of
integration; yet it must be emphasized th-a~t~is additional step is neces~-

30 The ability to resolve mental conflicts is listed by King (Op. cit., p. 81) as one
of the significant criteria of maturity. The problem of conflict is dealt with in
Chap. Eight of the present text.

90

Criteria of Adjustment and Mental Health


sary for the achievement or maintenance of mental stability. Continuous
conflict is intolerable because of the damaging effect it has on one's
peace of mind; it produces chronic emotional tension that is inimical to
mental health, and this state of affairs cannot be corrected until the conflict is resolved. Because of this intimate relation between conflict and
mental health, the problem of conflict has received considerable attention
in recent years.
7. FEELINGS OF SECURITY AND BELONGING. The capacity to integrate
motives and resolve conflicts is bulwarked by certain basic feelings, particularly feelings of security and belonging. The insecure person-one
who doubts his own abilities, personal worth, or status-will find it
difficult to meet any of the criteria of mental health, and particularly the
requirement regarding mental conflict. To cope adequately with different
aspects of reality, to integrate thought and conduct, and to direct one's
energies and abilities effectively, one must be reasonably sure of himself.
The feeling of insecurity, which stems from rejection, chronic failure, or
personal weaknesses, makes it impossible to meet these criteria. Hence,
in a crucial situation that calls for decisive action or efficient thinking (to reduce conflicts and frustrations), the insecure person is hesitant or vacillating. Not being sure of himself, he shrinks from the
demands of the situation and tends to develop defensive mechani~ms that
will afford some relief from the conflicts and anxieties that insecurity
breeds.
The feeling of inner security is helped along by the conviction of
belonging. As a social animal, man needs to feel that he is wanted, that
there is some person or group with which he has strong emotional ties.
Parental rejection, ostracism from a social group, or intense rivalries and
jealousies are all detrimental to this sense of belonging. And you can see
that once these emotional ties and identities are disrupted there is little
chance for the growth of personal security. What we feel and think
regarding ourselves is always in some measure a reflection of our relation
with others; thus the person who is wanted, who is made to feel that
there is a secure place for him in the network of social relations in which
he lives, is likely to develop a feeling of inner security and a wholesome
attitude toward himself that augur well for mental stability.
8. ADEQUATE CONCEPT OF SELF. Mental health requires an adequate
concept of self. Just as a person must maintain a proper perspective and
orientation to objective reality, so, too, must he learn to think of himself
in a wholesome manner. Obviously, feelings of personal inadequacy,
inferiority, or insecurity do not foster a healthy self-concept. Feelings
of inadequacy may be compensated by damaging egotism or an attitude
of superiority, or they may result in exaggeration of deficiencies and
feelings of worthlessness. In any case, an inadequate concept of self disrupt' the relatiOn< between "If and rcaIitY:{j that it bccomcs9~orc

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


difficult to meet other criteria of mental health,31 It would be worth your
while to compare this notion with the criterion of self-acceptance
.
described in an earlier section of this chapter.\
The effect of the self-concept on mental ,health and adjustment has
received a great deal of attention from many ,different quarters in recent
years. Writers in the field of abnormal psycholdgy, psychoanalysis, mental
hygiene, and personality development have ali been quick to point out
that a wholesome concept of self, based upon objectivity, common sense,
humility, and an adequate scale of values, is a desideratum of mental
stability. Thus, Karen Horney, in her stimulating and provocative chapter
"The Tyranny of the Should," writes,
Unlike Pygmalion, who tried to make another person into a creature
fulfilling his concept of beauty, the neurotic sets to mold himself into a
supreme being of his own making. He holds before his soul his image
of perfection and unconsciously teUs himself: "Forget about the disgraceful creature you actually are; this is how you should be; and to be
this idealized self is all that matters~ You should be able to endure everything, to understand everything, to like everybody, to be always productive"-to mention only a few of these inner dictates. Since they are
inexorable, I call them "the ty;anny of the should." 32

The inner dictates, exactly like political tyranny in a police state,


operate with a supreme disregard for the person's own psychic condition-for what he can feel or do as he is at present. 33

These inner dictates, Horney points out, maintain the idealized image and
do not aim at real change but at immediate and absolute perfection. The
shoulds, therefore, lack the moral seriousness of genuine ideals and standards and eventually lead to neurotic disability and maladjustment. 34
Moore expresses much the same thought in anQJ~er way. Referring
to the intellectual and emotional debilitation that i;characteristic of
many inadequate personalities, he says,
31 Stock, D. The self-concept and feelings toward others. J. consult~ Psychol:,
1949, 13, 176-180. See also Calvin and Holtzman. Op. cit. 39--44; Curran, F. ]. &
Frosch, J. The body image in adolescent boys, J. genet. Psychol., 1942, 60, 37-60;
Snygg, D. & Combs, A. W. Individual behavior. New York: Harper, 1949, Chaps.
V-VII; Hanlon, T. E. Hofstaetter, P. R. & O'Conner, ]. P. Congruence of self and
ideal self in relation to personality adjustment. J. consult. Psy.chol., 1954, 18,215-218.
32 Horney, K. Neurosis and human growth . . New York: Norton, 1950, pp.
64-65. Reprinted by permission.
../ - .
33 Ibid., p. 67. See also p. 158 for Horney's views on the idealized self.
34 See Havighurst, R. ]. Robinson, M. Z. & Dorr, M. The development of the
ideal self in childhood and adolescence. J. educ. Res., 1946, 40, 241-257.

92

Criteria of Adjustment and Mental Health


There seems to be a common factor involved in all. Why does the
mind cling to the pathological major that all the world must know and
sympathize when it is persecuted? Why, unless the ego sets a wholly
unbalanced and biased value upon the self, exaggerating the importance
of self and seeking to place the self in a center of interest and esteem
for all?
Why does the mind build up the conviction of personal excellence
to such an extent that truth and justice are blinded and it can no longer
see its own defects and be conscious of its own guilt? Why, unless the
ego persists in cherishing an ideal of personal excellence to such a
degree that it cannot allow self-estimation to be lowered by admitting
the presence of guilt or defect of any kind whatsoever? 35
Why indeed, "unless the ego has been made the supreme end of life in a
conflict that has been carried on by a neurotic drive to 'seem' rather than
the rational mode of warfare that aims at accomplishment by labor, honest
self criticism, and personal sacrifice? "36
As Fosdick reminds us, man at his best
is distinguished by his capacity to have both an actual and a desired self.
'Even when we run to catch a bus we are not driven, as the bus is, by
posterior force, but are drawn from before by an imagined picture of
ourselves seated in the bus and going to our destination. Purposive activity, in which the future tense becomes causative, is man's glory, and
nowhere more so than in the development of personality. This faculty,
however, can function so abnormally that it tears life to pieces. The
ideal confronts the actual, and taunts it; our existent selves see our
idealized selves tantalizingly out of reach, and are distraught; in view of
the unattainable that we wish, we become disgusted and discouraged
with the actual that we are. 37
Here, more than in any other area of personal existence, the virtue of
humility and the destructive force of pride can play dominant roles in the
mental health or ill-health of the individual..A healthy self-concept leaves
ample room for humility and meekness and banishes the foolish pride that
leads to the development of egotism and megalomania. a8
The disastrous effects of neurotic pride remind us again of the important connection between adjustment, morality, and religion. Qualities
35 Moore, T. V. Personal mental hygiene. New York: Grune & Stratton, 1944,
p. 114. Reprinted by permission.
36 Moore, T. V. Personal mental hygiene. New York: Grune & Stratton, 1944,
p. 114. Reprinted by permission.
37 Fosdick, H. E. On being a real person. New York: Harper, 1943, pp. 52-53.
Reprinted by permission.
38 On this point, see Magner, Op. cit., Chap. III. Self-perspective and success,

"'"J on Chd,,', b",hod, ''EI""d '" "" m"k, f~h'Y

,hill

p='~ 'h~~'nd."

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


like pride and humility are obviously of a' moral character, and their
relation to adjustment and mental health indicates; as O. H. Mowrer has
pointed out a number of times, that the'problem of neurosis and mental
disorder is to a grave extent a moral one. Not is this ',-"riter alone in his
opinion. In her last book, Horney devoted an ehtire chapter to the subject
of neurotic pride. 39 Allport, too, emphasize~ the intrinsic connection
between pride and neurosis. He says,
I
Any neurotic is living a life which in some respects is extreme in its
self-centeredness. Even though many of his individual sentiments may
be altruistic, the region of his misery represents a complete preoccupation with himself. The very nature of the neurotic disorder is tied to
pride. If the sufferer is hypersensitive, resentful, captious, he may be
indicating a fear that he will not appear to advantage in competitive
situations where he wants to show his worth ... If he is over-scrupulous
and self-critical, he may be endeavoring to show how praiseworthy he
really is. Thus, though involuntary, partially unconscious, and uncontrollable in any direct way, most jneuroses are, from the point of view
of religion, mixed with the sin of pride. A more becoming basic humility,
held in the religious perspectiye, could not help but improve the state
of the sufferer's conscience, and thus indirectly affect favorably his
mental health. 40

Relations such as that between pride and neurosis make the development
of a wholesome self-concept one of the most important factors in the
achievement of mental health.
9. ADEQUATE EGO-IDENTIFICATION. The growth of an adequate selfconcept, devoid of neurotic pride, unr~alistic aims, and the tyranny of
irrational superego demands, is an important step toward adequate egoidentification. In the ceaseless struggle to cope with the requirements of
self and of reality, and to deal resolutely with threats, frustrations, and
conflicts, we must have a firm grip on our own identity. We mllst know
who and what we are. We must know something of~;background and
heritage, our purposes and goals in life, and our final destiny. We must,
in other words, be able to identify ourselves, to recognize ourselves as
distinct and separate from other persons, 'and yet do so without becoming
seclusive and isolated. Disturbed, unhappy, or neurotic people are confused or isolated, or they are lost in a vortex of complex; changing relations t~at destroys their personal identity. This state of affairs is often
brought about by failure to achieve wholesome identifications in childhood, especially with one or other of the-parents, or by inadequate
"

_/-,

Horney. Neurosis and human growth, Chap. IV.


Allport, G. W. The individual and his religion. New York: Macmillan, 1950,
pp. 94-95. Reprinted by permission.
39
40

94

Criteria of Adjustment and Mental Health


identifications, particularly those occurring in adolescence. White gives
us a clear account of what he calls the stabilizing of ego-identity.
Ego identity refers to the self or the person one feels oneself to be.
In infancy the sense of identity is little developed, but progressive experience brings sharper _outline and clearer definition. . . . Gradually
the sense of identity becomes a fuller and richer establishment, compounded of bodily sensation, feelings, images of one's body, the sound
'of one's name, the continuity of one's memories, and an increasing
number of social judgments delivered through the words and behavior
of others. During adolescence there is a time when ego identity becomes _
heavily dependent on the judgments of one's peers. "The danger of this
stage," says Erikson, "is role diffusion. It is primarily the inability to
settle on an occupational identity which disturbs young people. To
keep themselves together they temporarily overidentify, to the point
of apparent complete loss of identity, with the heroes of cliques and
crowds." Once this difficult period has been traversed, however, ego
identity can continue its development along less diffuse channels.41

With some people, as White points out, ego-identity does not seem to
grow more stable during adolescence or adulthood. Fixations at immature
levels of development occur, as seems to happen in some cases at' homosexuality and certainly in many psychopathic personalities, or there is
regression to earlier ways of behaving; and thus the capacity for effective
action is seriously handicapped. Conversely, "as ego identity grows more
stably autonomous, the person becomes capable of having a more consistent and lasting effect upon his environment. The more sure he becomes
about his own nature and peculiarities, the more solid is the nucleus from
which his activity proceeds."42
10. A HEALTHY EMOTIONAL LIFE. A wholesome self-concept is also
one of the best guarantees of a healthy emotional life, which is universally
recognized as a prime requisite of mental stability. Feelings and emotions
can be the most disruptive forces that militate against good adjustment
and mental stability, as illustrated by the many examples of maladjustment
used in these discussionsY Anxiety, worry, obsessive fears, temper tantrums, apathy, jealousy, hostility, and hatred belong to the category of
emotionally disrupting forces that impair mental health. Emotional health
is an integral part of mental health because emotions pervade mental life;
therefore, emotional adequacy,_which we defined in the preceding chapter
41 White, R. W. Lives in progress. New York: Dryden, 1952, 332-333. Reprinted
by permission.
42 Ibid., p. 334. King (Op. cit., p. 25) cites Franz Alexander to the effect that
identification is the most important mechanism in the development of a mature ego.
43 See Shaffer, L. F. The psychology of adjustment. Boston: Houghton Mifflin,

19)6, pp. 40-53.

95

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


in terms of control, depth, and range, becomes a criterion by which
mental health can be evaluated. In the absence of emotional control, or
in cases where the range and depth of emotion are inadequate, mental
health is most likely to be disrupted. 44
11. MENTAL TRANQUILLITY OR PEACE OF JINO. Peace, said the great
Saint Augustine, is the tranquillity of order, \which we may paraphrase
by saying that mental peace requires a well-ordered mind. Many of the
foregoing criteria of mental health are oriented to peace of mind. In
fact, we can be sure that if all these criteria are met, tranquillity of mind
is assured. Where, in other words, there is adequate contact with reality,
emotional harmony, feelings of security and belonging, control of thought
and imagination, integration of motives, and so on, there is bound to be
peace of mind. And this, very appropriately, is the final and most important criterion by which to judge mental stability. Mental health and peace
of mind are the two sides of one coin; we cannot have the one without
the other. In one way or another, all mental hygiene principles and treatments are directed toward this significant quality.
As a final word, we should point out that mental health, like adjustment, can be judged in terms of the absence of disabling symptoms. This
idea is implied repeatedly throughout the foregoing discussion and therefore should require little emphasis here. It must be clear that the development of symptomatic responses, such as daydreaming, loss of memory,
delusions, hallucinations, obsessions, and fixed ideas, is directly opposed to
mental stability; and, conversely, that the achievement or mainterrance of
mental health precludes the development of such symptoms. These relations will become clearer later on when we analyze the nature and
functions of symptomatic responses (Chapter Eight).
We should not assume that these are; all the criteria of adjustment and
mental health. You can find many others described in the books listed at
the end of this chapter. Adjustment and mental health are extremely
complex phenomena, and it would take a large volume to describe all
their qualities. But there are certain criteria that ~are o(P!imary significance in the interpretation of these phenomena; and it is such criteria
that we have tried to describe in this chapter. SUMMARY

This chapter is a study of the criteria by which adjustment and


mental health can be evaluated. To determine what these criteria are, we
first of all examined their relation to the natur~ of adjustment and mental
44 Arnolp, M. B. & Gasson, ]. A. Feelings andEmotions as Dynamic Factors in
Personality Integration. In Arnold and Gasson (Eds.) Op. cit., pp. 294-313. See
also S::hneiders, A. A. Emotional development in children. Education, 1951, 72,
216-223.

96

Criteria of Adjustment and Mental Health


health and to the general criterion of normality defined in the preceding
chapter. Criteria are standards or yardsticks for judging the degree of
adjustment; they are specific qualities of adjustment or mental health
that are made explicit by analysis and that form the groundwork for the
development of practical principles of mental hygiene and psychotherapy.
Because mental health and adjustment are distinct, it was necessary
to develop a set of criteria for each. For adjustment, we were able to
identify sixteen criteria, organized in terms of the general notion that
good adjustment requires adequate relations toward self, toward society,
and toward God. These criteria included such factors as self-knowledge,
insight, self-acceptance, self-control, integration, well-defined goals, scale
of values, humor, responsibility, maturity, and adequate orientation to
reality. All these criteria are closely related and interdependent. The
specific criteria of mental health are, in turn, related to those singled out
for adjustment. They include good contact with reality, healthy attitudes,
mental efficiency, integration of thought, motives, and conduct, resolution of conflicts, adequate self-concept, emotional stability, and peace of
mind. Each criterion was briefly defined and related to other qualities of
mental health and adjustment.
QUESTIONS, EXERCISES, AND PROJECTS

1. Explain fully the relation between (a) the nature of adjustment and
criteria; (b) criteria and principles of adjustment.

2. Can you explain why it is necessary to distinguish the criteria of


adjustment and those of mental health?
3. What is the difference between adequate orientation to reality and
adequate contact with reality?
4. Relate the criterion of healthy attitudes to the criteria of self-acceptance, feelings of -security and belonging, ability to get along with
others, satisfaction in work, and adequate concept of self.
5. What is the importance to mental health of a wholesome emotional
life?
6. Is lack of mental efficiency a sign of mental ill-health? Why?
7. Explain the meaning of the term "peace of mind."
8. From among your friends, acquaintances, and relatives, select four or
five whom you feel meet- some of these criteria, and describe their
personalities in terms of these criteria. Then select another group
whom you believe do not meet these criteria, and explain this failure
in terms of their personalities.
9. What do we mean by integration of motives? Why is this quality
llnportant to the resolution of men"l
97

COl?

l'

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


10. The concept of integration occurs several, times in our description of
these criteria. Explain in your own words the significance of this concept for both adjustment and mental he4lth.
11. How is control of thought and, imagination related to the criterion of
adequate contact with reality?
:\

12. Discuss the criteria of adjustment in relation to the following areas:


(a) marital adjustment, (b) vocational adjustment, (c) school adjustment.
SELECTED READINGS

J. E. The psychology of development and personal adjustment.


New York: Holt, 1949. Chap. XVII.

ANDERSON,

J. A. (Eds.) The human person: an integral


approach to the theory of personality. New York: Ronald, 1954.
Chaps. IX, X.
KING, F. w. Emotional maturity: its nature and measurement. Unpublished
doctor's dissertation, Harvard Univer., 1951.
ARNOLD, M. B., & GASSON,

c. Safeguarding mental health. MIlwaukee: Bruce, 1937.


Chaps. XI, XIII.

MCCARTHY, R.

J. A. Personality and successful living. Milwaukee: Bruce, 1944.


Chaps. III, IV, IX, XII, XV.

MAGNER,

Motivation and personality. New York: Harper, 1954.


Chaps. XII, XIII.
OVERSTREET, H. A. The mature mind. New York: Norton, 1949.
MASLOW, A. H.

SAUL, L.

J. Emotional maturity. Philadelphia: 'Lippincott, 1947.

The psychology of mental health. New York: Ronald, 1950.


Chap. IV.
WALLIN, J. E. w. Personality maladjustments and me~tal hygiene. (2nd
Ed~) New York: McGraw-Hill, 1949. Chap. I.
---

THORPE, L. P.

,..r

~ FIVE

PERSONALITY AND ADJUSTMENT


Personality and adjustment. Personality a mind-body or psychosomatic
reality. Examples of reciprocal influence of mental and physical processes.
Influence of mental factors on physical conditions. Intramental influences.
Personality and behavior. Personality-environment-culture relations. Modifiability and resilience. Self-regulation and adjustment. Self-realization and
adjustment. Personality an emergent phenomenon. Characteristics of personality development. Segmental versus integrative development.

THE NATURE OF PERSONALITY

Personality and Adjustment


We have already initimated in several places that the problem of adjustment is inseparably bound up with the nature of human personality. This
is not difficult to understand if we keep in mind several important facts.
First of all, every instance of adjustment is a distinctly personal affair,
that is, it occurs within the make-up of personality, or it involves relations between personality and some aspect of reality. This is only another
way of saying that in every adjustment process a person's personality
is directly involved in some manner or other. Secondly, adjustment is
always influenced and conditioned by the personality that is involved. 1
Thus, to exemplify, the normal personality reacts to problem situations
and events in a distinctively normal fashion, whereas the neurotic personality reacts in a characteristically symptomatic way to the stresses
and demands of everyday living. If the neurotic person happens to be of
the anxious type, almost every reaction will be colored by this characteristic and dominating anxiety.2 _Thirdly, there is the fact, of particular
1 See Anderson, J. E. The psychology of development and personal adjustment.
New York: Holt, 1949, Chap. XVI; Young, K. Personality and problems of adjustment. New York: Appleton-Cenmry-Crofts, 1945, especially Part II; Kaplan, L. &
Baron, D. Mental hygiene and life. New York: Harper, 1952. Chap. IV.
2 Sherman, M. & Jost, H. Frustration reactions of normal and neurotic persons.
J. Psychol., 1942, 12, 3-19; Krasner, L. personalitYi~fferences between patients

IJ

99

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


significance in the present connection, that the conditions and determinants of adjustment are, as it were, routed through the personality of
the individual. By this we mean that factorp like heredity, environment,
training, and education exert their influence on adjustment in terms of
the peculiar constitution of the personality: that is always in the center
of the adjustment process; the effects of ~evere parental discipline or
rejection are going to be a lot different on a timid, frightened, and withdrawn child than on a secure, emotionally stable child. These relations
are depicted schematically in Figure 7. On the basis of these three funda-

ADJUSTMENT

Fig. 7-Relations between determinants, personality, and adjustment.

mental facts, then, it is clear that a thorough understanding of the conditions and determinants of adjustment must start with a consideration
of the nature and development of human personality.

Personality a Mind-Body or Psychosomatic Reality


There are several ways in which to interpret hu~aii 'personality, and each
one has its own special value for the understanding Qf adjustment and
mental health. 3 The most important of these interpretations is the psyclassified as psychosomatic and as nonpsychosomatic. J. abnorm. soc. Psychol.,
1953, 48, 190--198.
8 For a thorough and concise treatment of approaches to personality and its
relation to adjustment, see Thorpe, L. P. The psychology of mental health. New
York, Ronald, 1950, Chap. VI. A much more extend!!d treatment will be found
in Hunt, J. MeV. (Ed.) Personality and the behavior dis01:ders. 2 vols. New York:
Ronald, 1944. See also Gasson, J. A. PersonalitY'..theory: a formulation of general
principles. In Arnold, M. B. & Gasson, J. A. "('ds.) The human person; an integral
approach to the theory of personality. New York: Ronald, 1954, pp. 101-126.
Eysenck, H. J. The organization of personality. J. Personality, 1951, 20, 101-117;
Jung, C. G. The integration of the personality. New York: Rinehart, 1939.

100

Personality and Adjustment

chosomatic concept. At one time, in the early history of psychological


thought, human beings were regarded as a rather loose combination of a
mind and a body, neither one of which had a great deal of influence on
the other. In philosophy, this view was called extreme dualism; in psychology, psychophysical parallelism. Much earlier, Aristotle and, after
him, the great scholastic thinkers had interpreted personality in terms of
tWO complementary parts, a soul (mind) and a body, which are united
to form a single, unitary substance. This notion was lost sight of by the
majority of thinkers for a long time and has only recently been reformulated as the psychosomatic concept, which is fast replacing extreme
dualism in contemporary psychology and psychiatry.~
The psychosomatic viewpoint stresses the fact that, whatever the
fundamental nature of human nature, man in his daily life gives evidence
of both physical and mental functions, which are intrinsically related and,
as it were, joined to each other. Between mental functions, such as
thinking, willing, and feeling, and physiological functions, such as breathing, glandular secretion, and nerve reaction, there are relations of mutual
dependence and influence. Thus, typically, the mental state of anxiety can
affect pulse rate, digestion, perspiration, breathing, and other physical
functions; and, conversely, physical' processes exert a direct and pervasive
effect on mental functioning, as when thyroid imbalance is reflected in
emotional tension or hyperexcitability. In this view, then, man is not a
mind plus a body, but rather a psychosomatic unity in which the different
processes of mental life and overt response are complexly intermingled.
This psychosomatic concept is reflected in the current notion that
many disorders to which human beings are subject-peptic ulcer, high
blood pressure, cardiac disturbances, and the like-are psychosomatic
rather than organic in nature. 5 This means that, although the symptoms
themselves are physical, the real cause of the difficulty lies in the mental
order, involving such factors as worry, fear, and anxiety. One can readily
see the tremendous implications of this concept for mental hygiene and
personal adjustment. In later chapters, where we deal more specifically
with the ways in which people adjust to their problems, the psychosomatic principle will be indispensable to explanation and understanding. 6
Examples of Reciprocal Influence Of Mental and Physical Processes

If you are like most people, you will find it difficult to think in psycho4 There are numerous publications that reflect this trend. See, for example,
Dunbar, H. F. Mind and body: psychosomatic medicine. New York: Random, 1947.
5 See Dunbar, H. F. Emotions and bodily changes.
(2nd Ed.) New York:
Columbia Univer. Press, 1938. Also Dunbar, H. F. The relationship between anxiety
states and organic disease. Clinics, 1942, I, 879-908; Cannon, W. B. Bodily changes
in pain, hunger, fear, and rage. New York: Appleton-Century_Crofts, 1929.
6 An extensive discussion of psychosomatic diso
r,s will be found in Chap.
rf
Fourteen.

:
D

/t-,

101

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


somatic terms, because most of us are steeped in dualistic thinking, which
posits a dichotomy of mind and body. To' overcome this difficulty, it
will be helpful to investigate some typical ~nstances that clearly reflect
the reciprocal influence of mental and phy1sical processes. Let us start
with the effects of physical conditions. and prrcesses on mental functions. 7
One of the most common and familiar o~ such effects is the influence
of fatigue on mental functioning. As you well know from your own
experience as a student, fatigue interferes with efficient concentration,
disturbs emotional stability, causes or contributes to failure of learning
and memory, and in extreme cases may lead to temper outbursts, hallucinations, and delusions. We may note, too, 'that the situation is often
reversed; chronic fatigue may be the result rather than the cause of mental
upset. Here we have a striking instance of reciprocal influence of mental
and physical conditions.
The effects of fatigue on mental functioning are caused by the
accumulation of waste products, which act as a toxic agent on the nervous
system. Other physical agents also impair mental functioning. The effects
of alcohol and of the opiates, such is morphine and cocaine, are too well
known to require much elaboration. Not a single mental function remains
unaffected by excessive intake of alcohol; memory, judgment, reasoning,
emotion, perception-all are impaired by alcohol. 8 Dietary deficiencies,
too, are known to affect the psychological condition of the organism,
particularly when the deficiency is closely related to nerve functioning. 9
In fact, it may be accepted as a general principle that all physical factors
or conditions that affect the mental functioning of the organism do so
through the medium of the nervous system, for the obvious reason that
this system is the immediate basis of mental life. Whenever the functioning
of the nervous system is interfered with; we can expect some change in the
psychological picture.
This fact is brought out most clearly perhaps in cases of disease,
injury, or surgical interference in the nervous system. Cerebral tumors,
surgical removal of parts of the brain or the s;;'ering of. cerebral pathways, damage to the cortex resulting from head injuIiY, pathological involvement resulting from disease, or degeneration of cortical fibers
coincident with old age, are all paralleled in one way or another _by a
7 A good general discussion of this relation will be found in, Chap. III of Maslow,
A. H. & Mittelmann, B. Principles of abnormal psychology. (Rev. Ed.) New York:
Harper, 1951. See also Barker, R. G., Wright, B. A., & Gonick, M. R. Adjustment to
physical handicap and illness. Bull. No. 55. New York:1 Social Science Research
Council, 1946.
_/.:/
8 Miles, W. R. Psychological effects of alcolioCin man. In Emerson, H. (Ed.)
Alcohol and man. New York: Macmillan, 1932.
9 Sherman, H. C. The nutritional improvement of life. New York: Columbia
Univer. Press, 1950.

102

Personality and Adjustment

congeries of mental symptoms.10 These effects range from complete loss


of consciousness to stupor, loss of memory, impairment of speech, failure
of judgment, hallucinations, and illusions. It should be noted here, in the
interest of maintaining a correct perspective, that there is never a one-toone relation between cerebral conditions and mental functioning. Even
in the organic psychoses there is considerable variation in mental symptoms from one patient to another; and there are cases on record where
even :extensive damage to cortical tissue failed to bring about significant
psychological changes. Facts such as these, however, do not alter the basic
hypothesis that physical conditions in the organism can seriously affect
mental functioning.
Additional support for this interpretation comes from the study of
glandular influences on mental activity.11 In extreme cases, like cretinism,
the impoverishment of mental life due to failure of glandular development
or to malfunctioning constitutes striking evidence of the effects that physical factors can produce. Even in less severe cases, however, the effects
are often discernible. Hyperthyroidism, precocious sexual development,
pituitary dysfunction, and similar conditions are often accompanied by
mental changes. There is also an intimate relation between endocrine
functioning and emotional responses in both normal and disturb~d subjects. Every student of psychology..or physiology is aware of the pervasive
effects of the adrenal gland, the thyroid, the sex glands, and the pituitary
on the emotional responses of the organism; and often these emotional
effects are paralleled by corresponding changes in other areas of mental
life. Here again we may note that the relation is reciprocal, there being
just as many instances in which mental and emotional factors affect
glandular functioning. It is, in fact, this latter relation that helps us to
understand the psychosomatic disorders to which we referred earlier in
this chapter. Chronic worry, anxiety, or morbid fear can disturb physical
functioning just as surely as glandular maldevelopment or imbalance can
interfere with the staoility of emotional or mental life.
Fatigue, interference with the nervous system, and glandular influences are some of the more striking instances of the effect of physical
factors on mental life. Many more could be cited, but to no particular
advantage, since the foregoing instances demonstrate conclusively the
relation we have been studying. The important thing here is to grasp the
significant implications of these facts for adjustment and mental health,
10 See Cobb, S. Personality ,as affected by lesions of the brain. In Hunt (Ed.)
Op. cit., pp. 550-581; Freeman, W., & Watts, ]. vV. Psychosurgery. (2nd Ed.)
Springfield, Ill.: Charles C. Thomas, 1950.
11 A good general discussion of the effects of physiological factors will be found
in Shock, N. W. Physiological factors in behavior. In Hunt (Ed.) Op, cit., Pp. 582618; Thorpe. Op. cit., Chap. VII. See also, Rowe, A. \V. A possible endocrine factor

in ,h, bohovio, p,"blom. of ,h, young. Am". ). 011"Y'bi"" 1931,

1'1:,1-475.

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


from the standpoint of interpretation and diagnosis as well as of treatment.
In many cases, the causes of some personal difficulty, such as failure at
school, poor home adjustment, or vocational malaFjustment, can be traced
to overwork, incipient pathology, glandular disturbance, or some other
physical condition. Such facts must be taken in~o account in trying to
understand the difficulty and in working out reniedial procedures. 12
I

Influence of Mental Factors on Physical Conditions


Of greater importance to the understanding of adjustment is the manner
in which and the extent to which mental processes affect physical conditions. This relation is even more difficult for the layman to understand
than the reverse relation, mainly because he is not accustomed to thinking
in psychosomatic terms. When, for example, Johnny gets a stomach-ache,
his mbther is likely to think of such causes as overeating or constipation
and, if necessary, to call in the family physician. It does not occur to her
to think of frustration or mental conflict as possible causes. Similarly,
headaches are referred to eyestrain or constipation; sleeplessness to too
much coffee or other stimulant; vomiting to an "upset stomach"; blindness to a cerebral tumor; and paralysis to poliomyelitis or meningitis. Yet
each one of these symptoms can result from psychological disturbances,
such as frustration, conflict, anxiety, or depression. This is what the
modern term "psychosomatic illness" means, illness that is caused by psychological rather than physical factors. The following case of migraine
is illustrative.
The patient, a 33-year-old seaman, was admitted to the neuropsychiatric ward of a large naval hospital with tentative diagnosis of
migraine, after he had reported to sick bay complaining of severe incapacitating headaches which he had experienced from time to time
during the past 13 years. He had been' drafted into the naval service
approximately 10 months before, but had failed to reveal the history
of his headaches during his induction physical examination because of
a stro~g patriotic drive and the fear of being rej~red-and __ classified as
4F. He had been assigned to duty in this country only,_and had made
a fairly satisfactory adjustment; however, during his period of naval
service, he had experienced attacks of headache which were so intense
that it ultimately was necessary for him to report to his medical officer
for symptomatic relief. Physical findings were essentially negative. The
patient's mother was described as "high strung" and an 'older sister as
"nervous." The patient's maternal aunt had similar headaches. 13
I

Dolores, Sister M., Physical factors underlying behavior patterns in children.


Education, 1951, 72, 267-271.
-' 13 Adapted from Burton, A., & Harris, R. E. (Eds.) Case histories in clinical
and abnormal psychology. New York: Harper, 1947, pp. 281-282. Reprinted by
permission.
12

104

Persollality and Adjustment


There are many instances of this relation between the psychological
and the physical in man, and if you will reflect a bit you will be able to
find some in your own experiences.
1. EMOTIONAL STATES. Take, for example, the influence of emotional states on physical processes. You know that when you are frightened your heart beats faster, you begin to tremble and perspire, and you
feel shaky all over. Much the same thing happens when you get angry.
Now, if ,you carry this idea one step further, you will see that the same
thing can happen with emotional reactions like worry and anxiety. The
physical reactions are not always as obvious, but the mechanism is essentially the same. Chronic worry can cause indigestion, high blood pressure,
insomnia, nervousness, or glandular disturbance. Chronic anxiety can
result in colitis, peptic ulcer, or essential hypertension.H These effects
can be better understood if we keep in mind that emotional reactions are,
in their hature, psychophysical and will always, therefore, involve some
kind of physical reaction. When the emotion itself is morbid or pathological, the physical effects will follow the same line.
The patient, a woman fifty-six years old, was referred to the psychologist by the family physician. She complained of periodic difficulties in breathing, feelings of suffocation, rapid heart beat, and near-fainting spells. Physical
findings were negative. The patient also complained of acute feelings of fear
and anxiety. Investigation revealed that the attacks, both physical and psychological, were invariably associated with the return of her oldest son to
service after furlough. Although thirty years of age, he had never married
and was intensely devoted to the mother; she, in turn, was as intensely devoted
to him. Therapy was largely ineffective, mainly because it proved impossible
for either one to understand the nature of the relationship between them. The
attacks, however, subsided after the son was separated from the service.

2. SUGGESTION. But it is not emotion alone that produces effects in


the physical order. Thought and imagination can also affect physical
reactions~ Perhaps the clearest instance of this is the process of suggestion.
Suggestion is simply a means of bringing about some response through
the force of an idea: or thought implanted in the mind of the subject. It
is a common experience, and probably all persons are to some degree
suggestible. By means of suggestion, which is clearly psychological, it is
possible to induce many kinds of physiological changes and behavior
responses. Usually, these effects are brought about through hypnosis, but
14 Saul, L. ]. iPhysiological effects of emotional tension. In Hunt (Ed.) Gp. cit.,
pp. 269-305; McKell, T. E., & Sullivan, A. ]. Personality in peptic ulcer. Springfield,
Ill.; Charles C. Thomas, 1950; Kraines, S. H. The therapy of the neuroses and
psyc!Joses. (3rd. Ed., rev.) Philadelphia: Lea & Febiger, 1948, pp. 85-99, 295-344.
Shock, N. W. Physiological manifestations of chronic emotional states. In Reymert,
M. L. (Ed.) Feelings and emotions. New York: McGrawtill, 1950.

'tJ

105

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


there are many instances in daily life where suggestion is clearly evidenced. Thus, if you are told by your doct1r that you are in excellent
health, your sense of physical well-being is immediately enhanced;
whereas, if you chance to read a book or article describing the symptoms
of some physical disorder, particularly one :6f which you have always
been afraid, you are likely to develop some Of the symptoms you read
about. In hypnosis, it is possible to induce sleep, cataleptic rigidity,
paralysis, loss of sensibility (anesthesia), and other physical states through
the medium of suggestion. The effect of suggestio~ is obviously important for the psychology of adjustment. Especially in subjects predisposed to hysteria, many symptoms are the result of direct or indirect
suggestion, a fact of importance to proper diagnosis. Similarly, suggestion
can play a significant role in removing symptoms. In modern therapy,
such techniques as hypnosis and hypnoanalysis are based upon this fact.15
3. IMAGINATION. The phenomena of suggestion and hypnosis remind us also of the part imagination plays in relation to physical reacillness or disability that it is
tions. We often hear it said of some p,hysical
I
"just imagination." There is some truth in this remark, although we should
not take it to mean that the aches and pains of the maladjusted person
are purely imaginary. They are very real; but it is true that physical
symptoms often have their source in mental imagery. Even in normal
persons, imagery often gives rise to physical reactions. This is seen most
clearly perhaps in the effects of imagery on sexual functions; sexual fantasies can bring about erections, nocturnal emissions, and the like.'
Intramental Infiuences
We must also emphasize the fact that psychological processes interact
among themselves, a relation of considerable ,importance to the psychology of mental health. The condition of :chronic anxiety may serve also
as an example of this type of interaction. Not only does anxiety produce
psychos~,matic symptoms; it ac.ts in. a damaging way~~ther as?e~ts of
mental hfe, such as concentration, Judgment, and reasomng.16 Slmllarly,
obsessive ideas, compulsions, delusions, and other symptdms of disturbed
mentality can seriously interfere with efficient mental functioning. In the
understanding and interpretation of any symptom complex or syndrome,
relations such as these can be of considerable importance.
Personality and Behavior
The interpretation of personality as a psychosomatic reality, involving
an interdependent relation between mental :9!physi!al processes, should
15 Wolberg, L. R. Hypnoanalysis. New York: Grune

& Stratton, 1945.


Diethelm, 0., & Jones, M. R. The influence of anxiety on attention, learning,
retention and thinking. Arch. neural. &- Psychiat., 1947, 58, 325; Mowrer, O. H.
Anxiety-reduction and learning. ]. expo Psychol., 1940, 27, 497-516.
16

106

Personality and Adjustment


be complemented by an. explanation of the connection between personality and behavior. This is particularly necessary in a study of adjustment
because adjustment processes occur at several different "levels." In one
situation, for example, the adjustment made to a conflict, frustration, or
problem may be on a distinctly mental level, and is often referred to as
a mental adjustment. Good examples of this kind are the various psychological mechanisms, including projection, introjection, egocentrism, and
rati01~alization (Chapter Eleven). Or the adjustment may take the form of
a psychosomatic response, as we see so clearly in hysteria and neurasthenia.
But, in addition to these, there are many adjustive responses that occur primarily at the bebavioral level and thus involve the development of
patterns of response that bring the organism into direct and immediate
contact with the environment or with some aspect of reality. The student
preparing for an examination, the worker cleaning his tools, the young
boy apologizing for his bad conduct, the teacher going over her notes,
and so forth, are all behaving in such a way as to meet certain requirements of their respective situations; that is, they are reacting adjustively.
These distinctions are not merely academic, even though in the
majority of situations several levels of adjustment are involved and
become closely intermingled in the total adjustment pattern. From a
strictly objective point of view, personality is expressed in, and for tbe
most part identified rUJitb, tbe behavior of tbe organism. In fact, the only
other phase of personality that can be objectively known is the organism's
physical constitution, which, together with behavior, make up the total
objective personality. The concept "behavior disorders," which is widely
used at the present time to refer to personality disturbances, derives from
the identification of personality and behavior. Into the category of behavior disorders would be brought such typical clinical symptoms as
tics, reflex' disorders, convulsions, paralyses, compulsive behavior, stereotypy, and personal mannerisms, as well as more normal patterns of
response. From the standpoint of adjustment psychology, and also from
the clinical point of view, these objective manifestations of adjustment
(or maladjustment) are important in explanation and diagnosis and in the
development -of a theori of personality that will suit the needs of adjustment psychology. Incidentally, interpretation based on behavior is necessary also to an adequate account of the conditions an& determinants of
adjustment.

Personality-environment-Culture Relations
One other fact must be taken into account here if we are to understand
the nature of personality in relation to adjustment and its determinants.
This is the connection between personality, adjustment processes, and the
environmental, social, and cultural forces with~ which personality develops and functions. This relation is the obj~'Ve counterpart of the

107

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


mind-body relation described in preceding pag~s; and within the broad
framework of this relation behavior .plays a conspicuous part. In other
words, personality is as intimately bound up tvvith objective reality as
mental and physical processes are bound up with each other. Thus
between personality and the surrounding aspecfs of reality, such as the
home, society, cultural organization, and the school, there is a constant
I
interplay, and it is within this network of relations that many adjustments
occur. The quality of adjustment, therefore, will be determined in large
measure by this connection between personality and objective reality, and
the effects produced by the determinants of adjustment will also be
regulated by this relation.
The total personality, writes Kraines,
is a function of a socio-psycho-biologic unity in a given setting at a
given time, and can be understood only if studied as such. These five
elements must be studied with reference to each other. It is not possible
to draw general conclusions from a study of anyone of the parts, even
if the time and situation are considered; and in like manner, social
analysis, psychologic analysis, and biologic analysis are inadequate to
explain a person's symptoms unless reference is made to the other
analyses; i.e., of time and circu~stance.
It cannot be too strongly stressed that it is only for purposes of
convenience and clarity that a distinction is made between physiologic
and psychologic reactions to emotional states. Of necessity they are
discussed separately; but in actuality, personality is a complex whole
responding to, being conditioned by, determining as well as being as
being determined by the environment,11
In succeeding pages (Chapter Six), when we analyze the conditions and
determinants of adjustment, we shall have, many opportunities to discuss
and to exemplify this broad relation.
QUALITIES OF PERSONALITY IMPORTANT TO ADjlfsTMENT

Modifiability and Resilience


The study of personality in relation to adjustment prompts the question
whether there are certain characteristics cif personality that are particularly significant for personal adjustment and mental health. 1s Among such
qualities modifiability stands out most prominently. Since adjustment is
a continuous process, and therefore requires a great deal of change in
l

Kraines, S. H. The therapy of the neuroses and;.the psychoses. (3rd Ed., rev.)
Philadelphia: Lea & Febiger, 1948, p. 45. Reprinl'etby-permission.
is See the discussion on the characteristics of the socially adjusted personality
in Thorpe. Op. cit., pp. 242-256. See also Ligon, E. M. Psychology of Christian
personality. New York: Macmillan, 1935.
..
17

108

Personality and Adjustment


behavior, attitudes, and other personality characteristics, it is clear that
the greater the rigidity or inflexibility in personal response, the more
difficult it is to meet the changing demands of adjustment. It is a significant fact that neurotic, and especially psychotic, personalities are
characterized by rigidity of responses, traits, and attitudes. Modifiability,
of course, refers to the capacity for learning and for change, a natural

Fig. 8-Personality and adjustment.


The kind of personality you have will influence your social
adjustment.

capacity of human personality. Through learning, the organism is able


to acquire the traits and responses that are necessary to good adjustment;
and through the capacity for change (itself often induced by learning),
the organism can effectively meet new problems and situations. To the
extent, then, that the quality of modifiability is reduced or nullified by the
rigidity of habits, psychological mechanisms, or neurotic traits and attitudes, or by an inflexible style of life, which frustrated persons so often
manifest, adjustment becomes more and more dit~ult. We may note in

't}

109

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


passing that the violation of any basic quality of personality is always a
step toward maladjustment.
,
Closely allied to modifiability is the qu1lity of resilience. The dictionary defines resilience as the "capability of a strained body to recover
its size and shape after deformation"; and tHis is pretty much what the
word means in reference to personality and adjustment. It is, in common
terms, the ability of the healthy human organism to "bounce back" when
it is buffeted by the trials and difficulties of daily living. As you know,
there are countless persons who constantly "suffer the slings and arrows
of outrageous fortune," persons to whom every difficulty or problem is
a major tragedy or unsurmountable obstacle. The sting of a chance remark
is never forgotten; a relatively minor disappointment becomes a lasting
tragedy; ordinary human failures are regarded as personal affronts. Such
persons have little resilience; each day is marked and marred by the disappointments and frustrations that have gone before. Persons without
resilience never quite recover from such incidents as a broken love affair,
the death of a cherished relative?, the loss of a good job, professional
failures, or the discovery that the marital partner was once in love with
another person. These examph:s emphasize the, point that in the normal
person there is always some resilience, which enables him to recover from
the effects of difficult or damaging experiences.
Self-regulation and Adjustment
Equally important to the process of adjustment and the maintenance of
mental stability is the human capacity for self-regulation and self-directionY This quality, significantly enough, is being given a great deal of
emphasis in many contemporary theories of psychotherapy, on the assumption that successful treatment! of maladjustments and personality
disorders depends a great deal on what the patient is able to do for himself? in other words, on the assumption that the patient has the capacity
for self-regulation. The older and largely dis~arded mechanistic viewpoints of personality always assumed that humanresponses of every kind,
both mental and behavioral, normal and abnormal, were the inevitable
outcome of determining causes and ,conditions; the person himself played
only a passive role. Neuroses and other personality disturbance.s were
supposedly caused by heredity, early environment, damaging parentchild relations, emotional disruptions, instincts, habits, and a host of other
factors too numerous to mention. This idea, as one cait readily see, is
inimical to effective ,psychotherapy, because all treatment depends as
much (or more) o~ :the inner resour~l=of the'patient 'as on the ingenuity
19 See Mailloux, N. Psychic determinism, freedom, and personality development.
In Arnold & Gasson (Eds.) Gp. cit" pp. 264-280. Tyson, ,R. Current mental hygiene
practice. J. Clin. Psycbol., Monogr. Suppl. No.8, Jan., 1951, Chap. III.

lIO

Personality and Adjustment


and skill of the therapist. 20 This is at least one reason why psychopathic
conditions are resistant to treatment; the psychopath is characteristically
lacking in the capacity for self-control.
Fortunately, in normal personalities, adjustment and mental stability
are subject to the capacity for self-control and self-realization. From the
standpoint of wholesome adjustment, this means that worth-while habits
can be formed and damaging ones broken; that ideals and principles can
be us~d to further wholesome conduct; that goals can be carefully
selected and striven for; that feelings and emotions can be regulated in
the interest of mental harmony, at least by indirect means; that such
factors as imagination and thought can be directed toward socially and
morally desirable ends; and that interests and attitudes can be formed or
changed as the requirements of adjustment demand.
Stressing the point that therapy should be directed toward greater
maturity and greater adequacy as a person, Mowrer boldly states,
An objection I have commonly encountered in connection with the
position I have taken in this paper is this, that in stressing the ethical
rather than the biological nature of neurosis, I seem to be saying that if
a .person is neurotic, it is his fault, his responsibility. To this I assent,
and willingly. We are excused from blame, from responsibility, only for
events or conditions over which we have no control. Do we, as psychotherapists, wish to imply that neurosis and the lesser states of unhappiness are such that nothing can be done to avoid or correct them,
without our special intervention? Or would we not rather see human
beings in general take the point of view that neurosis is lawful, not
capricious, and that by observing certain principles, by accepting certain
responsibilities it can be both cured and prevented?21

Self-realization and Adjustment


The capacity for self-regulation implies also the potentiality for personal
self-realization. Neurotics, psychotics, and other disturbed persons are
particularly deficient in this potentiality, and the lack of it sets a serious
20

See Rogers, C. R. Counseling and psychotherapy. Boston: Houghton Mifflin,

1942, pp. 28-30. On this same point Magner states, "Inasmuch as personality is

really the individualization of one's spiritual nature, it is quite natural that this
should be the right order of importance. Moreover, while no one, as Christ says,
'by taking thought can add to his stature one cubit,' it is within our power to modify,
change, develop, and perfect our attitudes of mind, our emotional reactions, and
the habits that fall under the competence of our wills. These habits and developed
aptitudes arc what make up character and integrate personality."-Magner, ]. A.
Personality and successful living. Milwaukee: Bruce, 1944, p. 7. Reprinted by
permission.
21 Mowrer, O. H. Pain, punishment, guilt, and anxiety. In Hoch, P. H. & Zubin,
J. (Eds.) Anxiety. New York: Grune & Stratton, 1950, p. 39. Reprinted by per",;"ion. See Mow",, di,=ion of ""'"PY. pp. 27-4~
1lI

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


limit to their ability to meet the demands of wholesome adjustment. As
you already know, the process of adjustment and the gradual achievement
of mental stability are intimately associateq with the development of
personality. When this development proceeds normally throughout childhood and adolescence, there is a con~tant udfolding of latent potentialities and a gradual accretion of traits, skills, dttitudes, and other personal
characteristics, all of which, taken together: constitute the total adult
personality. It is this unfolding and accretion that underlie self-realization.
Whenever, therefore, there are impediments to the process of total development, the organism fails to acquire the skills and characteristics that
are necessary to adequate adjustment. For this reason, immaturity is
inimical to good adjustment, since immaturity is directly opposed to selfrealization. 22

Intelligence and Adjustment


The capacity of self-regulation is itself dependent on another basic quality
important to adjustment. This is the quality of intelligence or rationality.
Maturity, self-realization, self-control, and the like, are determined to a
great extent by the manner in which, and often the degree to which, rational understanding and judgment are applied to personal growth and to
the problems that arise in daily living. Often the difference between good
and bad adjustment is determined by how intelligently or unintelligently
we attack difficult situations, frustrations, and conflicts. 23 In many instances
of maladjustment, human stupidity can be discerned. Take, for example,
the student who fails in his work because he does not apply the talents
he possesses. His academic maladjustment is due simply to an unintelligent
approach to responsibilities. Similarly, the housewife who plods along
doing her household tasks in the same ;inefficient way is unintelligently
courting frustration, discouragement, and unhappiness. Many of the
difficulties that eventually lead to ment~il unrest and maladjustment could
be resolved by the careful application of understanding and sound judgment. This does not mean that all personality ~disord_~~ are simply a
matter of stupidity; but it is significant that effective treatment of such
disorders is contingent on the achievement and development of rational
insight. The criterion of self-knowledge, described in the foregoing
chapter as one of the requirements of adjustment, is based on an under22 See Maslow, A. H. Self-actualizing people: a study of psychological health.
Personality, 1950, Symposium No.1, 11-34. See also Ausubel, D. P. Ego development
and the personality disorders: a developmental approach to' psychopathology. New
York: Grune & Stratton, 1952.
_,/...:.. '
23 As one writer says, "an individual with 'an inadequate personality is one who
deals with virtually all of his problems and difficulties with an apparent lack of
intelligence. Such a person seems unable to do what is expected of him." -Thorpe.
Op. cit. p. 273.

112

Personality and Adjustment


standing and a proper evaluation of personal limitations and assets and
of the relations between the causes and symptoms of personal difficulties.
Moreover, as we suggested at the outset of this discussion, self-realization depends on intelligence. It is the quality of rationality that makes
possible intelligent choices and decisions; and it is these decisions that
form the groundwork of intelligent self-regulation. Intelligence, too, is
necessary for the acquisition and development of the ideals, principles,
and goals that play so important a part in self-realization. All along the
line, therefore, intelligence or rationality influences growth in personality.24
The relation between intelligence and adjustment is indicated in
still another way. Although maladjustment is no respecter of persons,
striking the intellectually elite as well as the lowly, it is nevertheless true
that the kind of disorder varies with the factor of intelligence. For example, feeble-minded children often develop psychosis, but they are not
likely to manifest neurotic characteristics. Hysteria is found more often
in persons of average or low intelligence, whereas neurasthenia seems
to be more common to those of higher intellectual ability. These relations, while not invariable or absolute, clearly suggest that the manner
in which a person meets problems and difficulties will be determined to
a great extent by his intelligence. This relation is to be expected, since
every kind of response, good or bad, normal or neurotic, will always
be conditioned by the personal matrix in which it develops. Just as
physical conditions, such as good health, brain damage, fatigue, or disease,
can be expected to influence adjustment and mental health, so other
factors in the total personality, including intelligence, should be considered as having a determining influence.
These basic qualities of personality have a direct bearing on the
problem of the criteria of adjustment discussed in the preceding chapter.
In fact, it is by determining what these qualities are that we can work
toward a more thorough understanding of adjustment criteria. Criteria
or standards of good adjustment and mental health must be based on the
nature of human personality; and the qualities to which we have referred
are merely expressions of this nature. It is because of this basic relation
that a factor like self-control can be interpreted both as a quality of
personality and as a criterion of adjustment.
PERSONALITY DEVELOPMENT AND ADJUSTMENT

Personality an Emergent Phenomenon


Personality is essentially and at all times, at least under normal conditions,
24 See Chap. Ten for a more detailed
normal adjustments.

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment

a continuously emerging reality.25 This process of emergence begins at


birth, or even prenatally, and continues until death overtakes the organism. The implications of this characteristic ~or adjustment and mental
health are very great, and demand careful consideration.
First of all, it means that the organism \starts out in life with the
barest essentials of personality and acquires, I through such processes as
learning, training, discipline, and maturation, the majority of its characteristics and responses, good and bad.
Secondly, it means that personality is a constantly changing phenomenon and is therefore naturally suited to the constantly changing
demands imposed by the requirements of good adjustment. If or when
personality becomes fixed, as in certain cases of schizophrenia, the possibilities of adjustment are nil, and even readjustment by means of psychotherapy becomes a hopeless impossibility.
Thirdly, the principle of emergence serves to de-emphasize certain
predetermining factors like heredity and to emphasize the role that
maturation and learning play in the growth of personality. You can
readily see that if personality characteristics are largely an outgrowth of
experience, learning, and other nongenetic factors, the successful application of mental hygiene principles and of psychotherapy is a more likely
possibility than would be the case if personality were determined by
heredity or physical constitution. In the view of personality as emergent,
the maladjusted and the neurotic personality are the results of a process
of growth that is in itself reversible. If maladjustive responses are!learned,
they can be avoided (mental hygiene); if they are learned, they can be
unlearned (psychotherapy). The acceptance of this principle does not
require the complete exclusion of hereditary or constitutional influence;
but it serves to emphasize the fact that personality is primarily a developmental phenomenon and only secondarily the result of genetic and constitutional determinants.
Characteristics of Personality Development... _----,.___

The gradual emergence of personality throughout chil~iihood and adole:5cence is marked by a number of important characteristics that bear
directly on the achievement of adjustment. These characteristics hinge on
the nature of development itself. In its bro~dest meaning, develofYl1lent is
a steady progression toward maturity; and maturity, as we .have seen,
is a basic criterion of adjustment. 26 In other words, adequate development
25 There are many good references on personality deve\opment. See, for example,
Stagner, R. The psychology of personality. (2n.<i=Ed.) New York: McGraw-Hill,
1948, Chaps. V-VII. Slotkin, J. S. Personality de-:;elopment. New York: Harper, 1952;
Bernard, H. W. Toward better personal adjustment. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1951,
Chap. VI; Thorpe, Gp. cit., Chap. VIII.
26 See Bernard.
Gp. cit., Chap. II, Growth processes and mental hygiene.
",

114

Personality and Adjustment


is necessary if the organism is to reach a point where it can deal successfully with problems, conflicts, and frustrations. When development or
maturation fails to occur, becomes fixed at some point, or becomes distorted, the organism invariably shows signs of poor adjustment, mental
instability, inadequate personality integration, or emotional impoverishment. To understand these effects better, we have to take into account
the myriad conditions and determinants that surround the processes of
develppment and adjustment; this is the problem we shall tackle in the
following chapter.
The first thing to note about personality development is that it is
gradual and continuous and that it starts from a point of almost complete
immaturity. The infant possesses only the barest rudiments of personality
and is very poorly equipped to meet the demands of adjustment. These
facts are of particular significance for mental hygiene, because they
imply that by the proper application of sound principles of training, and
by provision of the right kind of milieu for normal development, there
is every likelihood of wholesome personality growth and adjustment.
The potentialities of such growth are of course present in the newborn;
the infant has latent capacities and dispositions out of which personality
characteristics will gradually emerge. These potentialities include intelligence, special aptitudes, emotional disposition, sensory capacities, and
the like. In order to actualize a child's potentialities, there must be a
careful nurturing by parents and teachers, to whom the development of
personality is ordinarily entrusted.
Development, therefore, is a gradual evolution of inner potentialities,
which find expression in overt characteristics. Within the general framework of this development, the special process or series of changes referred
to as maturation may be distinguished. The organism develops when it
realizes its inherent potentialities; it matures when these potentialities are
brought to a stage of growth-physical, intellectual, emotional, moral,
and social-where the aemands and requirements of reality, and of sensible,
adult living, can be dealt with in an effective and wholesome manner. This
i!; what makes the process of development so important to adjustment and
to the achievement of mental stability.27
Implied in this interpretation of personality development is the
notion, quite generally accepted in psychology, that development and
maturation, which occur within personality, must be complemented by
external agencies, which serve to ,stimulate and nurture the entire process.
Thus development is always ~omplemented by learning, which results
from such factors as conditioning, training, experience, and education.
These factors, along with the environmental and cultural setting within
27 See Cameron, N., & Magaret, A. Behavior
Mifflin, 1951. Chap. V.

Boston: Houghton

115

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


which development takes place, are applied to the organism in order to
foster the expression of basic potentialities and the subsequent growth of
personal characteristics. It can happen, of course, that c;me or another of
these factors is misapplied, with the result that personality development
takes a wrong tum. Inadequate or punitive discipline, rraumatic experiences, faulty training, and a distorted educati~mal procedure are typical
instances of this sort of misapplication. Every ~ersonality, therefore, will
reflect a balanced combination of the natural evolution of individual
potentialities and the influence of external factors that serve to promote,
hinder, or distort the emergence of personal characteristics.
Emphasis on personality development in relation to adjustment must
not be taken to mean that genetic or constitutional factors have nothing
to do with personal growth, adjustment, or mental stability. On the contrary, these factors often set the stage for the emergence of individual
characteristics; and therefore the whole problem of personality growth
and adjustment must be brought into line with the concept of genetic
and constitutional determinism. This ,is, in part, subject matter for the
following chapter on the determinants of adjustment; but since we are
here dealing more specifically with the problem of personality development in relation to adjustment, we must emphasize the fact that personality development is conditioned in many ways by genetic and constitutional factors. This interpretation is required by the psychosomatic
principle described earlier in this chapter, in terms of which the physical
and mental aspects of personality are regarded as intrinsically related to
each other. Put into concrete terms, this means that physical constitution
forms the groundwork of at least some capacities that, in the course of
development, are expressed as individual characteristics of personality.
And, since physical constitution is determined to an important extent by
heredity, it must be assumed that heredity finds some expression. in
personality. The clearest example of this relation is temperament, which
everyoQe agrees is determined in large measure by physical make-up and
-,
heredity. Thus, such personal traits as excitability~ emotional
stability, or
apathy, all of which are important to adjustment and mental health, could
well be the indirect expression of physical an<4genetic factors. With the
evidence now available, there is no way of determining the extent to
which certain patterns of adjustment, notably the neuroses and psychoses, are influenced by these two factors; but we must admit the
possibility that innate temperament may constitute the groundwork for
the emergence of neurotic and psychotic personalities, always, of course,
within the limits set by nongenetic influences.
/

__

Segmental versus Integrative Develo;P;;;ent of Personality


The repeated reference in the foregoing pages to the emergence of individual characteristics will give us a one-sided view of personality develop-

116

Personality and Adjustment


ment if we fail to remind ourselves that development is integrative as
well as segmental. Segmental development of pers-onality refers to the
emergence of separate traits and characteristics, like timidity, introversion,
honesty, shyness, sociability, and so on. From the standpoint of individual
aspects and problems of adjustment, personality can be conceived as the
aggregate or totality of such separate characteristics. Thus the symptom
of chronic anxiety may be related to timidity or some similar trait, just
as withdrawal tendencies are often traced to introversion. In such instances, the diagnosis and perhaps the treatment of the difficulty may
depend upon the identification and evaluation of the trait in question.
But it is important to realize that this is only part of the relation
between personality development and adjustment. Personality is not
merely the totality of individual characteristics peculiar to a person; it
is an emergent synthesis or integration of these characteristics; and this
integration is as much a feature of development as are the separate traits
themselves. Integrative development, in fact, permeates every aspect of
the human organism. Muscular responses that at first were clumsy and
disorganized become in time integrated into a smoothly functioning,
coordinated pattern of movement. Speech becomes integrated with
thougl:t, and thought with other mental processes. We have reason to
believe, too, that the nervous system, in the course of its development
from conception to maturity, achieves an increasingly higher level of
integrative functioning. This is manifested clearly in the remarkable
executive control that the nervous system exercises over sensory and
motor functions. In every department of personality, development tends
toward integration.
This synthesizing characteristic of personality and personality development is of great importance to adjustment and to mental health. We
may note, first of all, that a certain degree of personal integration is
necessary to both; and therefore, the higher the level of integrative
development, the more likely is the individual to achieve adequate adjustment. It is a significant fact, as we have already indicated, that maladjustment, especially in its severest form, is characterized by disintegration of
personality. This relation is not difficult to understand when we realize
that the overcoming of-frustrations and conflicts, and of problems and
difficulties necessarily depends on integrated effort. Obviously, the person
who is torn between conflicting motives or whose mental life is disrupted
by anxiety, fear, or jealousy is going to find it difficult to tackle his
problems in a concerted manner.
Integrative development signifies, also, the essential unity or oneness
of personality, whic:h means that, in any crucial situation, it is not some
part but rather the whole of the personality that is involved; for this
reason maladjustment tends to reach into every aspect of personality.
In the last analysis, it is the person himself, nONome abstracted trait or

/tJ

117

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


quality, that is called upon to solve a problem, overcome frustratIOns, or
adjust to the demands that arise in daily living. In fact, whenever there is
a disruption of personality in the direction of futonomous functioning, as
happens typically in hysteria, maladjustment already exists.
To achieve a high level of integration, it is of primary importance
to create the- most favorable setting for persoh.ality development, one in
which training and education, environment Jnd culture, discipline and
precept are such that a high level of personality integration is assured.
Our attention is directed to these factors in the following chapter.
SUMMARY

In this chapter, as a prelude to discussing the conditions and determinants of adjustment and mental health, we concerned ourselves with the
relations between personality and adjustment. We saw, first of all, that the
concept and the reality of personality are central to the entire problem
of adjustment, and that an understanding of the nature, characteristics,
and development of personality is therefore necessary to an adequate
treatment of adjustment problems. Personality was interpreted simply as
a mind-body or psychosomatic reality, in which mental and physical
functions are intrinsically related to each other. Considerable evidence
was cited for the reciprocal influence of both functions, and the implications of this relation for adjustment were sharply drawn. In addition, we
took note of the possibility of intramental influences, in which; mental
functions affect each other, and also of the relations between personality
and behavior, and between personality, environment, and culture. Here,
too, the implications for adjustment and mental health were indicated.
We then considered briefly certain qualities of personality that are
particularly important to adjustment, ihcluding modifiability and resilience, self-regulation and self-realization, and intelligence and rationality.
In each, case, we analysed the quality in terms of its meaning for adjustment and mental health. In general, we noted thai:the-level of adjustment
varies in proportion to the degree to which these fundamental qualities
are realized in daily living. Because of their _intrinsic rdation to adjustment, we noted, too, that these qualities have a direct bearing oli. the
criteria of adjustment described in the preceding chapter.
Finally, we studied the relation between adjustment and the development of personality. Interpreting personality as an emergent phenomenon,
we pointed out that, although genetic and constitutional determinants
are important to its formation, personality is primarily de,:,elopmental in
nature, and therefore such factors as le~Ji1ing, di~cipline, training, and
education are of primary importance in so far as they complement the
process of maturation. The,Jmplications of this developmental interpretation were pointed up by a concluding statement regarding the Slg-

118

Personality and Adjustment


nificance of integrative development of personality for the achievement
of good adjustment and mental health.
QUESTIONS, EXERCISES, AND PROJECTS

1. Describe in your own words the importance that a knowledge of

personality has for the understanding of adjustment and mental health.


2. Using standard questionnaires of personality and adjustment with
twenty or more subjects, determine by statistical procedures the correlation between adjustment scores and such personality factors as
introversion, submissiveness, and sociability.
'
3. What is your understanding of the relation between intelligence and
adjustment?
4. Explain what is meant by the relation between personal integration
and mental health.
5. Write a short essay on the significance of the trait of inferiority for
personal and social adjustment.
6. Discuss the concept of personality as an emergent phenomenon. What
are the implications of this concept for adjustment?
7. If personality is essentially developmental in nature, is the study of
childhood and adolescence of particular value to the understanding
of personality? Explain.
S. Contrast in your own words the constitutional and the developmental interpretations of personality.
9. Explain and exemplify the psychosomatic concept of personality.
What are some of the implications of this viewpoint for adjustment?
10. Cite several examples of the influence of mental on physiological
processes. Can you suggest a possible explanation of the mechanism
involved in these psychosomatic reactions?
SELECTED READINGS

w. Personality: a psychological interpretation. New York:


Holt, 1937. Parts II, III.
ANDERSON, J. E. The psychology of development and personal adjustment.
New York: Holt, 1949. ~hap: XVI.
ARNOLD, M., & GASSON, J. A. (Eds.) The human person. New York: Ronald,
1954. Parts II, III.
HONIGMANN, J. J. Culture and personality. New York: Harper, 1954.
HORNEY, K. Neurosis and human growth. New York: Norton, 1950.
Chaps. III-VI.
ALLPORT, G.

119

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


The integration of the personality. New York: Rinehart, 1939.
Mental hygiene and life. New York: Harper, 1952.
Chaps. III, IV.
I
PATrY, W. L., & JOHNSON, L. s. Personality an:d adjustment. New York:
\
McGraw-Hill, 1953. Part III.
ROYCE, J. E. Personality and mental health. Mil\vaukee: Bruce, 1954.
SHAFFER, L. F. The psychology of adjustment. Boston: Houghton Mifflin,
1936. Chap. XI.
SLOTKIN, J. s. Personality development. New York: Harper, 1952.
THORPE, L. P. The psychology of mental health. New York: Ronald, 1950.
Chaps. VI. VIII.

lUNG, C. G.

KAPLAN, L., & BARON, D.

..,/--

120

~ SIX

CONDITIONS AND DETERMINANTS


OF ADJUSTMENT
Personality as a determinant. Range and classification of determinants.
Native versus acquired responses. Groundwork of adjustment. Influence of
heredity and physical constitution. The major systems of the body in relation to adjustment and mental health. Physical health and illness. Experience. Learning. Training. Self-determination. Psychological climate. Influence of the home and family. Parene;child relations. Sibling relations.
The community. The school. Cultural determinants of adjustment. Religion, adjustment, and mental health.

FACTORS DETERMINING ADJUSTMENT AND MENTAL HEALTH

Personality as a Deterpzinant

In the preceding chapter we discussed at some length the relations between


personality and adjustment, primarily because of the basic importance of
these relations to a thorough study of adjustment, and secondarily as a
prelude to considering the main problem of this chapter-the conditions
and determinants of adjustment. It is important to grasp the integral nature
of these two approaches, the one emphasizing the role of personality
itself, the other bringing to light those specific factors within personality,
and those external to it, that condition and determine the process of
adjustment from one moment to the next. Taken as a totality, without
regard for specific factors like physical make-up, chronic illness, glandular imbalance, or nervous dysfunction, personality itself functions as a
primary determinant of adjustment. In some instances, difficulties of
adjustment can be readily traced to some specific internal or external
factor: glandular imbalance, a broken home, or insecurity. But, in others,
it is the nature of the personality as a totality that determines reactions to
conflict, stress, or frustration. For this reason, we emphasized the emergent
and integrative interpretation of personality in the preceding chapter, a
viewpoint that recognizes that personality transcends the characteristics
attributed to it and therefore functions as a~. independent variable in
adjustment situations. This fact is recognize ,ITPlicitly i.n the use of

121

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


such terms as neurotic, psychotic, and psychopa,thic as applied to different
personality "types." In such personalities, the, quality of adjustment is
determined by the peculiar and distinctive otganization of personality
rather than by individual factors within or external to personality. It is
in this sense, as we have pointed out before; \ that personality is to be
regarded as the medium through which different determining factors are
channeled into the process of adjustment.
One may argue, of course, that, in the last analysis, the relation of
personality to adjustment is itself determined by the combination of internal and external conditions that contribute to personality formation.
The neurotic or psychopath reacts to demands and conflicts in his
peculiarly abnormal way because of defective discipline, inferiority, parental rejection, or some other determinant. This view is certainly correct;
but it does not go far enough. It fails to take into account that personality
is essentially an emergent phenomenon and therefore possesses properties
and characteristics, peculiar to itself, that transcend the determining
factors from which it arises. As an example of this development, let us
consider the trait of inferiority in relatIon to adjustment. There are many
normal persons in whom there is a strong feeling of inferiority; but, when
such persons are faced with a problem or a conflict, the inferiority at
most makes them hesitant, cautious, or timid. In the neurotic, on the
other hand, inferiority is likely to have a damaging effect., His sense of
inferiority is, as it were, routed through the neurotic structure, with the
result that he finds it difficult to adjust adequately to situations that !evoke
his feelings of inferiority. This "routing" in abnormal personalities results in the excessive quality and the intensity of their reactions, so difficult to
understand, to situations that cause only a ,inild response in normal
subjects.
'
I

Range and Classification of Determinants


The determinants of adjustment are, of course, identical with the factors
that regulate the development and gradual emergence-oLp~onality. This
equivalence follows directly from the various relations described in this
and the preceding chapter that link adjustment with personality. The
determinants can be grouped conveniently- in the following way.
1.

2.
3.
4.
5.
122

Physical conditions and determinants, including heredity, physical


constitution, the nervous, glandular, and muscular systems, health,
illness, and so forth
Development and maturation, particularly intellectual, social, moral,
and emotional maturation
I
Psychological determinants, including/'fxperiences, learning, conditioning, self-determination, frustration, and conflict
Environmental conditions, particularly the home, family, and school
Cultural determinants, including ,religion

Conditions and Determinants of Adjustment


It should be understood that we are using the term "determinants" here
to mean any factor that sets the stage for, influences, or exerts a determining effect on the processes of adjustment. Thus we would say that
physical constitution often sets the stage for certain kinds of adjustment;
that the broken home is a condition of social maladjustment; and that
religion exerts a strong influence on mental stability. To know what these
determinants are and how they function with respect to adjustment and
mental health is a prerequisite for understanding the process of adjustment itself, since adjustment emerges out of the relations between these
determinants and the demands or requirements imposed on the individual.

Native versus Acquired Responses


What is it that these determinants work on, and what effects do they
produce? Here we come across the controversy about native versus
acquired responses. Some psychologists have held the view that the
organism starts out with nothing more than a group of reflex responses,
which become conditioned and cross-conditioned in a complex manner,
leading in some instances to good adjustment and in others to maladjustment, depending on the way in which conditioning is applied. In this
view, even though reflexes are themselves innate, the emphasis is placed
on acquired behavior, since conditioned responses far outnumber original reflex patterns. The embryological viewpoint, which emphasizes
prenatal determinants of behavior, may be regarded as an extension of
the reflex hypothesis, since here again human responses are interpreted as
being largely acquired, to the point, in fact, of calling into question the
bona fide character of some of the native reflexes. These viewpoints,
while definitely limited in their value to the study of adjustments, serve
the purpose of highlighting the extent to which human responses are
acquired, thus de-emphasizing their supposedly innate quality.
Undue emphasis on innate behavior was the besetting sin of the
instinct psychologists, who never seemed to tire of inventing long lists
of native qualities with which the organism was supposedly endowed. 1
The implications of the doctrine of instincts for the psychology of adjustment are clear. The more innate responses are, the greater is the degree
of rigidity imposed on the organism. Innate or instinctive responses are
not readily modified; they are predetermined and stereotyped, involving
a behavior sequence that is more or less invariable. Thus lower organisms
have far less adjustive capacity than humans; they are dominated by
innate mechanisms that leave little room for variability. Their learning
capacity is limited, and they do not possess the capacity to manipulate or
regulate behavior in the interest of achieving some goal. Wherever
1 See Shaffer, L. F. The psychology of adjustment. Boston: Houghton Miffiin,
1936, pp .. 22-40. Sh~ffer gives a good account of diffe t viewpoints on the origins
of behaVIOr and adjustment.
.~

1
.!J

123

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


behavior is dominated by innate tendencies, as in animals, young children,
and aments, the chances for adjustment: are limited.
A familiar example of the relation betwe'eri instincts and adjustment
potentialities is seen in the difficulties created ~y the sex drive. The sex
drive is certainly innate and instinctive, and thus it tends to dominate
behavior in situations where it is aroused. E~eryone knows that it is
difficult to make good sex adjustments, and the more that the sex drive
is allowed to function on a purely instinctive level, the more difficult it
becomes to meet the demands that society and morality impose. Sexual
responses can be modified; they can be sublimated 'and controlled; but
the large number of sexually maladjusted persons is testimony to the fact
that it is not easy to bring this drive into line with the criteria of good
adjustment.
This critical evaluation of the instinct theory should not be interpreted as a denial of instincts, nor as approval of the reflex and embryological hypotheses. The truth of the matter is that the human organism
is endowed at birth, and innately, with reflexes and instincts, but not to
the extent that some hypotheses claim~ In addition, there are innate patterns of affective response, including feelings of pleasantness and unpleasantness, a primitive emotional excitement, and, in all probability,
an innate temperamental disposition peculiar to the organism. To this
list should be added the natural capacities for sensory experience, imagination, thinking, and language, with which every human orgamsm IS
endowed by reason of its nature.

Groundwork of Adjustment
These innate factors constitute the basic groundwork for human adjustment, and to them the various determinants are applied in the course of
growth and development (Figure 9). They function as the primary conditions for adjustment and mental stability. It is easy to illustrate this fact.
Let us suppose that a person is born without the use of one of his senses,
such as vision. The fact that he cannot see will atter his_~djustments to
reality throughout the entire course of his life. Moreov~r, his blindness
will set a limit to the effects of certain determinants like learning, experience, interpersonal relations, and self-determination. The adjustments of
the blind person, therefore, cannot ever parallel those of the sighted
person, even though in any single instance he may be the better adjusted
person. Similarly, variations in native temperament, intelligence, and
imaginative capacity among different persons are bound to condition
adjustment and mental stability in definite ways.
I
Although the course of adjustment and;-!ii~ntal health is charted by
these primary conditions, we still must recognize that the great majority
of responses are acquired, as are the more important personality traits,
and that the potentialities for change and growth are almost unlimited.
/

124

Conditions and Determinants of Adjustment


Most people are born with a healthy physical constitution, normal intelligence, a reasonably stable temperament, and in full possession of their
sensory capacities, so that the chances for wholesome adjustment are
good. This statement implies that the determinants of adjustment exert
a great deal more weight than the primary conditions; and that if these

EDUCATION

CHARACTER
TRAITS

SOCIAL
TRAITS

PERSONALITy'
TRAITS

Fig. 9-The manner in which basic conditions of personality "filter"


the effects produced by the determinants of personality and adjustment.

determinants, particularly family living, discipline, education, religion,


and self-discipline, are applied.in an efficient and wholesome way, good
adjustment and mental health will be assured. Out of these relations can
be expected to emerge a healthy, normal personality, with traits and
behavior patterns that can cope with tension, conflict, and frustration
with little difficulty. Conversely, of course, in those instances where the
determinants of adjustment exert a damaging influence, maladjustment

will often ",mIt.

12S

N atztre and Conditions of Adjustment


PHYSICAL CONDITIONS AND DETERMINANTS OF ADJUSTMENT

Infiuence of Heredity and Physical ConstitTJtion

What exactly does heredity have to do with adjustment and mental


health? We all know of instances where abn6rmality seems to run in
families, and there is some statistical evidence to show that the incidence
of abnormality is higher in the families of neurotic and psychotic
persons than in those of normal persons; but how sure can we be
that these data are reliable?2 The whole question of genetic influence is
inseparably bound up with the factor of physical constitution, because
heredity, being a physical process, must transmit its effects through the
physical mechanism. This relation gives us a clue to understanding the
possible influence of heredity. We may accept the general principle that
the more personal capacities, traits, or dispositions are linked to or
grounded in physical constitution, the more likely are they to be influenced by heredity; and in some instances tendencies toward maladjustment may be transmitted genetically" particularly through the medium
of temperament. It is generally agreed that temperament, both as an
innate disposition and in its devel9pmental aspects, is intrinsically bound
up with physical constitution, and is, for that reason, genetically determined in its initial phases. As a primary component of personality, temperament may be regarded as the matrix from which arise some of the
most basic characteristics of personality, characteristics that have a great
deal to do with the later adjustments of the organism, especially in view
of the close connection between emotions and adjustment. In other words,
it is highly probable that fundamental dispositions like cheerfulness,moodiness, and sensitivity, all of which are important to adjustment, are
in part genetically determined; and in this inciirect way heredity may condition the adjustments of the organism.'
Any reference to temperament and physical constitution prompts
the question whether adjustment is determined tQ~ny extent by general
body build in the manner suggested by E. Kretschmerand-W. H. Sheldon
in their theories of temperament and personality. a The- issue is complex,
2 There are many arguments, pro and con, regarding the influence of heredity
on adjustment and mental health. A good, brief interpretation will be found in
Cameron, N., & Magaret, A. Behavior pathology. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1951,
pp. 28-32. For a strong argument against the heredity viewpoint, see Dunlap, K.
Personal adjustment. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1946, pp. li-27. See also Sontag,
L. W. The genetics of differences in psychosomatic patterns in childhood. Amer.
J. Orthopsycbiat., 1950, 20, 479-489; Kallman, F. Here,dity in health and mental
disorder. New York: Nortoni'!,953; Cavanagh/)_:-~., & McGoldrick, J. B. Fundamental psychiatry. Milwaukee:"Bruce, 1953, Chap. XI.
3 See Sheldon, W. H. & Stevens, S. S. The varieties of temperament. New
York: Harper, 1942; Cabot, P. S. deQ. The relationship between characteristics
of personality and physique in adolescents~ Genet. Psycbol. Monogr., 1938, 20, No. 1.
e

126

.].

Conditions and Determinants of Adjustment


and no definitive answer is possible at the present time. That there are
significant possibilities for adjustment in the relation between temperament and body type is recognized by many authorities; and Sheldon
himself claims to have found high correlations between his "somatotypes"
and temperament types. For example, ectomorphs-delicate, poorly muscled, fragile persons-are characterized by restraint, inhibition, and aversion to social activity, whereas the more muscular and sturdy mesomorphs
are described as typically active, vigorous, and assertive. The implications
of such relations for adjustment are clear. But there are difficulties that
stand in the way of accepting such a theory. According to Cameron and
Magaret, even if we disregard the serious criticisms that have been aimed
at Sheldon's method,
we may still question whether a given somatotype represents a constitutional predisposition toward a particular temperament type. Perhaps
the individual with one variety of body build calls forth reactions from
others which train him in characteristic ways of behaving. Thus the
biological fragility of the ectomorph may make him unacceptable to his
peers and unable to compete with them; he may then acquire, in social
interaction, the techniques of withdrawal and isolation which characterize the "cerebrotonic" temperament. Conversely, the strong and
stalwart mesomorph may learn, in successful competition with his peers,
the techniques of vigorous assertiveness which define the "somatotonic
temperament." In studies of body type, as in the case of the biochemical
investigations, the critical question of interplay between constitution and
social learning remains unanswered. 4

This does not mean that findings such as Sheldon's can be ignored; but
we must be extremely careful not to draw loose inferences from them
and apply the inferences to the interpretation of adjustment.
There are other Jactors in personality also linked to physical constitution and thus influenced by heredity; but their relation to adjustment
is more remote than in the case of temperament. Some of these factors,
such as intelligence and imagination, can playa significant role in adjustment and mental health, but not in a way that can be attributed to
inheritance. This is so because temperamental factors are intrinsically
related to adjustment, whereas factors like intelligence affect adjustment
only in an indirect manner. As we move away from characteristics that
are bound up with physical constItution toward traits and dispositions
4 Cameron, N., & Magaret, A. Behavior pathology. Boston: Houghton Mifflin,
1951, p. 28. Reprinted by permission. See also Naccarati, S., & Garrett, H. E. The
relation of morphology to temperament. J. abnorm. soc. Psychol., 1924-25, 19,
254-263; Thorpe, L. P. The psychology of mental health. New York: Ronald, 1950,
pp. 206-212. Willgoose, C. E. Educational implications of constitutional psychology.
Education, 1952, 73, 255-262.

b
'tJ

127

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment

that are psychological and social in nature, 'we see the influence of
heredity on the process of adjustment diminishing. When we consider
important traits like responsibility, truthfulnesd, dependability, unselfishness, and so on, each one of which has significant implications for good
adjustment, we see the role of genetic and coriJtitutional factors dwindle
I
in significance.
The Major Systems of the Body in Relation to Adjustment and
Mental H ealtb

Because physical constitution is a primary condition of all behavior


responses, it can be assumed that the nervous, glandular, and nmscular
systems have a direct bearing, and often an important one, on tbe processes of adjustment. Similarly, because the nervous system is the immediate basis of mental processes, its condition and development are basically
related to mental health. These relations were brought out in our discussion of the psychosomatic principle in the preceding chapter; and
there is little that need be added at this point. There are so many familiar
instances and so much clinical and psychiatric evidence of the effects of
nerve disorder on mental stability.- and adjustment that the relation is a
matter of common knowledge. Common instances of nerve disorders are
associated with severe head injury, encephalitis, brain tumor, spinal and
cerebral meningitis, syphilitic infection, senile deterioration, and toxic infections, all of which are expressed symptomatically in mental, beh~vioral,
or .personality disorders. A healthy, intact, and normally developed
nervous system is a sine qua nOn of adequate psychoiogical functioning
and therefore of adjustment and mental health. 5
Instances can be cited readily to exemplify the role of the glandular
and muscular systems in adjustment. 6 Spastic paralysis is a good example
of the latter relation; whereas hyperthyroidism, cretinism, and pituitary
deficiencies are clear instances of the effects produced by glandular dysfunction. Here again the effects may be of a distinctly mental kind, or
they may show up most clearly in behavior or person-;rrty-disorders. The
important point is that, regardless of the way in which this relation is
expressed, the symptoms indicate that th<;: glandular and muscular mechanisms of the body function as a condition of healthy adjustment and
mental stability. We do not mean by this that every glandular disorder
5 See Burchard, E. M. L. Physique and Psychosis. Compo psychol. Monogr.,
1936, 13, No. 61.
6 Ingle, D. J. Endocrine function and personality,_Psychdl. rev., 1935, 42, 466--479;
Lawrence, C. H. The endocrine factor in persinality development. Educ. Rec.,
1942,23, Suppl. 15, 83-94; Rowe, A. W. A possible endocrine factor in the behavior
problems of the young. Amer. J. Orthopsychiat., 1931, 1, 451--475; Beach, F. A.
Hormones and behavior, New York: Harper, 1948; Margolese, M. Mental disorders
in childhood due to endocrine disorders. Nerv. Child, 1948, 8, 55-77; Orr, W. H.
Hormones, health, and happiness, New York: Macmillan, 1954.

128

Conditions and Determinants of Adjustment


is accompanied by mental or behavioral symptoms, but only that such
disorders can and often do lead to adjustment difficulties. 7 In other words,
the proper functioning of the systems of the body is a general condition
for adjustment and mental health. 8

Physical Health and Illness in Relation to Adjustment


This discussion leads naturally to the question whether general physical
well-being or illnesses other than those already mentioned have any precise
relation to adjustment. Of one thing we can be sure: adjustment and
normality are more easily maintained under conditions of physical wellbeing than they are when illness is a constant companion or when there is
debilitation of any kind. 9 It is certainly evident that excessive fatigue,
dissipation, illness, indiscretions in eating and sleeping, and the like, are a
poor preparation for meeting the demands or stresses that are daily imposed on human organisms. Students who have attempted to carryon
their studies under such conditions know well how difficult it is to adjust
effectively to the requirements of academic life.
Perhaps even more important to adjustment than the direct influences
are the indirect effects of certain physical conditions. This applies particularly to health, chronic illness, and physical deficiencies. Continued
buoyant health has a strong salutary effect on the self-concept, on feelings
of well-being, self-confidence, and self-acceptance. In coping with situations and problems, such effects can have far-reaching influences. In
similar fashion, chronic illness can cause feelings of inadequacy or inferiority, morbid self-concern leading to hypochondria, self-pity, and
feelings of persecution. Physical deficiencies (such as partial deafness),
See Warren's study on thyroid therapy reported in Thorpe. Op. cit., pp. 213-214.
Thorpe, among many others, cautions strongly against overemphasizing the
relation between glandular functioning and adjustment difficulties. "Endocrinologists
also have demonstrated that, although deviations from normal behavior are associated
with endocrine imbalance more often than chance would permit, such association
is not necessarily causal. Many abnormalities of behavior occur without a demonstrable connection with glandular disorders. Both endocrine dysfunctions and personality deviations occur frequently and may thus often be associated in the same
person by chance. Furthermore, there is evidence that glands themselves are subject
to .the influence of both physiological factors and external ~gents of a tensionarousing nature."-Louis P. Thorpe, The psychology of mental health, 1950, The
Ronald Press Company, p. 214. Reprinted by permission. See also the author's
evaluation of this relation in Schneiders, A. A. The psychology of adolescence.
Milwaukee: Bruce, 1951, pp. 86-93.
9 See Chap. III, Physical health factors in mental hygiene, especially pp. 46-48,
in Bernard, H. W. Toward better personal -adjustment. Bernard states, "The maintenance of good physical health is a step in the direction of mental health. Physical
health and vigor must be given attention in order for one to be a happy, efficient,
harmonious person-a person who is living a full life." By permission from Toward
better personal adjustment, by H. W. Bernard. Clright, 1951. McGraw-Hill
Book Company, Inc. p; 46.
.
!

129

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


structural defects, skin eruptions, and so forth, may produce similar
effects. Cruickshank reports a study in which a sentence-completion test
was administered to 264 physically handicappe4 children and to a similar
group of nonhandicapped children with similar social and economic
backgrounds. The children with disabilities, inbluding poliomyelitis and
cerebral palsy, see themselves as having more f~ars and more feelings of
guilt than do children of normal physical structure. Moreover, the presence of these feelings has a direct impact on the less satisfactory social
adjustments that the handicapped children feel they are making. 10
Similarly, Barker and his associates, on the basis of an analysis of
personal documents of physically disabled persons, list the following
characteristics as being most commonly mentioned.
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.

Feelings of inferiority
Compensatory behavior
Fear
Aggressiveness
Feeling of being mistreated
Nervousness and anxiety 11

Numerous other characteristics are- also mentioned, but with decreasing


frequency. These authors state that, while the inventory type of personality test does not differentiate physically disabled and physically normal
persons, nevertheless, "studies by means of interviews, observations, and
reports of informants indicate rather consistently that physically disabled
persons are more frequently 'maladjusted' than rhysically normal persons,
although this is far from universal; instances of excellent adjustment in
spite of both major and minor disablement are not infrequent."12 According to these authors, maladjustment appears in many different forms,
including the following.
a. Withdrawing, retiring, reticent behavior
b. Shy, timid, self-conscious, fearful behavior

-----1'_-

10 Cruickshank, W. M. The relation of physical disability .to fear and guilt


feelings. Child Developm., 1951, 22, 291-298. See also the study of disabled war
veterans in Wiener, D. N. Personality characteristics of selected disability groups.
Genet. Phychol. Monogr., 1952, 45, 175-255. Similar studies include Garrett, J. F.
(Ed.) Psychological aspects of physical disability. Washington: Federal Security
Agency, n.d.; Morgan, D. H. Emotional adjustments of visually-handicapped
adolescents. J. educ. Psychol., 1944, 35, 65-81.
11 Barker, R. G., Wright, B. A., & Gonick, M. R. Adjustment to physical handicap and illness. Bull. No. 55. New York: Social Science Research Council, 1946, p. 72.
Reprinted by permission.
/_
/
12 Barker, R. C., Wright, B. A., & Gonick, M.:'R.- Adjustment to physical handicap and illness, Bull. No. 55. New York: Social Science Research Council, 1946,
pp. 72-73. Reprinted by permission.
t.-I

130

Conditions and Determinants of Adjustment


c.
d.
e.
f.
g.
h.
i.
I j.
k.

Serious, thoughtful behavior


Refusal to recognize real condition; concealment, delusions
Feelings of inferiority
Emotional and psychosexual immaturity
Friendless, isolated, asocial behavior
Paranoid reactions, sensitivity, suspiciousness
Craving for affection, love of praise, seeking of attention
Too high goals
Extremely aggressive, competitive behavior
1. Anxiety, tension, nervousness, temper tantrums 13

All conditions resulting from illness and deficiency, whether expressed directly in symptoms or in personality traits, or indirectly in the
persqn's reactions to the difficulties, have important implications for
adjustment and mental health. Again this does not mean that the effects
are invariable or necessary; many persons are chronically incapacitated
or structurally deficient without being maladjusted, just as many healthy
persons are mentally disturbed. But there is always the possibility that
adjustment will be affected by the kind of condition we have described.H
DEVELOPMENT, MATURATION, AND ADJUSTMENT

We have already touched upon the relation between development,


maturation, and adjustment in preceding chapters, where we discussed
maturity as a criterion of adjustment and the importance of personality
development. These concepts hinge on the fact that development and
maturation are among the primary conditions that govern the achievement
of adjustment as the organism passes from one stage of growth to another.
This fact can be exemplified in a number of ways. We know, for example,
that the very young child is poorly equipped to meet the demands of his
environment. Sometimes the best that he can do is cry, stamp his feet,
or sulk, none of whIch is adequate for purposes of mastery or contentment. As he grows older, these childish and sometimes infantile ways of
responding are likely to disappear not only because of factors like learning, training, and conditioning but simply because he is becoming more
mature. Similarly, the adolescent who, at the age of fourteen seems incapable of accepting ordinary responsibilities of daily living, will, when
13 Barker, R. G., Wright, B. A., & Gonick, M. R. Adjustment to physical handicap and illness. Bull. No. 55. New York: Social Science Research Council, 1946,
p. 73. Reprinted by permission. See also Marzolf, S. S., The physically handicapped.
In Pennington, L. A. & Berg, I. A. (Eds.) An introduction to clinical psychology,
(2nd Ed.) New York: Ronald, 1954, Chap. 12, esp. pp. 337-340.
14 See Chap. III, Physical development and its psychological implications, In
Schneiders, Op. cit., pp. 53-71.

131

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


he reaches eighteen or nineteen, embrace the more serious responsibilities
of adult life with little difficulty. Admitteflly, thes~ changes vary a great
deal from one person to another, depending on the pace set by maturation and by other factors that condition the process of growing up; but
this does not alter the fact that developm~nt and maturation continually
affect the level of the organism's adjustm~nt. In other words, then, the
pattern of adjustment and mental health will vary always 'With the
developmental level that the organism has achieved. 15
This fact is also exemplified in instances where development and
maturation are impeded or distorted, or where there is overdevelopment.
Precocity, whether intellectual, social, or sexual, affords a striking example of the manner in which overdevelopment affects adjustment. Children who are intellectually precocious manifest distinctive adjustment
patterns as compared with average children. For the most part, they are
better equipped to meet the demands their environment imposes. This
is certainly true of academic requirements, and there is evidence that they
have the advantage over average ichildren in other areas of adjustment
also. 16 However, in other areas of adjustment (sexual, for example),
precocity may have very bad effects.
Adjustment is also seriously affected by failures in development. This
fact follows directly from the principle that maturation is a basic criterion
of adequate adjustment. Where development is impeded, as in the case
of many feeble-minded children, the ability to cope successfully with
problems, conflicts, and frustrations is considerably limited. This statement does not imply that subnormals are, for the most part, maladjusted.
On the contrary, various studies indicate that when demands are pitched
to their intellectual level, many subnormal children are able to make good
adjustments. They fulfill the responsibilities of the jobs for which they
are suited, make friends readily, and often do not manifest the complications of adjustment that are found in their intellectual superiors. But
because the factor of intelligence influences aojustmeE_tJ it can happen
that the requirements imposed by the environment or by their own iriter15 Kaplan, L., & Baron, D. Mental hygiene and life. New York:- Harper, 1952,
pp. 72-76.
16 The intellectually superior child often runs into behavior difficulties because
our society is geared largely to the needs and interests of average children; but he
consistently manifests traits that are helpful to good adjustment. Garrison, for
example, points out that the percentage of gifted children who are referred to
child-guidance clinics is higher than the percentage of such children in the general
population (17.3 as against 11.9). Neverthele~:..studies show that gifted children
are more likely to have high moral character -traits than average children, and
they are far more likely to be chosen as leaders. Thus, their adjustment capacity
is high, but they often come into conflict with accepted standards and norms.Garrison, K. C. The psychology of exceptional children. (Rev. Ed.) New York:
Ronald, 1950, pp. 216-218.
"..

132

Conditions and Determinants of Adjustment


nal needs are beyond the capabilities that sub normals possessP This fact
reminds us of the important principle outlined earlier in this text, that
standards of adjustment must be brought into line with the capabilities of
the person to whom these standards are applied. We should not make the
mistake of thinking that all persons, regardless of their abilities or level of
maturation, can be expected to reach the same level of adjustment.
The relations between adjustment and anomalies in development may
be expected to vary with the kind of development involved. We know
that development conditions every aspect of personality, so that there
are as many kinds of development as there are different aspects of personality-physical, emotional, social, moral, religious, and intellectual.
Normally, we may expect a certain correspondence among these various
forms of development, but this is not necessarily the case. Intellectual
development may lag behind physical; and often emotional maturation is
far below the level of other stages of development.' Some of these aspects
of maturation are far more important to adjustment than others. Moral
growth is more important than social maturation; and, because it conditions every other aspect of maturation, emotional maturity is the most
important of all. Thus a person may be rather poorly adjusted in the
area of social relations but manage to get along fairly well because of a
high level of emotional maturity; but it is impossible to cope adequately
with problems and conflicts und~r conditions of emotional immaturity.
To understand, therefore, what failures in development mean to the
achievement of adjustment and mental health, we must take into account
these differential effects of various aspects of development.
PSYCHOLOGICAL DETERMINANTS OF ADJUSTMENT AND MENTAL
HEALTH

Experience and Adjustment


Many psychological factors condition adjustment and mental health.
Among them are experiences, learning and conditioning, psychological
needs, self-determination, frustration and conflict, and psychological
climate. Some of these factors we have already discussed; others will be
taken up in later chapters. At this point, we wish to consider particularly
experience, learning, self-determination, and the psychological climate
within which adjustment occurs.
It is not an easy task to keep these different factors distinct from each
other. Experience, for example, is so broad a concept that it could be
used to include things like learning and frustration. But there is considerable advantage in treating them separately. Not all experience is

developme~rf the mentally handicapped,

17 See Chap. IX, Social and personal


especially pp. 182-184, in Garrison. Op. cit.

133

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment

significant for adjustment or mental health. There are countless everyday


experiences that have little to do with the way in which a person copes
with problems, conflicts, or environmental sdesses. There are some experiences, however, that are of fundamental \significance to a person's
pattern of adjustment. These may be salutary\ to adjustment or mental
health, or they may be traumatic. Of particul\lr significance are experiexperiences in the latter category. The following case will illustrate this
point.
Joanne came to the psychologist with the complaint that she had considerable difficulty in getting along with young men. Already twenty-four
years of age, attractive and pleasing in her personality, Joanne had very few
"dates," and had never succeeded in going steady with any man she had
known. In other words, they never asked her for a second date. Asked about
the cause of this situation, Joanne remarked that it was probably because she
never allowed them to touch her in any manner. In fact, she reported, she
once slapped her escort very soundly when he tried to hold hands with her.
Analysis soon brought to light the pnderlying cause of this completely
negative attitude toward physical contact with the opposite sex. When she
was twelve years old, Joanne had experienced a traumatic incident with a
favored uncle. Of deep moral sensibilities, she was greatly shocked when her
uncle made sexual advances. The shock was so great, in fact, that for years
it had lain buried in the unconscious recesses of her mind; and it was only
the questioning of the psychologist that brought it to the surface of: consciousness. Joanne was quick to see the connection between this unfortunate
experience and her attitude toward physical contact and, after a few interviews, was able to modify her attitudes and become more responsive to the
opposite sex.

Here we have a striking instance of how a single experience can


affect adjustments and mental traits over a long period of time. It should
be noted that the traumatic character of the experience will depend always
on the ch'aracteristics of the person as much as on~hature of the
experience itself, which reminds us of the principle described earlier
that the causes and conditions of adjustment are routed to adjustment
through the personality of the person affected. ls
Many other instances similar to the one described could serye as
18 The relation between experience, behavior, and personality development is given
thorough treatment in Hunt, J. MeV. (Ed.) Personality and the behavior disorders.
2 vols. New York: Ronald, 1944, in three articles: Ribble, M. AlInfantile experience
in relation to personality development, pp. 621-6,i.I;--J\,lurphy, L. B. Childhood
experience in relation to personality development, pp: 652-690; and Blanchard, P.
Adolescent experience in relation to personality and behavior, pp. 691-713. See also
Fredericson, E. Competition: the.effects of infantile experience upon adult behavior.
J. abnorm. soc. Psycbol., 195r, 46, 406-409.

134

Conditions and Determinants of Adjustment


additional examples of the effect of experience on adjustment; but we
must not forget that some experiences have just as striking a salutary
effect. The experiences of receiving a reward for a job well done, of a
generous act of friendship, of being helped to overcome a difficulty, and
so on, often serve to condition attitudes and adjustments in a definitely
positive manner. Here, too, the effect will be influenced by personality
factors; but the more important fact is that experiences can have a positive I effect on mental health and adjustment. The possibility of salutary
effect should be exploited fully in the application of mental-hygiene
principl_es to the education and development of children.

Learning and Adjustment


Of fundamental importance to human adjustment is the process of learning, which also can be used to the advantage of the psychological welfare
of individuals. From numerous facts that have already been brought out
regarding adjustment, it should be clear why learning is all-important.
The simple fact that the majority of responses and personality traits are
acquired rather than innate indicates the pervasive influence of this
process. Even when responses and characteristics are determined by innate
or genetic factors, the influence of learning is unmistakable.
Regardless of the innate factors which may underlie them, personality characteristics develop in relation to the experiences of the individual in the social and physical world. As the individual meets the
situations' of life and reacts to them, he finds that certain modes of
behavior afford him satisfaction. To him they represent adequate adjustments to specific situations. Faced again with similar situations, the
person employs the same type of behavior once more. In this way habits
develop. Once established, such habits become to some extent self-perpetuating and lend consistency to behavior. Habits of dress, of manner,
of speech, of cleanliness or orderliness, and so on come to form important
and consistent elements in ,the personality of the individuaJ.19
As a process -of modification, learning begins in the earliest stages
of development (even prenatally) and, in conjunction with maturation,
reaches into every aspect of personality and adjustment. Let us note, too,
that learning produces undesirable and maladjustive responses as well as

tbose tbat bring the organism into a wbolesome and efficient relation
with reality. Learning coupled 'with maturation will give final form to an
innate capacity or disposition toward some response or trait. From a
strictly psychological point of view, therefore, the different patterns of
adjustment, from normality to the severest types of maladjustment, and
19 Kaplan, L., & Baron, D. Mental hygiene and life. N~York: Harper, 1952, p. 73.
Repr!nted by permission. See also BIos, P. Aspects of '. tal health in teaching and
learnmg. Ment. hyg., N.Y. 1953, 37, 555-569.
I

135

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


including symptomatic responses and traits, are in large part outcomes of
changes brought about through learning and raturation.20
1. TRIAL AND ERROR. The influence of learning on adjustment will
vary to some extent with the kind of learning that takes place. Let us
consider, for example, trial-and-error learning.1particularly during childhood, the response made to a situation, whethet good or bad, may be the
result of behavioral exploration. The child, faced with a problem or
frustration that is unfamiliar and for which no response is available,
strikes out blindly in an effort to reduce the tension he feels. This is trialand-error behavior. Refusal to eat, destructiveness, sulking, running away,
and attention-getting mechanisms are familiar instances of exploratory
responses. When exploratory responses are successful or satisfying, they
tend to become fixed and gradually emerge as stabilized habits or as
personality traits.
2. CONDITIONING. The learned response may also be the result of
conditioning, a process by which different stimuli become functionally
equivalent in evoking different responses. For example, a child will react
to frustration in an emotional manner, usually with anger; if to the frustrating situation is linked another s.timulus, such as a dark room, the child
is likely to become emotionally conditioned to the room, or to darkness
in general. What was an originally ineffective stimulus has become functionally equivalent to another that produces the response. There is no way
of telling how many responses, good and bad, normal and abnormal, are
the result of this conditioning process. Certainly, many abnormal fears
(phobias), compulsive acts, negativistic tendencies, and normal, everyday
'habits can be traced to early conditioning. Here again, following the
principle outlined earlier, we may note that any response that results
from conditioning can be unconditioned, a fact of considerable significance for the treatment of adjustment difficulties. 21
3. INHIBITION. Conditioning may lead to inhibition, which is still
another ;form of learning important to adjustment:-The_~locking or control of responses may be as necessary to good adjustment asis wholesome
expression. In fact, inhibition is the start toward self-control, which is one
of the most significa~t determiners of adequate adjustment. In the early
formative years, the child must be inhibited with respect to the free
exercise of bodily functions, play activities that interfere with more important requirements, unnecessary soiling of clothes, aggressive' behavior,
fighting, and so on. Such inhibition, the mechanism of which is conditioning, leads to the setting up of inner controls by Which undesirable or
nonadjustive behavior is eliminated or a.tJeas~ modified to conform to
existing requirements.
20 See Cameron & Magaret. Op. cit" Chap. III, especially p. 53.
21 On the relation between conditioning, inhibition, and adjustment processes,
see Shaffer. Op. cit" pp. 56-73.

136

/'

Conditions and Determinants of Adjustment


But just as ordinary conditioning can lead to the establishment of
inadequate responses, so excessive inhibition can result in the development of tendencies poorly suited to good adjustment. Too much inhibition, like too much of anything, is not a good thing; it fosters rigidity.
Everyone has known overinhibited persons who cannot express themselves freely or act "naturally" in any situation. They are typically
characterized by hesitancy, timidity, distance in social relations, frigidity
in sexual relations, and other personality traits that reflect the excessive
inhibition and external control to which they have been constantly
subjected. They have been conditioned to respond negatively to situations and other persons, when actually they should respond positively.
They are rigid and stylized in their reactions to ordinary events. When
a joke or story is told, they manage a polite, frozen smile when others are
laughing out loud. At a dance or party, they are the last to enter into the
activity. In the matter of clothes, they are as outdated as last week's newspaper. In conversation, they are stilted, formal, and extremely careful in
the choice of words, never permitting themselves a lapse from grammatical correctness, or the easy grace of a rich colloquialism. To put the
rna tier briefly, in nearly all situations the overinhibited person reflects
the rigidity that is an essential characteristic of his personality; and rigidity, as we have noted elsewhere, is contrary to the adaptability and
resiliency that are necessary to effective adjustment.
4. ASSOCIATION. The forms of learning considered so far in relation
to adjustment are characteristic of the early stages of development, even
though they may continue right into adult life. In later stages, learning
becomes more typically rational in character, and the mechanisms of
association playa larger part. Association, however, is much more pervasive than this statement would indicate; it permeates the learning
process from the earliest beginnings and therefore has a very important
relation to adjustment. Often, the response a person makes to a situation
is determined by the peculiar meaning that the situation evokes rather
than by the objective characteristics of the situation itself. 22 This personal
meaning is often the result of association. Many persons, for example,
have associated certain racial or national groups with particular characteristics or with ways of behaving, and they react to these groups in terms
of the associations they have formed rather -than in terms of actual characteristics or behavior. To others; social affairs or competitive activities
are distasteful because they have become associated with fear, failure, or
some other negative reaction. The possibilities for association, through
22 See the discussion of symbolism and adjustment in Shaffer. Op. cit., pp. 73-82.
See also Sherman, M. Basic problems of behavior. New York: Longmans, Green,
1941, pp. 191-199. Sherman (p. 193) makes an interestt'distinction between "signs"
that result from associative thinking, and true symbo " hat often have psychiatric
1
significance.

137

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


which a great deal of adjustive learning takes place, are legion; and therefore the explanation of individual adjustments often hinges upon a
thorough knowledge of the kings of association trat have been formed.23
5. THE LAW OF EFFECT. Throughout all forms of learning, there is
a fundamental principle of the utmost significance in determining the
effects that learning will have on personality or ~ adjustment. This principle is generally referred to as the law of effect. Stated most simply for
the purposes of adjustment psychology, this law holds that whenever a
response is satisfying and reduces tension or frustration, it is likely to be
learned and to become fixed within the general pattern of a person's
responses. If it is dissatisfying and fails to reduce tension, it is likely to
be forgotten or eliminated. This principle applies generally to all modes
of learning, for it involves satisfyingness and tension reduction. Thus,
if a child finds that he can realize his purposes or reduce frustration by
the adoption of symptoms of illness, running away, temper tantrums,
sucking his thumb, attention getting behavior, and so on, these responses
are likely to become fixed and permanent. This gives us a clue to the
meaning of symptomatic behavior, which often seems senseless and
purposeless. Why, for example, does the hysteric become paralyzed?
Why does the neurasthenic cling to his headaches, backaches, and fatigue
when obviously such symptoms are undesirable and annoying? Why
does the child bite his nails, or persist in bed-wetting? Questions like these
could be asked interminably; but the answer would always be the same:
because such symptoms and ways of behaving serve a purpose; because
in one way or another they have been found satisfying and reduce tension
and frustration. That is why they become a fixed and permanent part of
the person's adjustments to himself and to the demands imposed by the
environment.
6. RATIONAL LEARNING. Finally, we may note the relation between
rational learning and adjustment. By means of this kind of learning the
human organism acquires numerous responses and personality characteristics that exert a direct influence on daily adjustrnents"and on mental
health. It is also the means of acquiring knowledge that can be of considerable importance in meeting the requirements of daily living. Rational
learning lies at the base of intellectual, moral, and religious growth, It is
the process by which the individual acquires values, principles, ideals, and
goals, all of which are of basic importance to adequate adj'ustment. As
we noted previously (Chapter Four), an adequate scale of values, including sound principles and ideals, is an important criterion by which the
level and quality of adjustment are determined; and goals, we saw, are
necessary to the effective organization of .hllman .effort. Thus, it is a
generally accepted rule that conduct determined by values and regulated
23

See the discussion of adjustment and/perceprion in Chap. Seven.

138

Cr

,r

Conditions and Determinants of Adjustment


by carefully selected principles and goals is ordinarily superior in adjustment value to that which results from poorly disciplined needs, frustrations, inadequate conditioning, or excessive inhibition. This interpretation
is an extension of the theory of personality described in the preceding
chapter. Human nature being what it is, the quality of rationality must
permeate behavior if we are- to reach or maintain a high level of adjustment and mental stability.

Training and Adjustment


Learning is the subjective counterpart of the two processes of training
and education; and therefore the relations between learning and adjustment are not fundamentally different from those that link adjustme~t to
training and education. But not all learning is the result of training and
education; and there are certain facts about training and education that
are not brought out in a discussion of the influence of learning on adjustment. It is these facts that we wish to emphasize at this point.
1. DEFINITION. The process of training or discipline is essentially a
means, externally imposed, by which an organism acquires certain responses necessary to adequate functioning in the environment in which it
lives. Its relation to adjustment, therefore, is fundamental,24 These responses usually take the form of deeply ingrained habits and skills, which
the organism uses repeatedly in its day-to-day adjustments. The very
young child is trained in toilet habits, eating, dressing, cleanliness, obedience, speech, and numerous other forms of behavior necessary to daily
living. The school child is further trained in writing, printing, drawing,
fundamentals of arithmetic, habits of regularity, orderliness, and the like.
This kind of training continues throughout adolescence, when new habits
and skills are added to those already developed; and, at the higher levels of
development, specialized training is often used to acquire skills necessary
to such occupations as dentistry, surgery, auto mechanics, and accounting.
2. AIMS. On all levels, the aims of training are essentially the same,
because they are determined by the demands inherent in certain aspects
of daily living. Meeting these demands requires the acquisition or development of specific responses. A child, for example, cannot get along in school
without the skills of reading and writing, any more than a doctor can
perform an operation successfully without the techniques of surgery.
Even more important to adjustment are habits like cleanliness, obedience,
truthfulness, order, punctuality, and regularity, all of which result from
effective discipline of children. These points may seem obvious; but the
important fact is that many parents fail to exploit this basic relation
between training and adjustment. They seem not to realize that sound
24 See Chap. VIII, The mental hygiene of discipline, in Bernard, H. W. Mental
byg''"' f" dM'''= ""b",. N,w yo,k,
1952.

M'Grn-tr'U,

139

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


training and discipline, especially in early childhood, is a desideratum of
wholesome adjustment and personality development.
On this point Mowrer expresses himself witH customary forcefulness.
Referring to the use of punishment as an educative measure and to the
generally accepted viewpoint that at least a mb~icum of punishment is
necessary in "socializing the young," he states, I
Childhood discipline is a necessary prelude to the self-discipline and
social discipline of responsible adult life.

Just as the capacity to feel pain and to learn fears appears to have
evolved in living organisms because of their survival value, so does
it seem that the use of punishment has become a recognized technique
of socialization and social control in all known human cultures because,
again, of its survival value. Societies which do not make use of punishment are unknown, presumably for the reason that they cannot exist. 25

Too often parents attempt to make up for defective discipline by using


precept, example, or formal instruction, without realizing that the young
child is better adapted by nature to'the process of training than to other
methods of shaping personality. Moreover, training is the gateway, to
formal education and to self-discipline, which also enhances its importance to the process of adjustment.

Education and Adjustment


Training and discipline are complemented by the process of education.
Where training is directed toward the acquisition of necessary skills or
habits, education is oriented primarily to the development of knowledge.
Education, therefore, is the objective complement of the process of
rational learning. But the acquiring of knowledge is not the sole benefit
of education, important as it is to adjustment and mental stability. On
all levels of educatIon, there are inculcated val;eS;-ideals, principles,
interests, and attitudes that can be of fundamental, signIficance to good
adjustment. We have noted several times how important it is to have
an adequate scale of values, a sound philosophy of life, and wholesome
attitudes; and it is to education that we must. turn for their development.
This is not to discount the tremendous influence of other determinants,
such as the home and parent-child relations, to which we shall turn our
attention later; but it must be understood that education exerts a direct
and often lasting influence on mental stabilitY_:l_nd adjustment, and there..,/-_

Mowrer, O. H. Pain, punishment, guilt, and a~xiety. In Hoch, P. H., & Zubin,
J. (Eds.) Anxiety. New York: Grune & Stratton, 1950, pp. 35, 36. Reprinted by
permission. See also, Mowrer, O. H. Discipline and mental health. Harv. educ. Rev.,
1947, 17, 284-296.
25

140

Conditions and Determinants of Adjustment


fore it should be utilized as much as possible in achieving the aims of
wholesome living.

Self-determination and Adjustment


The consideration of factors like training and education leads directly to
the question whether, and to what extent, the person himself determines
the pattern of his own adjustment. In this era of determinism, it is customany to think of maladjustment and mental illness as the outcomes of
heredity, innate disposition, home environment, faulty training, traumatic
experiences, and so on. Seldom do we come across the notion that the
difficulties encountered by individuals in the areas of adjustment and
mend I health might be their own doing. Weare willing to grant that
some men are "self-made," but we are not so willing to accept the idea that
neurotics and psychotics are self-made. Yet common sense forces us to
recognize that in the make-up of human personality there is a powerful
factor that can be utilized for good or ill, for the achievement of mastery
and high-level adjustment, or for self-destruction and mental deterioration. This factor is self-determination. 26
To avoid misunderstanding and senseless quibbling, let us grant that
the patterns of adjustment and personality are determined early in life
and to an important extent by the many factors discussed in this chapter.
We all know that parental rejection, the broken home, bad heredity,
economic and social deprivation, negative identification, and a host of
other determinants can seriously damage personality and the chances for
good adjustment. And there is no sure way of telling how much of the
undesirable effect is attributable to these sources, whether it is 50, 75, or
99 per cent. But these facts do not preclude the possibility that the person
himself has a say about how he will react in various situations. Parental
rejection may be damaging to psychological health, but it does not have
to be! Many normal adults have experienced rejection in childhood without lasting damage to their personalities. Similarly, many persons have,
through their own self-determined efforts, overcome the bad effects of
faulty training; and many others have emerged from underprivileged
environments with adequate personalities.
26 See the statement by O. H. Mowrer in the article, Pain, punishment, guilt,
and anxiety, p. 39, to which reference was made in the preceding chapter. Compare
Bernard. Toward better personal adjustment, p. 140. Similarly, Moore writes, "It
is very important for mental hygiene tnat we realize that the strings of our destiny
are in our own hands, and that no blind fate cuts through the strands of our mental
health with the shears of a fatal heredity or the steel of the mechanics of the
unconscious."-Moore, T. V. Personal mental hygiene. New York: Grune & Stratton,
1944, p. 309. Reprinted by permission. See also the statement by the same author
in The driving forces of human nature. New York: Grune & Stratton, 1949, pp.
327-330. In his discussion of threat and defense, Hogan takes a similar stand.-Hogan,

R. A. A ""o'Y of 'h,," ond d"'n~. }.

'1

P,y,bol., 1951, l~; 414.

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


The philosophy of determinism contradicts the principles of mental
hygiene and sound, effective living. Everyone sho)lld realize, in the interest
of mental health, that he can regulate his own ~onduct to an important
extent, that he can rid himself of undesirable traits or habits that stand
in the way of good adjustment and encourage tl\e development of those
that are beneficial to adjustment. 27 The tragedYj of neurotic and inadequate personalities is that this natural ability is stifled by an overlay of
traumatic experiences, unwholesome parent-child relations, development
anomolies, and generally bad environments. For this reason, the principles
of mental hygiene and the techniques of psychotherapy must be used to
break through and liberate the forces of self-realization that are inherent
in every personality. This notion is the particular virtue of the technique
of nondirective counseling or client-centered therapy, which, unlike
other therapeutic philosophies, supports the idea that human nature contains within itself the capacities for psychological growth and rehabilitation of personality. No set of principles or treatment techniques can be
wholly effective unless this basic idea is used as a starting point.
On this point Rollo May makes a startling observation regarding the
treatment of tuberculous patients.
/

In observing numbers of tuberculous patients, the writer noted that the


sick persons were often reassured by well-meaning friends and medical
personnel that the disease was due to an accident of infecti~n by the t.b.
bacilli. This explanation on the basis of fate was supposed to be a ,relief
to the patient. But actually it threw many of the more psychologIcally
sensitive patients into greater despair; if the disease were an accident,
how could they be certain that it would not occur again and again? If,
on the other hand, the patient feels that his own pattern of life was at
fault and that this was one of the causes'of his succumbing to the disease.
he feels more guilt, to be sure, but at the same time he sees more hopefully what conditions need to be corrected in order to overcome the
disease. From this point of view, guilt feeling -is_not only the more
accurate attitude, but it is also the one yielding the m~genuine hope. 28

If this is true of patients who are physically ill with diseases that have
physical causes, how much more imporfant is it for the maladjusteg.
person or the neurotic to realize the part he can play in his qwn rehabilitation and return to normality and mental health!
.

Psychological Climate and Adjustment


Because adjustment and mental health are primaril1 psychological in

'bfOppcnh~imer,

27 See the interesting and provocative article


O. Freedom and
mental health. Educ. Tbeory, 1952, 2, 222-234.
28 Rollo May, Tbe meaning of anxiety, 1950. The Ronald Press Company,
p. 41 n. Reprinted by permission.

142

Conditions and Determinants of Adjustment


nature, it is important to study the effects of the psychological setting
within which they develop. This discussion will provide a natural bridge
between the psychological and environmental determinants of adjustment, because the psychological setting or climate is the environment
considered from a particular point of view. The distinctions between these
two determinants will emerge as the discussion proceeds.

By psychological climate we mean the complex of beliefs, taboos,


prohibitions, emotional stinmli and relations, prejudices, neurotic characteristics, and so on, to which and within which a person reacts in his
efforts to meet demands and solve his problems. It is well known, for
example, that neurotic or emotionally immature parents are likely to have
maladjusted children, simply because of the climate they create by their
own inadequacies. Other factors, like identification and introception,
may enter into this situation; but, whether they do or not, we can expect
such a climate to affect the adjustments of children. Similarly, where
there are wholesome relations of respect, trust, and mutual affection, or
unwholesome conditions of jealousy, hatred, suspicion, envy, bickering,
and so forth, between the parents, or between parents and children, we
may expect adjustment and mental stability to be directly affected. In
some situations, there is a general atmosphere of anxiety, timidity, and
hostility, or, conversely, of confidence, security, affectionate comradeship, and happiness; and this atmosphere, we may be sure, will be reflected
in the psychological make-up of the persons subjected to it over a period
of time. Peace of mind, inner security, or adequate adjustment cannot
flourish in an unhealthy psychological climate, which is one reason why
the mental hygiene of the family is as important as the mental hygiene
of individuals. 29
Symonds has reported extensively on the psychology of parent-child
relations,30 using data from his own studies and those of other investigators. Citing a study by Hall on the effect of domestic discord in the personality development 'Of children,31 Symonds points to a marked difference between the problems of children from homes where there was
friction and those from homes where there was little or no friction. Similarly, a study by Lewis on the influence of parental attitudes on children's
lying, shows that "ninety per cent of the nonliars came from stable,
harmonious homes, as contrasted with twenty-five per cent of the other
29 See Chap. XVII. See also Senn, M. J. E. Constructive forces in the home.
Ment. Hyg., N.Y., 1948, 32, 382-391;Schneiders, A. A. Mental hygiene of the home.
In Schmiedeler, E. J. (Ed.) The child and problems of today. St. Meinrad, Ind.:
Grail, 1954, pp. 52--61.
30 Symonds, P. M. The psycbology of parent-child relationships. New York:
Appleton-Century-Crofts, Inc., 1939.
31 Hall, D. E. Domestic conflict and its effect on children. Smitb Call. Stud.
soc. Wk, 1930, 1, 403, 404.

143

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


group. All the nonliars were wanted children while of the twenty liars
eight were definitely unwanted and seventy-five per cent of the liars
!iuffered from inconsistent discipline at home.!'1 32 Using his own data on
the marital relations of parents of accepted and rejected children, Symonds
concludes that "marital disharmony is much rhore frequently found in
homes where children are rejected than in hbmes where children are
accepted. . . . The opposite finding which oJr data do not bring out,
namely, that parents who iccept their children have favorable, stab fe,
and happy marital relations, is undoubtedly true .... "33
But let us not suppose that psychological climate is limited to the
home. Right now we are witnessing the effects of what has been called
"mass anxiety," a generalized fear that is national and even international
in scope, and to which large groups of people are subject. 34 Today,
because of atomic weapons, international tensions, and the constant threat
of global war, we are living in an atmosphere of dread and insecurity,
and its effects on the mental condition and adjustments of individuals are
clearly evident. Weare on the verge of a mass psychosis, and it is small
wonder that the incidence of neurotic and psychotic disorders continues
to increase precipitously from year to year. Especially are these effects
noticeable among young people who are faced with the calamitous uncertainties of an age in which the stable values, ideals, and goals of an earlier
era have been crushed by the onslaught of materialism, universal military
training, atomic destruction, and the internal dissolution of contemporary
society, particularly the family. Here we see how the psychological
climate spreads into the cultural framework within which personality
develops and adjustments are made. These ideas are given more concrete
formulation in the section that follows, wherein influences of home
and family, school and community, culture and religion are clearly
indicated.
I

32 Lewis, M. How parental attitudes affect the problem of lying in children,


Smith Coli. Stud. soc. Wk, 1930, 1, 403. Reprinted by permission.
33 SyrilOnds, P. M. Op. cit. p. 95. There is an extensive literature on the effects
of parental attitudes and interparental relations on adjustment a]1d mental health.
See, for example, Kanner, L. Unwholesome parental attitudes and children's behavior,
Education, 1949, 69, 263-270; Baruch, D. W. A, study of reported tension in in:terparental relationships as co-existent with behavior adjustment in young children.
J. expo Educ., 1937, 6, 187-204; Anderson, J. P. The relationship between parental
affection and dominance and the behavior of children. Psychol. Bull., 1940, 37, 505506; Brown, A. W. Influence of affectional family relationships on character development. J. abnonn. soc. Psychol., 1947,42,422--428; Korner, A. F. Hostility in children.
New York: Grune & Stratton, 1949, Chap. XI; Segel, D. Fr.ustration, in adolescent
youth. Bull. 1951, No. 1. Washington: U.S. Offi:;lof-Educ~tion, 1951, Sec. v.
34 Kisker, G. W. (Ed.) The psychopathology -of international relations. New
York: Prentice-Hall, 1951. We are reminded here of the formula adopted by
UNESCO, "Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that
defences of peace must be constructed."

144

Conditions and Determinants of Adjustment


ENVIRONMENTAL DETERMINANTS OF ADJUSTMENT AND
MENTAL HEALTH

Influence of the Home and Family


Of the many factors conditioning human adjustments, it is generally
agreed that none is more important than the home and family.35 This is
so because, of all social groups of which an individual becomes a part,
the family is the most natural unit, and the individual himself is an integral
part of that unity. One writer expresses it,
The actual living reality of the child at birth consists of two fused
and inseparable realities: the reality with which he is born (genetic and
biological), and the reality into which he is born (the social). These two
realities can never exist apart from each other but constitute a totality
from which growth, as a process of individuation, always proceeds. The
infant has a sense of oneness with his outer reality, which is not experienced by him as outer but as a part of the whole. . . . An inseparable
and dynamic relation between the inner (biological) and the outer
(social) realities constitutes the growth picture. The child, emerging
through the process, can be understood only as we perceive the constant relation that his inner organization bears to the larger whole
(mother or culture) in which he discovers himself. In this discovery,
and as he moves toward maturity, the child experiences both his relatedness to others (parents, siblings, friends) and finds at the same time the
values of his own individuality and difference. S6
There are several characteristics of family living that affect its
influence on adjustment. Among them are peculiarities in the family constellation, social roles within the family, the character of group membership, and cohesion or disruption. We cannot consider each one of these
factors in detail, but we can bring out certain facts that will serve to
highlight the relations between family living and adjustment.
That parents should make provision for the physical care and nourishment of their cnildren is a commonly accepted principle. It is not so
universally recognized that satisfactory family life is indispensable to
adequate emotional development of the child. It is in the home that the
35 See StecIde, L. C. Problems of human adjustment. New York: Harper, 1949,
pp. 83-84. Steckle points out that during the London blitz it was found that children
from psychologically good homes, where there was acceptance, affection, and
sympathy, showed relatively little shock effect from the bombings, whereas other
children, from psychologically bad homes, developed neurotic symptoms as an aftermath of the attacks. See also the author's article, Family culture, child training and
development. In Schmiedeler (Ed.) Gp. cit., pp. 157-170.
36 Allen, F. H. Psychotherapy with children. New~rk: Norton, 1942, p. 23.
Reprinted by permission. See also Allen's Chap. II.
!

145

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


child encounters the initial experiences whid:]. are to determine whether
he will be charact~rized by a feeling of personal security and of being
loved and accepted. It is iQ the home also th~t the child meets the situations which will determine the extent of his sense of personal adequacy.37

,I

What an individual does, and the manner of his response to internal needs or external! demands will always be
determined in part by the character of the primary group to which he
belongs. 38 The family may be large or small, predominantly male or
predominantly female, with the children clustered _together in age or
spread over a period of twenty years. Each one of these characteristics
gives rise to a distinctive family constellation. 39 The effect of the constellation on the adjustment of children can be exemplified by the situation of the only child. Here the constellation is very simple. The only
child has no siblings to relate to and must look to adults for the source
of his experiences, play activities, amusements, security, recognition,
rivalry, and so on. He can easily get lost in a world of adult concepts,
expectations, and demands, so that when he enters the world of childhood
in school or kindergarten, he may find it difficult to make the proper
adjustments. Remember, however, tllat this is merely illustration; there are
many only children who are well adjusted, and often more so than persons from families with-two or more children. 40
In more complex family organizations, the members must adapt their
behavior to the rights and expectations of others. This situation may be
conducive to adjustment, learning, and a high degree of socialization, or
it may lead to intense rivalries, fighting, jealousy, envy, aggressiveness, or
hostility. Where there is a preponderance of males, the only girl may
1. FAMILY CONSTELLATION.

37 Louis P. Thorpe, The psychology of mental health, 1950, The Ronald Press
Company, pp. 463--464. Reprinted by permission. Not only does the family provide
for the psychological needs of children; it is also the primary source of moral
development. See Schmiedeler, E. }. The family: a school ofthe virtues. Washington:
Family Life Bureau, 1949; Blanchard, P. The family situation andpersonaliry development. Ment. Hyg., N.Y., 1927, 11, 15-22; Cavan, R. S. The relation of home background to personaliry adjustments of adolescents. Publ. Amer. sociol. Soc., 1934,
28, 127-128.
38 See the author's discussion of the socializing influence of the famlly in The
psychology of adolescence, pp. 396-397. A more extensive treatment.-af socialization
and desocialization will be found in Cameron & Magaret. Op. cit., Chap. XVI.
39 On the influence of different family constellations on adjustment, see Maslow,
A. H., & Mittelmann, B. Principles of abnormal psychology. (Rev. Ed.) New York:
Harper, 1951, pp. 147-148.
I
40 See Thorpe, Op. cit., pp. 486--489, for a gooir interpretation of the onlychild situation. An excellent summary of some of -the outstanding studies of the
effects of being an only child will be found in Partridge, E. D. SociaI psychology of
adolescence. New York: Prentice-Hall, 1938, pp. 217-221; Maller, }. B. Size of
family and personality of offspring. J. soc. P?,chol., 1931, 2, 3-27.

146

Conditions and Determinants of Adjustment


identify strongly with the mother or become tomboyish in her outlook
and behavior; the boy in a feminine environment may become effeminate
or react negatively in the direction of excessive masculinity. The oldest
child tends to assume the position of authority held by the parents and
become dominant and aggressive with the younger children, and the
youngest child characteristically seeks to dominate the family by exploiting his position as the "baby" of the family. The possibilities are almost
endless, but these few examples will give some idea how the pattern of
human adjustment can vary with family organization.
2. SOCIAL ROLES WITHIN THE FAMILY. The effects of family constellation will depend a great deal, of course, on other factors, especially
parental attitudes and expectations. For example, if the father wanted a
.boy, he may expect or even demand that the girl assume the role of a
son, setting the stage for the development of interests, attitudes, and
adjustments of a typically masculine quality. Sometimes, foolish parents
reinforce this role playing by giving the girl a nickname that is definitely
masculine. The following case illustrates this point very clearly.
"Billy," a girl of sixteen, was arrested with a gang of boys for robbery
armed, and was referred to the psychological clinic for examination. Billy was
markedly masculine in speech, mannerisms and dress, and sJ.towed the, typical
callousness of youth bent on a life of crime. Her mother explained that Billy
was given her unusual name because "her father wanted a boy," and did everything in his power to make a tomboy out of Billy. Evidently, he succeeded far
beyond his expectations.

The attitudes and expectations of parents are clearly reflected also in


the roles they create for children through sex and age patterning. 41
More often than not, parents foist their preconceived notions of what
a girl or boy should be like on the children and influence the pattern of
their behavior in various situations where the sex of the child makes a
difference. In this way, girls assume the characteristics and behavior that
is expected of girls rather than those that the situation objectively calls
for. These expectations of parents are given added strength by similar
expectations on the part- of society, and so the pattern of adjustment is
rigidly set until or unless the child rebels and begins to act on his own.
Age patterning works in the same way. The older child is expected
to assume roles of authority and responsibility for which the younger
child is not even considered .. This attitude often helps the process of
maturation, unless the child becomes envious of the greater freedom of
the other children or is so immature that responsibility has a damaging
effect. Younger children also come in for their share of age patterning,
41 See Mead, M. Age patterning in personality
psycbiat., 1947, 17, 231-252.

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


being denied the privileges and responsibilities that most parents automatically link with age. This attitude may be, carried so far that the
youngster is smothered in anxious overprotectio?, usually by the mother,
into adolescence and even adulthood. 42 Studies show that overprotected
children may reject the parent and rebel, openly' or sink to pathological
immaturity, which completely incapacitates the in for adult responsibili. an d adJustments.
I
tIes
3. GROUP MEMBERSHIP. The effects of family living are particular
instances of the influence of group membership, which begins almost as
soon as the child is born and continues in one form or another for the
remainder of his life. As a member of the family, community, gang,
fraternity, social organization, or society in general, the individual is
always a pan of some group, which influences or determines his style of
life, his individual behavior, and his adjustments. Any group, such as the
family, is internally organized in a way that affects each and every
member-for good or ill. It is well known, for example, that gangs have
a way of so patterning the behavior of their members that it often leads
to delinquent (maladjustive) conduct. l'he group can also be the source
of strong socializing influences, of high ideals, of strict moral codes, and
of attitudes and interests that condition adjustment in many ways.
All the arrangements for human living in the neighborhood are such
as to favor the transmisssion of custom and tradition. The family, the
playgroup, and the neighborhood become the first school for the .child.
He acquires here the social traditions, social attitudes, and social values
of his group. They make him what he is, socially, and in order to understand him we must study him in this setting ..' .. The ideals of freedom,
justice, and good citizenship originate largely in the experience of
neighborhood life. Culture patterns are
formed, diffused, and transt
mitted through direct association. 43

The relation between group membership and individual behavior; is a


special instance of the general principle that the wh~re~:determines the
character or functions of the parts that belong to it. We took note of this
principle in another way in the preceding_ chapter when we studied the
42 See Mohr, G. J. Influence of mothers' attitudes on mental he~lth. J. Pediat.,
1940, 16, 641-646; Merrill, B. Mother-Child interactions, In Kuhlen, R. G. & Thompson, G. G. (Eds.) Psychological studies in human development. New York: AppletonCentury-Crofts, 1952, pp. 402-409; Witmer, H. L. The influence of parental attitude
on the social adjustment of the individual. Amer. sociol. Rev." 1937, 2, 756-763.
43 Sullenger, T. E. Social determinants in juvenile delinquency. New York:
Wiley, 1936, p. 74. Reprihted by permission. On: t~nfluence of gang membership
on social maladjustment 'arid delinquency, see Shaw, C. R., & McKay, H. D.
Social factors in juvenile delinquency, Washington: Government. Printing Office,
1931, especially pp. 191-192.

148

Conditions and Determinants of Adjustment


relation between personality and the environment within which it
develops.
4. FAMILY COHESION. Because of the relation between personality
and environment, family cohesion and disruption are of fundamental importance to adjustment and mental health. Everyone working with dependent children recognizes that the breakup of the home can be the most
damaging influence on the psychological well-being of children. Patterns
of maladjustment, from simple symptomatic behavior like nail-biting
and thumb-sucking to the most serious delinquencies, are associated with
the breakup of the home. For the child to achieve wholesome adjustment
and psychological stability, it is indispensable that he develop a deep
sense of inner security and belonging; and this the natural home alone
seems able to provide. Foster homes, boarding homes, and cottage-plan
institutions are welcome and necessary substitutes when families break
up; yet it is generally agreed that none of them is able to provide the
psychological climate that is characteristic of the natural homeY
Numerous studies dealing with behavior disorders and delinquency
in relation to family disorganization clearly illustrate the potency of this
factor. Outland, for example, found that, of 3,352 boys listed as transients,
57 per cent came from broken homes. 45 Sullenger also states that, of 808
delinquent boys in Omaha, fully 54 per cent were from broken homes;
and of another 337, 64.1 per cent came from broken homes. 46 It is the
tragedy of modem society that it has encouraged the widespread dissolution of the home and family through its lax and sometimes evil
attitudes toward marriage, divorce, and the inherent sanctity of the home.

Parent-Child Relations and Adjustment


The environmental factors so far considered form the background for a
44 Thorpe states, "Mental hygienists and others are, however, largely agreed
that institutional care, no- matter how systematic, is inadequate for the fulfillment
of the psychological needs of either infants or older children."-Louis P. Thorpe,
The psychology of mental health, 1950, The Ronald Press Company, p. 464. Reprinted by permission. See also Orlansky, H. Infant care and personality. Psychol.
Bull., 1949, 46, 1--48; Mathews, S. M. The effect of mothers' out-of-home employment
upon children's ideas and attitudes. ]. appl. Psychol., 1934, 18, 116-136; Bell, M.
The trouble in these broken homes. Nerv. Child,. 1943, 3, 53-58; Torrance, P. The
influence of the broken home on adolescent adjustment. ]. educ. Sociol., 1945, 18,
359-364; Hodgkiss, M. The influence !Jf broken homes and working mothers.
Smith Coil. Stud. soc. Wk, 1933, 3,259-274; Goldfarb, W. Variations in adolescent
adjustment of institutionally-reared children. Amer. ]. Orthopsychiat., 1947, 17, 449457; Goldfarb, W. The effects of early institutional care on adolescent personality.
Child Developm., 1943, 14, 213-223.
45 Outland, G. E. The home situation as a direct cause of boy transiency. ].
]uven. Res., 1938, 22, 33--42.
46 Sullenger. Op. cit., pp. 23, 24. This relation is q~.stioned by some authorities. See, for example, Shaw & McKay. Op. cit. p. 283.

.~

149

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


network of relations between parents and children, some of which we
have already touched on, that are of great significance for psychological
well-being. Let us list the .most outstanding. of these relations and then
indicate th~ir implications for adjustment. 47 , \
1. Acceptance

2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.

Identification
Idealization
Negative identification
Cross identification
Punitiveness and overdiscipline
Jealousy and hatred
Overindulgence and overprotection
Rejection

To understand the impact of these relations on adjustment it is


necessary to keep in mind the basic requirements or needs of individuals,
a topic to which we shall tum in the following chapter. There are, for
example, the fundamental needs for affection, belonging, and security,
each one of which must be adequately gratified {or the well-being of a
person.
1. ACCEPTANCE. A situation in which parents accept the child, make
him feel wanted, and give him affection is obviously conducive to good
adjustment and mental stability. Affection and acceptance breed security,
self-confidence, wholesome emotional reactions, respect, obedience, and
numerous other qualities that contribute to effective living. The outcomes
of rejection are written in hostility, hatred, rebellion, and delinquency.48
2. IDENTIFICATION. These effects will vary to some extent with the
degree of identification or negative identification that marks the relations
between parents and their children; or it may be the other way around,
that acceptance or rejection determines the amount of identification that
occurs. :In any case 1 when a boy identifies with liis-fat~ as often hap47 See Symonds. Op. cit., Chaps. IV and V, for varieties of parent-child relations.
See also Mohr. Op. cit., pp. 643-644. L. C. Steckle gives an extensive list of children's
reactions to different parental attitudes, including favoritism, overprotection, maternal
dominance, perfectionism, and rejection.-Op. cit., pp. 144-146. See also Goodenough,
F. L., & Leahey, A. M. The effects of certain family relationships upon the development of adolescent personality. Ped. Sem., 1927, 34, 45-71;1 Macfailane, ]. W.
Inter-personal relationships within the family. Marriage Fam. 'Liv., 1941, 3, 25-31.
Brown, A. W., Morrison, ]., & Couch, G. B. Influence of afft;;ctional family relationships on character development. f. abnorm. soc. Psychol., 1947,42,422-428.
48 See Diserens, C. M. Parental acceptance andJejection and their influence on
the child's behavior. Meth. sci. Educ., 1941,2, 131-151. See also Stagner, R. The role
of the parents in the development of emotional instability. Amer. J. Orthopsychiat.,
1938, 8, 122-128; Baldwin, A. L., Kalhorn, ]., & Breese, F. H. ,Patterns of parent
behavior. Psychol. Monogr., 1945, S8 (Whole No. 268).

150

Conditions and Deter11linants of Adjust11lent


pens, the effects of acceptance are more readily and more firmly implanted. 49 What is more, the child tends to assume the qualities (good or
bad) of the parent and to be more amenable to the parent's influence.
Identification, for example, smooths the way for effective and wholesome
parental discipline, because the child is ready to accept the ideas and
commands that the parent feels he must impose. If the parent is a good
~modeI, the positive effects of identification on adjustment can be very
great; but identification can also lead to the assumption of traits and
adjustment patterns that are detrimental to effective living.
Henry, a bright-faced boy of 13 Y2 years, had a chip on his shoulder. He
was said to be very ill-tempered, treating his younger brother harshly and
cruelly, and fighting with his mother. He had even attempted to beat her....
Bis father had died a few years before, and gradually Henry had come to
regard himself as the head of the home. In accordance with this belief he had
attempted to discipline his brother along lines that his experience with his
father had made familiar. The brother resented this attempted domination
and naturally appealed to the mother for protection.... Henry was actually
jealous of his mother's position in the home, and resented her domination. 50
This is a clear example of the bad effects of identification; but a great
deal depends on circumstances and the exact nature of the relation. As
Virginia Robinson says,
Enlargement and enrichment of the self can be seen as the result of the
process of identification as the individual takes into his own psychological structure aspects of the different wholes of which he has become a
part. As the self becomes organized through separation and deprivation
experiences it gains greater awareness of its own wants as inside and
the objects which satisfy, oppose, deny or punish as outside. 51
,49 Stagner, R. Psychology of personality. New York:
McGraw-Hill, 1937,
pp. 101-102, 305-307.
50 By permission from Psychology of Personality, by R. Stagner. Copyright 1937.
McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., p. 306.
51 Quoted by Allen, F. H. Psychotherapy with children. New York: Norton,
1942, p. 40. Reprinted by permission. A good discussion of the nature, forms, and
effects of identification will be found in Symonds, P. M. Dynamic psychology.
New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts; 1949, Chap. XIII. See also Cava, E. L.,
& Raush, H. L. Identification, arid the adolescent boy's perception of his father.
J. abnorm. soc. Psychol., 1952, 47, 855-856; Sopchak, A. L. Parental "identification" and "tendency toward disorders" as measured by the Minnesota Multiphasic
Personality Inventory. J. abnorm. soc. Psychol., 1952, 47, 159-165; Beier, E. G., &
Ratzeburg, F. The parental identifications of male and female college students.
J. abnorm. soc. Psycbol., 1953, 48, 569-572. White makes the point, following
Erikson, that ego-identity, which we classified as ~riterion of good adjustment
in Chap. Four, "develops out of a gradual integratio ; f all identifications."-\Vhite,
R. W. Lives in progress. New York: Dryden, 1952, " 316.

151

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


3. IDEALIZATION. Identification of this kind is closely related to
idealization. It is a common practice for children to elect one or the other
of the parents as an ideal or model in the matfer of traits as well as
behavior; this is the reason why identification is ,so common a relation.
Idealization can have a profound beneficial effect\ if the idealized parent
actually possesses the qualities of an ideal person; it can have a damaging
effect if the child discovers that the model parJnt falls far below the
image he had created. Empirical studies indicate that this relationship falls
off precipitously in the adolescent period when the child gravitates more
and more toward independence and the effects of idealization wear off.52
4. NEGATIVE IDENTIFICATION. In some instances, far too many in
fact, a relation of negative identification develops between parent and
child, which results in traits and behavior patterns that are opposite to
those of the parent. Thus there is the typical instance of the learned
scholar whose son would rather tinker with a 1925 Ford than do studying
or research of any kind. Again, it is common to see a dominant, overbearing father with a timid, frightened child. If this negative identification
leads to the rejection of undesirable characteristics, it can have a beneficial effect on the child's adjustment. Ordinarily, however, positive
identification with the parent is more beneficial, because it provides a
source of security and confidence for the child that he cannot readily
secure in any other way.
5. CROSS IDENTIFICATION. Negative identification is less damaging
than the relation of cross identification. In this relation the girl identifies
with the father, and the boy with the mother. 'Numerous studies have
indicated that this type of relation is almost invariably associated with
adjustment difficulties. The reason is simple: the girl who identifies with
the father rather than with the mother, who is a more natural object of
identification, is clearly seeking need gratification in an inadequate manner. It is natural and expected for a boy to identify with his father; therefore, identification with the mother requires rejection of the father. This
rejection is usually unconscious, which makes it all the-.more damaging,
and it leads to the development of response patterns that ~ieinimical to
effective adjustment. Rejecting the father, the boy is likely to assume
feminine characteristics, and there are some writers who believe that this
is often the beginning of a homosexual tendency. The same tning can
happen to girls who identify with the father. In general, thetefore, positive, like-sex identification is most conducive to wholesome adjustment. 53
6. PUNITIVENESS AND OVERDISCIPLINE. Identifica~ion of the right
kind can be salutary to effective parental discipline, a,nother relation of
fundamental importance to healthy adjustm:I(::F~om what we said earlier

52 Schneiders, The psychology of 'adolescence, pp. 298-303.


53 See Maslow & Mittelmann. Op. cit., p. 148; Stagner. Op. cit., p. 101.

152

Conditions and Determinants of Adjustment


regarding the factor of training, it is clear that lax or inconsistent discipline is necessarily detrimental to the adequate development of children. 54 It robs the child of one of the means by which the eventual control
of behavior is assured, and it fosters the development of such personality
characteristics as irregularity, impulsiveness, indecision, and laziness,
which impede good adjustment. But, punitive, harsh discipline is even
more 'damaging in its effects. 55 This fact is illustrated by the large
number of delinquents who report that harsh discipline is one of the
major causes of their antisocial attitudes. Punitive discipline alienates and
degrades the child. It threatens his security, depletes his sense of personal
TABLE III

Children's Reported Feelings as a Result of Parental Punishment


PERCENTAGE

RESPONSE TO PUNISHMENT

OF CASES

Feelings of penitence or resolutions for better behavior


Feelings of sadness, unhappiness, pain
Feelings that punishment was unjustified
Didn't feel better or worse .
Don't know how they feel .

14
63"
7
5
11

Source: Radke, M. J. The relation of parental authority to children's behavior


and attitudes. Minneapolis: Univer. of Minnesota Press, 1946, p. 57. Reprinted by
permission.
"Despite this high percentage, 83 per cent of this same group of children
reported that the punishment was justified.

worth and belonging, and creates hostility and aggression. Parental discipline, therefore, req':lires great skill and should always be administered
in an atmosphere of mutual affection, respect, and justice. It can be an
instrument of great good for the child, but it can also be extremely
damaging. A great deal of the animosity toward authority manifested by
disturbed children can be traced back to the inexpert, even savage, use of
discipline by inadequate parents. 56

..

However, the relations between adjustment and different forms of discipline are not invariable. See Korner. Op: cit., pp. 160-162; Watson, G. B. A comparison of the effects of lax versus' strict home training, J. soc. Psychol., 1934, 5,
54

102-105.
55 For the differential effects of good and defective discipline, as determined
by empirical studies, see Radke, M. J. The relatit-n of parental authority to children's behavior and attitudes. Minneapolis: Univer. of Minnesota Press, 1946, p. 12.
56 There are many excellent studies on the effects of parental authority and
discipline. See, for example, Meyers, C. E. The effeclff conflicting authprity on

't)

i~53

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


7. JEALOUSY AND HATRED. Punitive discipline grows out of hatred,
jealousy, and rejection. There are many parents who (perhaps unconsciously) hate their children, and there are'othets who are jealous of the
affection between the children and the other parent. There are also many
children who hate and are jealous of their. p~rents. Such feelings in
parents lead ineluctably to harsh and punitive discipline, and in children
they lead to withdrawal, hostility, aggression, ~nd open rebellion. It is
clear to everyone that a program of child training, which is aimed at
wholesome adjustment and mental health, cannot be predicated on relations of this kind. Children need affection, security, a sense of belonging
and personal worth in order to achieve happiness and well-being, and it
is impossible to gratify these needs in an atmosphere of hatred and
rejection.
A seven-year-old son of a violent and abusive father spent his time staring
into space, biting his nails and playing with pieces of string. He showed an
indifference toward people, was very quiet in school and demonstrated
marked fear and suspicion of advances lTlade toward him. He was extremely
withdrawn and attempts to talk with him met with absolute silence. Since
understanding and sympathy were indicated, he was placed in a foster home
in which he developed into a sociable, normallad. 57

8. OVERINDULGENCE AND OVERPROTECTION. Parents who fail to utilize


discipline effectively often overindulge and overprotect their children.
Empirical studies show that both of these parental failures prevent children from making good adjustments.
The parent who is too protective reflects his own inadequacies and
insecurities, and these are soon communi,~ated to the child. The only
way to learn to meet the demands, threats, frustrations, and difficulties
of daily living is to meet them; and this the overprotected child never
learns to do for the simple reason that he is never given the chance.
Children learn to solve problems by being thrust mto-,the. middle of
them, not by being shielded whenever a difficulty ari~es. This principle applies to such diverse things as the choice of a school, earning
one's own spending money, buying clothes, selecting friends, deciding
to live away from home, or engaging in a fist fight. One of the fundamental needs of children is a sense of independence, and this need is
the child. Univer. la. Stud. Child Welt., 1944,20, 31-98; Ayer, M. E., & Bernreuter,
R. G. A study of the relationship between discipline and/personality traits in
little children. J. genet. Psychol., 1937, 50, 165-170; ..iiiihurg, E. J. Must our children
be neurotic? Ment. Hyg., N.Y., 1951, 35, 96-103. A' more extensive bibliography will
be found in Radke. Gp. cit., pp. 118-120.
57 Steckle, L. C. Problems of human adjustment. New York: Harper, 1949,
p. 110. Reprinted by permission.

154

Conditions and Determinants of Adjustment


thoroughly frustrated by overprotection, as the following case clearly
illustrates. 58
A boy, age ten, was anxiously obedient to his mother. He accepted her
domination without protest and her slightest sign of disapproval was highly
effective in controlling him. He tried to do exactly as his mother wished and
was overresponsive to her demands. He was breast fed for the first three years
of his life and his mother slept with him until he was six. During these years
they llived alone with a minimum of social contacts. She prevented him from
playing with other children until he was eight because of her fear of "roughness." She had also hired a "body guard" for the lad because he reported that'
other children mole"Sted him.59
Investigations by Grant, Hattwick, Witmer, and others indicate that
overprotection and "babying" may result in feelings of insecurity, aggressiveness, jealousy, nervousness, submissiveness, withdrawal, and other
impediments to adjustment. 6o If nothing else, overindulgence leads to a
poor scale of values, self-centeredness, self-indulgence, and other negative personality traits. Worse than that, it often acts to alienate the child,
who interprets ,Parental indulgence as a type of rejection. This is not
difficult to underst?nd, for too much generosity naturally leads to the
s!lspicion that the indulgent person is "covering up" some deficiency in
his relation to the recipient. The unconscious reasoning is something like
this: He doesn't really like me although he's supposed to; and he gives
me all these things to convince himself and me that he likes me.
9. REJECTION. The effects of parental rejection and overprotection
have been studied intensively by different investigators. Symonds, for
example, found that rejected children are more often delinquent and
more aggressive than overprotected children. 61 Steckle lists "withdrawn"
as the primary characteristic of rejected children, with distractible, hyperactive, night terrors, sullen, and running away as additional characteristics. 62 On the basis of a number of studies, Radke gives the following
characteristics as being associated with rejection: submissive, aggressive,
adjustment difficulties, feelings of insecurity, sadistic, nervous, shy, stubborn, and noncompliant._63 Parental rejection, whether expressed by overprotection or lack of care, ~y punitive discipline or a broken home, is
58 See Levy, D. M. Maternal overprotection. ,In Kuhlen

& Thompson (Eds.)

Op. cit., pp. 387-394; Moore. Op. cit., Chap. XI; Symonds. The psychology of
parent-child relationships, Chap. I. __ /
59 Steckle, L. C. Problems- of human adjustment. New York: Harper, 1949,
p. 109. Reprinted by permission.
60 Radke. Gp. cit., p. 12.
61 Symonds. The psychology of parent-child relationships, pp. 146-147. See
also pp. 54-103.
62

Ibid., p. 146.

63 Radke. Gp. cit., p. 11.

155

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


one of the most damaging experiences to which children are subjected; it
is seriously detrimental to mental health and adjustment. 64

Sibling Relations and Adjustment


We have said that the family is a natural social uhit and within its framework the child can achieve the high level of soci~lization so important to
the adjustments required by society. The degtee of socialization will
vary a great deal with the character of the relations children build among
themselves. 65 If there is friendship, a spirit of give and take, mutual
respect, cooperation, and affection, there is every possibility that these
qualities will be communicated to other situations involving interpersonal
relations, which is the essence of socialization. But in an atmosphere of
deep-seated jealousy, intense rivalry (especially for affection), mutual
dislike, and so on, socialization is greatly impeded. This, of course, is
not the only possible effect of sibling discord, but it is one of the most
prominent. Hostile relations can lead to serious emotional instability,
damaging personality traits, suspiciousness, and many other inhibiting
characteristics that stand in the way of good adjustment. Fortunately,
sibling relations are not as profound or as important as parent-child
relations; but the fact that they condition the process of adjustment
brings them within the scope of our study.66

The Community and Adjustment


The fact that the family group exerts so pervasive an influence on adjustment suggests that any group, including the neighborhood and community, may exert a similar, if less profound, influence. Many studies of
gangs, of different kinds of neighborhoods, and of whole communities
have shown unmistakably that individual adjustment varies according to
membership in one group or another. This' influence is to be expected in
view of the general principle outlined earlier that the whole (the group)
determines to some extent the character of its parts (individual members). Investigations qf neighborhood influences, for ex~ple, have indicated a definite relation between neighborhood and deliriquency; other
studies have shown that the pattern of sexual behavior among adolescents,
often including sexual deviations, seems to be determined by the make-up
of the community. And it is well known that gang membership sets tne
style of behavior for its members. It should be understood that this
influence is not limited to the overt adjustments of group members; it
64 See also Moore. Op. cit., Chap. XII; Levy, D. M. Maternal overprotection
and rejection. Arch. neurol. Psychiat., 1931, 25, 886-889.
;'
65 A thorough discussion of sibling relations ~ -be 'found in Smart, M., &
Smart, R. An introduction to family relationships. Philadelphia: Saunders, 1953,
Part III.
66 See Thorpe. Op. cit., pp. 485--494; Maslow & Mittelmann. Op. cit., pp. 150-152.

156

Conditions and Determinants of Adjustment


extends to their thinking, beliefs, attitudes, and interests, all of which
have an important bearing on social and moral adjustment. 6T

The School and Adjustment


In much the same manner as the community, the school can be expected
to condition the pattern of adjustment. The school is universally recognized as a powerful medium for influencing the intellectual, social, and
moral lives of students. It is the primary agent of education, which we
discussed earlier as a determiner of adjustment. But the school must not
be thought of simply as an intellectual mill. It is much more than that.
It reaches deeply into the social and moral aspects of daily living, contributing its own distinctive influences in shaping the interests, beliefs,
attitudes, and values of young people from nursery school through
college and university. One writer effectively phrases it,
The children who sit on the little red chairs are called beginners, but
they are beginners neither in structure nor in function. They are beginners merely in that they have entered a new turn of their cycle. They
are not without their attitudes or knowledges. They have closed off the
brief epoch of babyhood wherein they were nourished by the singleflavored diet of their family's attitudes and beliefs. They are weaning
themselves from this simple milk to which they were born. They are
beginning to subsist upon the heartier, more varied diet afforded them
by experiencing new people and new places. Through such experiencing,
their world expands. School is not an essential to this process. It has
been demonstrated frequently enough that a child may grow to manhood an ardent humanitarian and fellow man, without benefit of school.
But school is the expedient designed by society to shorten the time and
ease the strain incident to the passing of an individual from helpless,
inadequate infancy to helpful, adequate maturity.6s

And Charlotte Buhler writes,


For many years of his childhood and youth, everyone who grows
up in the traditions of the Western civilization spends half or more of
67 Schneiders. The psychology of adolescence, Chap. XVIII, especially pp. 414428; Thorpe. Gp. cit., pp. 587-591. For a thorough empirical study of community

influences on behavior and adjustment, see Hollingshead, A. B. Elmtown's youth.


New York: Wiley, 1949. See also the studies by SuIJenger and by Shaw and McKay
cited earlier in this chapter. Specific relations are described in Drucker, A. J., &
Remmers, H. H. Environmental determinants of basic difficulty problems. J. abnorm.
soc. Psychol., 1952, 47, 379-381; Pratt, D. Making the environment respond to basic
emotional needs. Psychiatry, 1952, 15, 179-188; MacFarlane, J. W. The relationship
of environmental pressures to the development of a child's personality and habit
patterns. J. Pediat., 1939, 15, 142-154.
6S Rasey, M. I. Toward maturity. New York: Ba~" & Noble, 1947, p. 55. Reprinted by permission,

"

157

Nature and Conditions ot Adjustment


his day within the orbit of school. School represents, dynamically speaking, an impact second only to the home in the. individual's childhood.
What important mission it could fulfill, if tea~hers were given more
clinical understanding and training to equip them to exercise that bene
I \
ficial influence. 69
I

Here again the empirical evidence is unmistakable, many studies


showing clearly how interests, attitudes, and beliefs change at different
levels of educational achievement. These changes are not only significant
for the here-and-now adjustments of youngsters in school; they have
important implications for vocational, marital, social, and religious adjustments in the postschool period. One can see why, in trying to understand
and correctly interpret human adjustment, every possible condition and
determinant must be considered.
CULTURE AND. RELIGION IN RELATION TO ADJUSTMENT AND
MENTAL HEALTH
/

Cultural Determinants ot Adjustment


/'
As the child moves away from the immediate family circle into the play
group or the gang, the school, and the community, and therefore into an
ever-widening circle of experiences and relations, we may well ask
whether his pattern of adjustment is not also affected by the broad
cultural framework, which transcends these environmental factors. Do
individual adjustments or mental conditions reflect cultural peculiarities?
Do cultural values, traditions, mores, standards, and practices have anything to do with mental health and disease?; The answers to these questions are partly expressed in the fact that the.incidence of mental disorder
varies a great deal from one cultural organization to another. As the
child reflects family traits and peculiarities in his thinking and behavior,
so members of society reflect the cultural pattern. A aisordered, morally
corrupt, or psychologically unhealthy cultural organization_will just as
surely affect its members adversely as a drunken, punitive father, or a
t

69 Buhler, C. School as a phase of human life. Education, 1952, 73, p. 222. Reprinted by permission. In the same journal issue, see also Wilkins, W. L. Social peers
and parents, pp. 234-237, in which is brought out the mutual influence of home and
school on the adjustments of children. Symonds, The psychology ,of pare'nt-child
relationships, -Chap. VI, deals empirically with the same relation in his discussion of
pupil-teacher relations. A very thorough treatment of the school and adjustment will
be found in Thorpe. Op. cit" Chaps. XVI and XVII.:.>5ee-also ;Kanner, L. The role
of the school in the treatment of rejected children. 'Nerv. C'hild, 1944, 3, 236-248;
Vaughan, "V. F. Personal and social adjustment. New York: Odyssey, 1952, pp. 185187. Steckle. Op. cit., p. 149; Bernard. Mental hygiene for classroom teachers, Chaps.
VI, IX, X, XII.

158

Conditions and Determinants of Adjustment


broken home will disturb the behavior and emotional equanimity of
a child. 70
Moreover, there is more than a general relation between culture and
personal adjustment. Not only does the incidence of mental disorder or
maladjustment vary with cultural factors, but the character of these disorders seems to be affected also. There are societies in which neurotic
patterns of behavior are practically unknown. There are others that
seem ;to be permeated with a neurotic, or even psychotic, pattern of
thinking and behaving. In our own society, alcoholism, sexual promiscuity, anxiety neurosis, and neurasthenia are prominent patterns of behavior that seem to be linked to our peculiar culture. Often, too, the
particular content of behavior and personality disorders reflects cultural
peculiarities. 71
These relations are partly explained by the fact that cultural characteristics are transmitted to individuals through the mediums of the
family, school, neighborhood, and community; and partly also by the
effect that particular cultural demands and prohibitions have on human
behavior. Many ,personal conflicts, frustrations, anxieties, and behavior
peculiarities stem, directly or indirectly, from cultural influences. A good
example of this is the anxiety that we mentioned earlier as characterizing
so many individuals in contemporary society that it can be described as
a mass phenomenon. The influence of culture is reflected_ also in the many
personal conflicts engendered by the puritanical philosophy that permeates American thinking. Admittedly, the mechanisms by which cultural
influences are transmuted into behavior or mentality are not always
known; but the facts themselves are unmistakable.

Religion, Adjustment, and Mental Health


Religion is an inseparable part of our culture, and therefore what we have
just said regarding ~ultural influences applies to the relation between
70 See Honigmann, J. J. Culture and personality. New York: Harper, 1954, Chaps.
XV and XVI, for a discussion of the effects of group membership and cultural
factors on personality_disorders and mental health. See also, Weinberg, S. K. Society
and personality disorders. New York: Prentice-Hall, 1952; Shaw, F. J. & Ort, R. S.
Personal adjustment in the American culture. New York: Harper, 19;3; Landis, C.
& Page, J. D. Modern society and mental disease. New York: Rinehart, 1938, especially Chaps. V, VI, IX, X. Kardiner, A. The relation of culture- to mental disorder.
In Hoch, P. H. & Zubin, J. (Eds.) Current problems in psychiatric diagnosis. New
York: Grune & Stratton, 1953, pp. 157-179; Klineberg, O. Cultural factors in personality adjustment of children. Amer. J. Orthopsychiat., 1953, 23, 465-471.
71 There are many excellent works on the relation between culture, personality,
and adjustment. See, for example, Benedict, R. "Culture and the abnormal," J. genet.
Psychol., 1934, 10, 59-82; Maslow, A. H., & Mittelmann, B. Op. cit., Chap. XII; Bateson, G. Cultural determinants of personality. In Hunt, J. MeV. Gp. cit., pp. 714-735;
McKinney, F. Gp. cit., pp. 682-691; Lindgren, H. C. The psychology of personal
..d
,djunmro'. N,w Y"k, Am,ri,," Book, J~ 1'1'. l72-)77.
159

"d,'

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment

religion and adjustment. But a general statement regarding this relation


is not enough, because religion has special implications for psychological
well-being that transcend in scope and importanc(j the influence of other
cultural factors. Every clinician, psychiatrist, priest, minister, and counselor is aware of this fact and often exploits reli~ion in the interest of
maintaining or restoring mental health. The classical example of this
attitude is the oft-quoted expression of lung,
'
I should like to call attention to the following facts. During the.
past thirty years, people from all the civilized countries of the earth
have consulted me. I have treated many hundreds of patients, the larger
number being Protestants, a smaller number of Jews, and not more than
five or six believing Catholics. Among all my patients in the second half
of life ... there has not been one whose problem in the last resort was
not that of finding a religious outlook on life. It is safe to say that every
one of them fell ill because he had lost that which the living religions
of every age have given to their followers, and none of them has been
really healed who did not regain his religious outlook.72

And again,
/'

Freud has unfortunately overlooked the fact that man has never yet
been able single-handed to hold his own against the powers of darknessthat is, of the unconscious. Man has always stood in need of the spiritual
help which each individual's own religion held out to him.73

Compare these statements with those of Menninger, another renowned


psychiatrist. Christ Himself, says Menninger,
laid down one of the principles of mental health that we now recognize
as of paramount importance. Matthew; Mark and Luke all quoted
Christ when they said in effect, "For whosoever will save his life shall
lose it, but whosoever will lose his life for My Sake will save it." That
sentence condenses in a nutshell the attributes of the_mature individual.
Some men can love others enough to derive more satisi-;aion from that
than from being loved themselves. It is still a magnificent precept. If you
can follow it, you will never have to ma]<e a date with a psychiatrist. H

In much the same vein is the statement by McKenzie.


No psychotherapist goes far into the details of his parient's trouble
72 jung, -C. G. Modern man in search of a soul. New York: Harcourt, Brace,
1933, p. 264. (Italics mine.) Reprinted by permission.
I
73 jung, C. G. Modern man in search of a sO,ull/New- Yo~k: Harcourt, Brace,
1933, p. 24. Reprinted by permission.
- 74 Menninger, W. C. "Meet your mind." Lewellen's Productions, 1947. Reprinted
by permission. Compare Allport, G. W. The individual and his religion. New York:
Macmillan, 1950, Chap. III.

160

Conditions and Determinants of Adjustment


without coming up against moral and spiritual difficulties; indeed, in
not a few cases the symptoms related to spiritual difficulties, as the loss
of the Holy Spirit, the loss of spiritual interests, or the feeling of being
"lost." 75

Statements such as these can be found in scores of texts and treatises


dealing with mental health, adjustment, and psychotherapy.76 The basic
reason for this relation is that religion, above everything else, is capable
of supplying the values, beliefs, and practices that give meaning, purpose,
and stability to human life. We have said before (Chapter Four) that
wholesome, effective living and mental stability require an adequate scale
of values, or philosophy of life, and a set of worth-while attitudes and
habits; and these qualities religion can provide more efficaciously and
more abundantly than anything else in our existence. VanderVeldt and
Odenwald point out,
In the attitude of those "who serve God because they know Him,"
who not only have serious religious convictions but also try to live up
to their belief in practice, there is certainly found a philosophy of life.
For, when God holds the position of supreme importance in a person's
life, that man has a purpose to live for and therefore understands the
meaning of life and his own destiny. Such knowledge, based on deep
conviction, is of immense value for mental health, both in the so-called
ordinary days of life and in the times of acute emotional crisis. He knows
that he is playing a role in the universal scheme of things as planned
by the Creator. The role may seem insignificant, but it acquires worthwhile significance if one views it as part and parcel of God's plan. This
knowledge gives the truly religious man a sense of submissiveness and
resignation as well as satisfaction with his lot, peace of soul, and
happiness.77

T. V. Moore expresses the same thought when he says that "religion


alone can enable the toiling thousands to understand the meaning and
value of life's monotonous drudgery and so to endure sorrows that would
75 McKenzie, J. Souls in the making. London: Allen & Unwin, 1930, p. 35. Reprinted by permission.
76 See Bernard. Toward better personal adjustment. Chap. XV. Bernard quotes
a number of writers on the value of religion to mental health (pp. 387-390). See also
Stern, K. Religion and psychiatry. Commonweal, 1948, 49, 30-33; VanderVeldt, J. H.
Religion and mental health. Ment. Hyg., N.Y., 1951, 35, 177-189; Johnson, P. E.
Religious psychology and health. Ment. Hyg., N.Y., 1947, 31, 556-566; Tyson, R.
Current mental hygiene pr;lctice. J. clin. Psychol. Monog. Suppl., No.8, Jan., 1951,
p. 34; Van Buskirk, J. D. Religion, healing, and health. New York: Macmillan, 1952;
Fromm, E. Psychoanalysis and religion. New Haven: Yale Univer. Press, 1950; Liebman, J . .L. (Ed.) Psychiatry and religion. Boston: Beacon, 1948.
77 By permission from Psychiatry and Catholicism, by J. H. VanderVeldt and
R. P. Odenwald. Copyright, 1952. McGraw-Hill B001:rompany, Inc., p. 183 .

. 't)

161

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


otherwise be unendurable.... "78 Even more to the point is his statement
further on.
Not only is religion of value in the s~rrow~ of life . ~ . but it is also
of particular importance in all mental conditi<?lls that are, derived from
the lack of a plan of life that is an integral ,pa~t of one's mental equipment. Let us recall that we have defined religion as a view of life, a
Weltanschauung or a philosophy of life in which God holds a position
of supreme importance. We have assumed also that religion has become
the supreme moral virtue dominating thought and conduct. When this
has come about in any individual his life is coordinated and directed to
an end that has acquired in his mind a value with which nothing else
can be compared.

If religion has become an essential element of one's mental equipment, if it constitutes a plan of life that the individual has made a real
part of his daily existence, if it is a practical ideal that he has adopted
with enthusiasm, then it becomes a powerful inhibitory force in the
development of unwholesome me~tal conditions. 79

Training, education, work, social experience, and group living play their
respective and important roles in the inculcation of values, ideals, attitudes,
and worth-while habits; but, in the nature of things, they cannot sub~titute for religion.
'
There is a special psychological reason for this, apart from those
already indicated. Religion, by reason of its experiences, beliefs, and
practices, is eminently suited to the gratification of basic psychological
needs and to the reduction of damaging conflicts, feelings, and frustrations. 80 Where, for example, can we find a l greater source of affection,
status, and security than in the love of God or the promise of eternal
78 Moore, T. V. Personal mental hygiene. New York: G~ne-&'Srr_atton, 1944,
p. 239. Reprinted by permission.
,__
79 Moore, T. V. Personal mental hygiene. New Yor!,:: Grune & Stratton, 1944,
pp. 243, 244-245. Reprinted by permission. One is .reminded here of the trenchant
observation by the psychiatrist James T. Fisher: "If you were to take the sum total
of all the authoritative articles ever written by the mqst qualified of psychologists
and psychiatrists on the subject of mental hygiene, if you were to combine them and
refine them and cleave out the excess verbiage, if you Wyre to take the whole of the
meat and none of the parsley, and if you were to have these unadulterated bits of
pure scientific knowledge concisely expressed by the most capable of living poets,
you would have an awkward and incomplete summation of the Sermon on the
Mount."-Fisher, J. T. & Ha"'?,ley, L. S. A few button~:;;;ssing;' Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1951, p. 273. Reprinted by permission.
80 As one writer remarks, "It is religion alone that can give the requisite sense
of moral security." See::ilso Bernard. Toward better personal adjustment, pp. 369-370.
/'

162

Conditions and Determinants of Adjustment


salvation? Religion insists, and constantly reminds us, of the intrinsic
value and dignity of individual man, that he is created "in the image and
likeness of God";81 what better way to offset the traumatic effects of
inferiority and the feeling of personal worthlessness? Religion tells us
that God Himself is personally interested in each and everyone of us.
Not a sparrow falls, we are told, that God does not take note of. Can
anxiety and fear stand up under such assurance? When we are torn by
conflict, temptation, indecision, a sense of sinfulness and shame, we are
assured that God pours His graces abundantly into the willing and
repentful soul to help overcome a person's difficulties. When guilt~
threatens to tear apart the delicate framework of the mind and emotions
of man, religion offers the tremendous solace of prayer and the sacraments. In our personal life, in marriage, in our work, and in our relations
with others, the influence of religion can be of inestimable value in meeting the demands that our own nature, or the environment and culture,
impose on US. 82
In recent years, there has been a great deal of interest in the positive
effects of religious beliefs and. practices on mental health. Is confession
really good for ,the soul? Are the sacraments actually efficacious in warding off feelings of depression, anxiety, and despair? Will prayer dispel
the awful feeling of loneliness' and desertion? Many writers have
answered yes. One writer remarks,
The sense of liberation and joyousness produced in the penitent by
the received forgiveness of God is so surpassingly wonderful that it
must be witnessed to be believed. It is a therapeutic agency of first
importance. The psychiatrist who does not bring God into his ministrations must discover other means of giving relief to his patients who
are distressed by a sense of guilt. 83

The conviction of those who work with damaged personalities that


81 VanderVeldt and Odenwald point out that "the surmounting of one's egocentricity: 'also provides a basis for satisfactory interPersonal relationships, and charity
toward his fellow men, because respect for persons is grounded in the fatherhood
of God instead of in changing human sentiments."-By permission from Psychiatry
and Catholicism, by J. H. VanderVeldt and R. P. Odenwald. Copyright, 1952. McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., p. 185. Bernard expresses a. similar conviction
(Toward better personal adjustment, pp. 370-371).82 In addition to the sources already noted, see McCarthy, R. C. Safeguarding
mentaf health. Milwaukee: Bruce, -1937, Chap. XII; McKenzie, J. G. Nervous disorders and religion. London: Allen & Unwin, 1951; Miller, S. H. Exploring the
boundary between religion' and psychiatry. J. Pastoral Care, 1952, 6, 1-11; Gasson,
J. A. Religion and personality integration. In Arnold, M. B., & Gasson, J. A. (Eds.)
The human person: an integral approach to the theory of personality. New York:
Ronald, 1954, pp. 548-574.
83 Bonnell, J. S. Psychology for pastor and peop~
. . New York: Harper, 1948,
p. 36. Reprinted by permission.
'
\

163

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


religious practices foster mental health is a factoI7 that must be reckoned
with in evaluating the influence of religion on mental health and adjustment. 84
I
We cannot say, of course, that the practice of religion is a guarantee
of good adjustment and mental health. If it we~e, there would be far
fewer neurotics and psychotics in the world. Ubfortuhately, there are
many deeply religious people who do not pos~ess peace of mind or
emotional tranquillity, and some of them find their way into mental
hospitals. This fact can be understood readily when we remind ourselves
that religion is only one determinant of adjustment. Often, therefore, its
effects are not powerful enough to offset the influence of other factors
working on personality and adjustment. Moreover, in any single instance,
it may be that the virtues and values of religion are not exploited thoroughly enough to be effective. 85 A religion that is based on family
tradition, fear, habit, or social pressure, and is therefore not an intrinsic
part of one's personal life, cannot be expected to offset the effects of
other determinants of adjustment. In such instances, in fact, religion may
have a damaging effect because of the /fear, anxiety, and guilt that it
often produces. These effects, however, are not the fault of religion itself
but of the individual's own inadequacies or misuse of religion. As in the
case of the influence of the home, the gang, the school, the community,
and so on, the ultimate effects of religion on adjustment and mental health
will be determined by the total context, both personal and social, within
which religion functions.
This statement raises one final point with which we can conclude
this lengthy discussion of the conditions and determinants of human
adjustment. Briefly, it is this: in evaluating the effects of these determinants, let us not lose sight of the fact that Hersonality, behavior, and the
environment are dynamically changing phenomena at every point of
development, and therefore the impact of religion, society, culture, training, education, and so forth, will constantly change in meaning where
adjustment is concerned. Religious doubts and conllictsj..jor. example,
which may cause great anguish at sixteen, will have an entirely different
84 See Keenan, A. Neuroses and sacraments. New York: Sheed & Ward, 1950;
O'Brien, J. A. Psychiatry and confession, New York: Paulist Press, 1948; O'Brien,
J. A. Modern psychology and the mass. New York: Paulist Press, 1927; Sheen, F. J.
Peace of soul. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1949, Chap. VII; Allers, R. Some psychological aspects of confession. In Jesus-Marie, B. de (Ed.) Conflict and light . . (Trans.
by P. Carswell and C. Hastrip.) New York: Sheed & Ward, 1952, pp. 51-82; Oliver,
J. R. Psychiatry and mental health. New York: Scribner's, 1946. I
85 Moore states, "Religion as a therapeutic l!id in m~ntal difficulties is applicable
only to those who have sincereand honest religious -{onvictions. If a patient has no
.....
religious convictions he 'cannot be aided by religious concepts until he sees their
truth and honestly adopts them."-;o'Moore, T. V. Personal mental hygiene. New York:
Grune & Stratton, 1944, p. 231.Reprinted by permission.
~,

164

J"

/'

Conditions and Determinants of Adjustment


effect on the mind of a mature adult. This is one example of hundreds
that could be used; but it serves to bring out the point that the meaning
and significance of the determinants of adjustment change with the
changing quality of the total context within which adjustment takes place.
SUMMARY

In this chapter, we have endeavored to describe the intrapersonal


and extrapersonal determinants of adjustment and mental health. We
began by indicating the part that personality plays as a determinant,
noting particularly how the unique organization of each individual personality conditions the process of adjustment in its own way. We then
dealt briefly with the range and classification of determinants and discussed several theoretical viewpoints regarding the nature of human
behavior. In the evaluation of these theories, it was noted that, although
some responses are innate and thus constitute the primary conditions of
adjustment, learning and development account for the majority of
responses, particularly at the adult level, which means that the determinants of adjustment carry a great deal more weight than the primary
conditions.
Following the theoretical discussion, we studied first, the influence
of heredity and physical constitution on adjustment. We saw that, through
the medium of temperament, both factors condition adjustment to an
important degree, although numerous traits, especially those of a social,
moral, and religious nature, are largely independent of heredity.
Secondly, we studied the part played by the nervous, glandular, and
muscular systems, citing evidence to indicate the effects on adjustment
and mental health of brain damage and disease, glandular imbalance,
paralysis, and similar factors. Because these systems constitute the physical bases of normal psychological functioning, it was emphasized that
their condition is of basic importance to psychological well-being. Similarly, physical health and illness are of considerable significance to
adequate adjustment, especially when there are secondary or indirect
reactions to physical conditions.
Thirdly, we examined the relations between development, maturation,
and adjustment; and, in line with facts brought out earlier, emphasized
that healthy development and adequate maturation are indispensable to the
achievement of good adjustment. Instances of maldevelopment and precocious development were cited to exemplify this point, although the effects
produced will vary considerably with the kind of development involved.
The fourth area of study included the psychological determinants of
adjustment. Here we traced the relation between experience and adjustment, and the pervasive effects of learning, with particular emphasis on
trial-and-error behavior, conditioning, inhibitio1rssociation, and rational
'\)

165

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


learning. These effects vary in terms of the psychological law of effect,
according to which responses are retained or el'iminated ,to the degree
that they are satisfying and manage to reduce tension. The' discussion of
learning led to the question of the effects of ml~ning and education on
adjustment, where we noted that training is responsible for habits and
skills necessary to effective adjustment, and education provides the values,
knowledge, principles, attitudes, and interests that contribute to effective
living. This section was conCluded with a brief statement of the importance of self-determination in the achievement of adjustment and mental
stability and of the effects on adjustment of the psychological climate in
which it takes place.
Finally, we directed our attention to the environmental and cultural
determinants of adjustment. Here emphasis was placed on the influence
of the family, and we noted, in turn, the effects on adjustment of family
organization, dissolution, sex and age patterning, group membership,
socialization, parent-child relations, and sibling relations. This analysis
was followed by a brief study of the rilations between adjustment and
community characteristics and of the influence of the school on adjustment. The concluding paragraphs dealt with the cultural determinants
of adjustment, where we noted that cultural factors influence both the
character and the content of behavior disorders. In the section dealing
with the relation between adjustment, mental health, and religion, it was
emphasized that, although religion cannot guarantee mental stability; its
experiences, beliefs, and practices are such that it can, under the right
conditions, contribute significantly to the achievement and maintenance
of mental health.
QUESTIONS, EXERCISES, AND PROJECTS

1. Explain. in your own words the relation between personality and


adjustment. What is the importance of this rel;rtwn-to_the understanding of adjustment?
-:__
2. Name and list the symptoms or characteristics of three psychological.
disorders that are definitely "organic" in' nature.
3. Write a short term paper, based on empirical studies, regarding the
influence of heredity on mental disorder.'
/
4. Discuss briefly the relation between adjustment and level of intel~
lectual development. What eV)id'ence can you cite for Iyour conclusion?
I
I
5. What is meant by the stateti{ent that inna~-,personality factors are
the primary condition of adjustment? Explain.
6. Describe several cases from your own experience, or from history,
that illustrate the influence of physical/deficiencies on personal adjustment. Can you explain '_Y.hat happens psychologically in such instancfs?

166

Conditions and Determinants of Adjustment


7. Why is the process of maturation so important to adequate adjustment? Is it equally important to mental health?
8. Can self-determination completely offset the effects on adjustment
of family and cultural influences? Why?
9. Write a book report on one of the selected readings or references that
dc:::al specifically with the relation between religion and adjustment.
10. List ten or more characteristics that a family should possess in the
interest of wholesome family living.
11. Explain and differentiate the effects on adjustment of discipline, training, and education.
12. State the psychological law of effect and show how it relates to the
development of good and bad adjustments.
13. Can you explain why emotional development is most important for
adjustment?
14. Describe some of your own personal experiences that seriously
affected the pattern of your life.
15. Explain in your own words the influence of conditioning and lOhibition on the process of adjustment. Give examples.

SELECTED READINGS
ALLPORT, G.

w .. The individual and his religion. New York: Macmillan,

1950.
J. E. The psychology of development and personal adjustment.
New York: Holt; 1949. Chaps. XIII-XV.
BARKER, R. G., et al. Adjustment to physical handicap and illness. Bull. No.
55, rev. Ne~ York: Social Science Research Council, 1953.
BERNARD, H. w. Toward better personal adjustment. New York: McGrawHill, 1951. Chaps. III, XV.
CARROLL, H. A. Mental hygiene: the dynamics of tidjustment~ (2nd Ed.)
New York: Prentice-Hall, 1951. Chaps. VII, XI.
LINDGREN, H. c. The psycholdgy of personal and social adjustment. New
York: American Book, 1953. Chaps. VIII, IX.
MAGNER, J. A. Personality and successful living. Milwaukee: Bruce, 1944.
Chaps. IX, X.
ANDERSON,

J. The relation of parental authority l~children's behavior and


attitudes. Minneapolis: Univer. of Minn. ress, 1946. Chaps. II,
VII, X.
.

RADKE, M.

167

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


The psychology of adjustment. Boston: Houghton Mifflin,
1936. Chaps. XII, XIII.
SYMONDS, P. M. The psychology of parent-child relationships. New York:
I
Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1939.
SCHNEIDERS, A. A. The psychology of adolescence. Milwaukee: Bruce, 1951.
Chaps. III, XVII, XVIII.
I
THORPE, L. P. The psychology of mental health. New York: Ronald, 1950.
Chaps. VII, XV-XVIII.
SHAFFER, L. F.

/'

'
"

168

Determinants of adjustment in relation to behavior dynamics. Adjustive


behavior and basic needs. Stimulus-response theory. Physiological theory.
Instinct theory. Theory of unconscious motivation. Hedonistic theory.
Voluntaristic theory. Range of motivating factors. Nature and concept of
needs. Physiological and psychological needs. Psychological needs and emotional adjustment. Social needs and adjustment. Spiritual needs. Needs and
values as determiners of perception.

ADJUSTMENT AND THE PROBLEM OF MOTIVATION

Determinants of Adjustment in Relation to Behavior Dynamics

In a special sense, this chapter on the dynamics of adjustment is a continuation of the preceding discussion of determinants. There we studied
a score of factors that, as we said, set the stage for, influence, or determine the course that adjustment takes. We might easily have included
what we have to say here about human motivation under the heading of
psychological determinants, because human needs and motives have a
great deal to do with the course of adjustment. But, apart from the fact
that Chapter Six was already somewhat long and cumbersome, there is
the more important circumstance that needs and motives-the dynamic
factors underlying behavior-have a special relation to adjustment and
mental health. This relation is more intimate and fundamental than the
majority of those already described, because the essential purpose and
content of adjustive behavior are determined by needs and motives. If we
think of learning, self-determination, training; and education as the compasses by which the course of adjustment is charted, then motivation
should be regarded as the propeller that initiates and sustains the course
that is followed. The essential purpose of adjustive responses is, from
one point of view, to set up an adequate relation between the organism
1 For a more extensive treatment of the problem of human motivation, see
Schneiders, A. A. The psychology of adolescence. Milwaukee: Bruce, 1951, Chaps.

V-Xill.

169

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


and reality; from another, and more fundamental point of view, its purpose is the expression and gratification of dynamici factors within personality, and the reduction of tensions, frustrations, fnd conflicts to which
these factors give rise. 2 In the achievement of this purpose, the content
of behavior and of response in genera:! is deterrriined primarily by the
character of the motivation and only secondarily' by the qualities of the
situation in which the behavior occurs. Thus, if ~ child is deprived of
affection, his behavior will reflect the dynamics of this basic need; but
the situation in which he finds himself will determine whether he invests
his interest in a dog, a drunken father, an overprotective mother, or an
indulgent uncle.

Adjustive Behavior and Basic Needs 3


Is all adjustive behavior oriented to the reduction of basic needs and
motives, or do some responses have a different orientation? This is part
of the issue raised earlier in this text about the propriety of regarding all
responses as fitting into the concept of adjustment. In order to answer
this question, let us briefly run the gamut of human responses from the
simplest to the most complex.
First of all, there is a large category of reactions, physiological and
neuromuscular in character, to which the term "adaptive" is more
appropriate than the term "adjustive." In this category are included
circulatory, digestive, respiratory, and eliminative functions. It is an
open question whether the entire range of purely reflex responses should
not also be included in this category, particularly since they have no
intrinsic relation to motivation.
Secondly, there are those responses that stem from and are oriented
to the reduction or gratification of basic needs, including physiological
drives, such as hunger and sex, and those that are psychological or social
in character, such as security and recognition. These responses would
seem to fit best into the concept of adjustment as it is used and interpreted in current psychological thought. Needs are internaLdemands, and
adjustment is consistently interpreted as a kind of respo~se -directed
toward meeting the demands that the organism must cope with in daily
living.
But there are other demands that arise from external sources, which
the organism is required to resolve by the right organization of'behavior;
/

See the _interesting combination 'of different approaches to personality and behavior in White, R. W. Lives in progress. New York: Dryden, 1952, pp. 3-25. White's
life histories, incidentally, are good examples of the congruence' in personality of
different influences.
. ..,/--- ~
3 A good discussion of this relation will be found in Symonds, P. M. Dynamic
psychology. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1949, Chap. II. See also Kaplan,
L., & Baron, D. Mental hygiene and life. New York: Harper, 1952, Chap. VI.
2

170

The Dynamics of Adjustment


responses to these demands are also adjustive. As we have seen many times
already, family living, marriage, one's job, social living, military life, and
education make demands that must be met adequately and efficiently; and
in meeting these demands it is correct to say that the organism is adjusting. 4 In these instances, however, the behavior is characteristically
voluntary or habitual in nature, rather than need initiated. Hence we can
say that all responses, whether habitual, voluntary, instinctive, or emotional, are adjusti've v.,'hen they are directed toward meeting internal or
external demands.
This relation to the demands imposed on the organism distinguishes
typically adjustive responses from others that are more correctly inter-'
preted as rational and goal-directed. Let us suppose, for example, that
a person decides, on graduation from high school, to become a physician.
With this selection of a distant goal, he sets in motion a long series of
responses directed toward its achievement. He registers at a university,
consults advisers, buys textbooks, goes to classes, travels long distances,
writes to medical schools, and does many other things that will help him
realize his ambition. Yet no one of these actions is really a form of adjustment. If at any point he decides to relinquish the career of medicine for
something less distant or ambitious, we could not say that he was failing
to adjust to life. Similarly, for other persons, the purchase of a house,
establishing a savings account, joining a book club, buying insurance,
trading in the old car for a new one, taking a trip, and so on, are sensible
and rational ways of behaving, and often contribute to the enrichment of
life; but they are not forms of adjustment. 5 However, if any of these
situations brings along with it certain demands that must be met for the
sake of propriety, justice, or efficiency, then we are dealing with a problem in adjustment. For example, the medical student must meet academic
requirements, and the person who buys an automobile must conform to
the limitations of hi:; budget. But these demands are incidental to the
main course of the behavior, which is rational and goal directed; and
The material of Chaps. Fifteen and Sixteen clearly illustrates this point.
The idea that ali behavior or conduct is adjustive stems from the assumption
that responses invariably reflect basic urges or needs. Thus Symonds states, "The
argument of this book is based on the hypothesis that all behavior originates in
response to urges within an individual. His frustrations and conflicts, his modes of
adjustment and all of the details of daily conduct follow in response to certain
fundamental motivating forces within him." Moreover, "the basic understanding of
human behavior is rooted in bi~logy and physiology."-Symonds, P. M. Dynamic
psychology. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1949, p. 11. Reprinteq by permission. The implication of such statements is that all conduct is determined by needs
or drives, leaving little room for rational control. In fact, in the preface to the first
edition of this book, Symonds had stated, "reason and intellect are dethroned as the
principal factors in adjustment"; but he modified his Rosition in the newer edition.
S" h;, o..p. XX, Th, ,go md ili, ~lf.
~
171
4

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


whatever adjustment problems arise in this type of situation are quite
accidental, even though they may at any point disrupt the pattern of
wholesome adjustment to a noticeable degree.
I
. If this inteq~retat!on is correct, then what. iare . we to say a?out
earlIer statements In thIS text to the effect that ratl<;malIty and goal dIrection are basic to the process of adjustment? There is no contradiction
between these two interpretations; in fact, the o~e supports the other.
Although goal-directed behavior is not itself a kind of adjustment, the
chances for meeting the demands of self or of environment are much
better when our behavior is oriented toward a goal than when it is
impulsive, disorganized, or lacking in direction. Similarly, rational conduct may not be adjustive in the literal sense of the term; but adjustive
responses that are controlled by the factor of rationality have a better
chance of succeeding than are those dominated by blind impulses, needs,
frustrations, or conflicts. In other words, the more rational conduct becomes; the less need is there for the principles of adjustment psychology.
If all human responses were rational or goal-directed, which they most
certainly are not, the problems of adjustment would simply disappear.
This is not likely to happen as long as there are human needs and environmental situations that impose demands' on human organisms.
THEORIES OF MOTIVATION

The interpretation of the character and purpose of human responses


and their relation to adjustment depends on the stand one takes regarding
the nature of motivation. If, for example, all motivation is fundamentally
sexual or unconscious, as one viewpoint maintains, then all behavior,
whether normal or abnormal, must be regar~ed as a collective effort to
reduce the tensions, conflicts, or frustrations engendered by these motivations. In such a scheme, there is no room, for deliberation, choice, or
goal-directed activity. Whatever "goals" exist are fictitious, and deliberation or choice is an illusion. The sole purpose of behavior-is_!..q establish
an equilibrium of forces between the organism and its env1ronment or
reality. In other words, in this view, all behavior is adjustive. We shall
return to this viewpoint a little later on; but, first, let us consider l~ss
complicated theories of human motivation. 6

Stimulus-Response Theory
The stimulus-response hypothesis is a materialistic and mechanistic interI

Theories of motivation are discussed more thorouglily in Schneiders. Op. cit.,


pp. 100-104. See also Brown, J. S. et ai, Current theory and research in motivation:
a Symposium. Lincoln, Neb.: Univer. of Nebraska Press, 1953; Carroll, H. A. Mental
hygiene: the dynamics of adjustment. (2nd Ed.) New York: Prentice-Hall, 1951,
Chap. II.
6

172

The Dynamics of Adjustment


pretation that is of little value to the psychology of adjustment. Its value
is chiefly historical, and its elimination as a serious viewpoint paves the
way to a more realistic account of motivation. According to this hypothesis, all behavior is determined by stimuli; needs, impulses, desires,
motives, and so forth, are brushed aside as nonexistent. All behavior is
considered reflexive or the result of conditioning, so that the categories
of reflex and habitual behavior constitute the totality of human response.
This, theory serves to explain what we have termed adaptive responses
and to account for reactions that result from conditioning; but, as we
noted earlier, the range of human response extends far beyond these
limited categories, and only a small part of adjustment can therefore be
explained in terms of this hypothesis. Let us re-emphasize, however, that
the principle of conditioning, when applied more broadly as a part of
the learning process (Chapter Six), can help a great deal in understanding
the development of adjustive or maladjustive behavior patterns.

Physiological Theory
The physiological hypothesis of human motivation, closely linked to the
stimulus-response viewpoint, is not much of an improvement. The reduction of all motivations to physiological drives, tensions, or disequilibrium
is as much at fault in its oversimplification as the notion that all responses
are determined by stimuli. Psychological needs, desires, motives, and goals,
all of which are profoundly significant to adjustment, must be integrated
into any theory of motivation, and this the physiological hypothesis
cannot do, for the simple reason that it leaves no room for them. Thus,
according to Symonds, "all behavior arises from drives for the alleviation
of organic needs, whether these be nutritive deficits in the body, the need
to excrete waste products, the stimulation of chemical or glandular agents
in the blood and tissues, or the need to protect the organism against
injury." Admittedly, "this stimulus-response psychology is deficient in
that it does not take into account the dynamic processes of the organism
itself and the fact that an organism behaves in response to its own needs."
Nevertheless, "in these fundamental terms happiness may be traced back
to the satisfaction of physiological needs."7 It is obvious, of course, that
some of our most basic motivations are physiological; and, as we shall
see, they are important to the process of adjustment; but this is a far
cry from the notion that all motivation is physiological. To understand
the peculiarities and intricacies of adjustment and mental health, we must
go considerably beyond the physiological needs of the organism. Of much
7 Symonds, P. M. Dynamic psychology. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts,
1949, p. 17. Reprinted by permission. For a more positive approach to this problem
of the nature of motivation, see Chap. Eight. The physiological hypothesis has been
expounded recently in a paper by E. Stellar. The PhYSi~Ogy of motivation. Psychol.
Rev., 1954, 61, 5-20.
I

173

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


greater significance are the psychological and social needs, the desires
and emotions, the complexes and mechanisms, the motives and attitudes
that underlie human responses. These factors rather than the physiological
drives constitute the real dynamics of adjustive behavior,

Instinct Theory

I \

Physiological drives, like hunger, thirst, and sex, are among the most
clear-cut examples of instincts, and thus we are led to the third viewpoint of motivation, the instinct hypothesis. This hypothesis has assumed
several distinct forms, depending on the peculiar philosophy of its exponent.
1. THE HORMIC VIEW. William McDougall, outstanding exponent
of the hormic viewpoint, postulated a large group of instincts to explain
the different patterns of human behavior. According to McDougall, all
behavior is in the service of the basic instincts, and therefore instincts are
the primary internal determinants of adjustment., This theory has been
largely discredited and abandoned by psychologists because it contains
too many broad and indefensible generalizations and because it fails to
take into account the pervasive effects on behavior of learning, maturation, and cultural determinants. Granted that some simple adjustments in
daily living can be traced to physiological drives, such responses as fighting, rivalry, mating, aggression, and hoarding, which were supposedly
instinctive, can be better explained in terms of learning, cultural pressures,
or frustration. s
2. PSYCHOANALYSIS. In the doctrines of Freud, collectively referred
to as psychoanalysis, the instinct hypothesis took an entirely different
turn. 9 First of all, Freud reduced the number of instincts to two: Eros,
or the life (love, sex) instinct, and Thanatos, or the instinct of death and
self-destruction. Secondly, where McDougall gave equal rank to a numS For a good evaluation of the instinct hypothesis, see Furfey, P. H. The group
life of the adolescent. J. educ. Sociol., 1940, 14, 195-204. See also Symonds. Op. cit.,
pp. 19-20; Bernard, L. L. The misuse of instinct in the social sci~ces,1?sychol. Rev.,
1921, 28, 96-119; Faris, E. Are instincts data or hypotheses? Amer. J. Sociol., 19211922, 27, 184-196; Marquis, D. G. The criterion of innate behavior. Psychol. Rev.,

1930,37, 334-349.
9 There are many good accounts of 'psychoanalysis. See, for example, Hendrick,
I. Facts and theories of psychoanalysis. (2~d Ed.) New York: Knopf, 1939; Brown,
}. F. The psychodynamics of abnormal behavior. New York: McGraw-Hill; 1940,
Chaps. VIII-XIII. Hall, C. S. A primer of Freudian psychology. New York:'World
Publ., 1954. - A good summary of newer viewpoints in psychoanalysis will be
found in Mullahy, P. Oedipus: mytb and complex. New York: Hermitage, 1948,
Parts V-X. For the application of Freudian theories to...mental'hygiene and adjustment, see Kaplan, L., & Baron,,-D. Op. cit., Chap. v'( Symonds. Op. cit.; Vaughan,
W. F. Personal and social 'ad{ustment. New York: Odyssey, 1952, Parts II and III.
See also Rado, S. Psy~hoP~~ics as a basic science. Amer. J. Ortbopsycbiat., 1946,
16, 405-409.
',

174

The Dyncrmics of Adjustment

ber of instincts, Freud elevated sex to the highest point in the determination of adjustment and mental health. Thirdly, the instinct theory of
Freud is thoroughly integrated with his philosophy of the unconscious
and of hedonism, so much so that it is impossible to understand one part
of psychoanalysis without considering its other aspects. Fourthly, Freud's
psychology of personality, expressed succinctly in the tripartite division
of id, ego, and superego, and itself an integral part of the structure of
psychoanalysis, is rooted in the theory of instincts. And finally, this
theory must be brought into relation with Freud's concept of the reality
princiI?le, because the expression of the instincts is conditioned to an
important extent by reality.
There is a great deal in Freud's theories that is useful to the psychology of adjustment, and a great deal that is either of little value or
destructive of the basic principles of good adjustment and mental health.
Because of this two-sided evaluation, we must analyze Freud's viewpoints
carefully, taking out what is good and helpful to understanding adjustment, and rejecting whatever is unscientific or harmful. Considering,
first, the theory of sex, we would have to enter an almost complete denial.
Not that the sex drive is unimportant to the problems of adjustment; this
would be a foolish assumption. But the way in which sex and its development are interpreted by Freud makes acceptance of the theory impossible.
This applies wilh equal force to every part of the theory: infantile sexuality, oral and anal eroticism, narcissism, homosexuality, the Oedipus and
Electra complexes, castration anxiety, and the sexual bases of religion
and morality.
Freud begins and ends his theory of behavior, mental life, and adjustment (normal and abnormal) with the sexual instinct. Breast feeding,
thumb-sucking, and smoking are interpreted as instances of oral and
infantile sexuality. Dreams are the disto~ted expressions in mental life of
repressed sexuality. The mental life and adjustments of women are conditioned throughout by penis envy. Neurotic symptoms are the overt
expression of unresolved sexual conflicts. Homosexuality is the result
of fixation at an early level of psychosexual development. Aggression
toward the parents represents the hatred or fear that is a part of the
Oed~pus complex or, more spe~ificaIly, castration anxiety.
This is a brief synopsis of the Freudian theory of psychosexual
development as it relates to adjustment and mental health. Several serious
criticisms can be made of this. theory. (1) It is grossly unscientific
becauses it generalizes from limited data. (2) It interprets the normal
completely in terms of the abnormal. (3) Its doctrine of infantile sexuality is entirely gratuitous and based on inferences from adult experiences.
(4) It is oversimplified, putting nearly all its emphasis on sex and failing
to recognize that there are other basic ,drives of ~eater importance. (5)
It makes the mistake of forcing data to fit the the
, instead of deveIop-

'

J7S

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


ing the theory in terms of the data, a point that is clearly exemplified in
the uses made of castration anxiety and penis enfY. (6) Its interpretation
of dreams and neurotic symptoms is forced, since they can be accounted
for more adequately in terms of other postulates. 10
These criticisms apply with even greater fotce to the theory of selfdestruction. Noting that certain instances of behitvior are contrary to the
instinct of self-preservation, induding suicide, criminal acts, pathological
drinking, drug addiction, and the like, Freud felt the necessity of postulating a second basic instinct-self-destruction. As he expressed it, life
tends from its very beginning toward death. In a broad sense, of course,
this is true, since death is the inevitable outcome of being alive; but that
death is the goal of living is simply not true. All the facts of development,
growth, and organic repair are contrary to this interpretation. So, too,
are the universal will to live, the interest in living, and the zest for life
found in all places, the desperate struggle for existence when one is
threatened with death, and the general repugnance to death and selfdestruction found everywhere. Arguing from instances of self-destruction
is again the mistake of interpreting the normal in terms of the abnormal.
Mentally disturbed persons do many things that have no parallel in
normal subjects, and one of these is self-destruction. In fact, it is much
simpler and more sensible to turn the situation around and ,say that the
reason the suicide is different from normal people is that he experienced
and carried out the wish for self-destruction. Similarly, it is easier and
more scientific to interpret other instances of dissolution in terms of
psychological antecedents than to appeal to a doubtful instinct of selfdestruction. Pathological drinking, for example, is better explained as an
escape mechanism than as the wish for death. 11
I

The Theory of Unconscious Motivation


The Freudian dynamics depends on the validity of the concept of the
~

-"

"---.

_____

10 There are almost as many criticisms of Freud and psychoanalysis as there are
expositions. Some of these are one-sided and reflect the prejudice against Freud and
his doctrines caused by his stand on sex, morality, and religion. See, for example,
Salter, A. The case against psychoanalysis, New York: Holt, 1952. M<;>re objective
evaluations are found in Allers, R. The successful error. New York: Sheed & Ward,
1940; Ford, J. C. Depth psychology, morality, and alcobolism. Weston, Mass.: Weston
College Press, 1951; Sears, R. R. Survey of objective studies of p~ychoanalytic concepts. Bull.-No. 51. New York: Social Science Research Council, 1943; Brown. Op.
cit., Chap. XII; Mullahy. Op. cit., Part II; Nuttin, J. Psychoanalysis and personality.
(Trans. by G. Lamb.) New York: Sheed & Ward, 19U::!
11 See L:vin, AI"J- The fiction of the de~th -i~inct. Psycbiat. Quart., 1951, 25,
257-281. Levm holds"'that Freud's theory of hfe as a step toward the goal of death
is a projection of his own unresolved terror; that Freud's theoretical prejudices
became a defense against the outward tolerance that reflected the rejection pattern
of a lifetime.
/'

176

The Dynamics of Adjustment


unconscious, to which we referred in Chapter Two. This dependence is
particularly noticeable in the explanation of abnormal responses of all
kinds. So-called oral needs, penis envy, castration anxiety, and all other
sex wishes and fears would not, in the Freudian dynamics, exert much influence if they were consciously known and recognized. Their power and
their influence stem from the fact that they are unknown, repressed, and
hidden from conscious knowledge. Because they are opposed by moral and
social restrictions and the demands of the superego, in their striving for
expression, they surreptitiously make their way into the symbolism of
dreams, errors, and neurotic reactions.
The weaknesses of Freud's sexual theory and of his notions regarding
the death instinct do not necessarily carryover into other parts of the
doctrine. One moral theologian points out,
On the psychological level there is much of the Freudian system
and its derivatives that has found acceptance among certain Catholic
psychologists; much that has no direct bearing on Catholic doctrines of
faith and morals. By the psychological level of Freud's teaching I mean
his conceptions of the structure of the human personality, the Id, the
Ego, the Superego, the mechanisms of repression and resistance, the
theory of the origin of neurosis, the nature of the unconscious, and the
dynamism of our unconscious psychic life. 12
This viewpoint is echoed and supported by many writers. O'Brien states,
Previous to Freud's contribution to the understanding of the dynamic development of unhealthy emotional patterns, there was relatively
little known that was really useful in the prevention or treatment of
delinquency, crime, the neuroses and psychoses.
Many of the basic techniques of psychoanalysis have made farreaching contributions not only in such specific areas as juvenile delinquency, adult crime, the neuroses and psychoses but also to the increased
proficiency of many professional fields such as child guidance, child
psychiatry, clinical psychology, education, juvenile and adult court
practices, religious education, business and industry, physical medicine
and modern social case work.13
The Reverend Dom James J. Hayden expresses the same thought.
It is true that Freudian- psychology has thrown real light on man's
behavior patterns; it has opened new vistas for the psychiatrist by disclosing some of the psychological dynamisms underlying mental illness.
12 Ford, ]. C. Depth psychology, morality, and alcoholism. Weston, Mass.:
Weston College Press, 1951, p. 5. Reprinted by permi!~'~"n.
.
13 O'Brien, .F. ]. ~~dern psychiatry and. religion.
t~.?f the National C0!lfer.
ence of Catholtc Chartttes, 1950, p. 57. Reprmted by p r' 1SSlOn.
-

V,77

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


No doubt Freud rendered us a service whicn should not be underestimated. Our debt of gratitude may even be greater than we realizeespecially when we consider his contribution tolour present day knowledge of that large class of functional mental illnesses.

,I

However, there remains the difficulty that "the philosophy of the analytical school [has] no place for the notion of sin and no need for the notion
of the supernatural."14
Part of the Freudian theory, the doctrine of the unconscious, is
valid. While it is difficult, because of the nature of the concept itself, to
establish its empirical validity, there is considerable evidence to support
the theory. Hayden says,

It might be truthfully stated that those who firmly hold to a psychology


of consciousness would find it quite impossible to interpret human conduct without the inclusion of unconscious phenomena. There is an
abundant literature to support this contention and it would be fatuous
to call it into question. The influenc~ of ideas and memories in the
mental life may be real and extensive/and yet the relation of cause and
effect between ideas and memories and their resonance in the mental
life may be utterly unknown to the subject. 15
The evidence for unconscious motivation is both clinical and experimentaU 6 Clinical experience with disturbed and maladjusted persons reveals
that the motivations underlying their symptomatic behavior are o~ten
unknown to them. Careful analysis of compulsive behavior, anxiety states,
neurasthenia, stuttering, and similar difficulties often brings to light
traumatic experiences, feelings of guilt, desires, ,fears, and the like, of
which the patients themselves seem unaware but which are causally
related to the symptoms. The proof of this'relation lies in the fact that,
when such factors are brought to light and the patient develops insight
into their existence and how they function, the symptoms often disappear.
Unconsciol\s determinants that express themselves in---!b_e behavior or
thinking of the subjects may be implanted experimentally. The-procedure
14 Hayden, ]. ]. The moral aspects of the new developments in mental hygiene.
Proc. of the National Conference of Catholic Charities, 1950, p. 63. Reprinted by
permission.
15 Hayden, ]. J. The moral aspects of the new developments in mental hygiene.
Proc. of the National Conference of Catholic Charities, 1950, p. 65, Repripred by
permission. See also Moore, T. V. The djiping forces of human nature. New York:
Grune & Stratton, 1948, Chap. IV.
- 16 See Lindgren, H. C. The psychology of personal and social ,adjustment. New
Yo:k: American Book, 1953v~liap. III; Miller, ]. ,G-?"Uiz:o~scfouS1less. New, York:
Wiley, 1942; Symonds. Op:' CIt:, Chap. X. Good mterpretatIons and evaluatIons of
the unconscious are found i; Nuttin, Op. cit., Chap. III, and Dalbiez, R. Psychoanalytical method ,and th~ ddctrine of Freud. (Trans. by T. F. Lindsay.) New York:
Longmans, Green, 1941, iV~l. II, Chap. I.
'
/'

178

The Dyntrmics of Adjustment


involves simply suggesting some idea for future conduct to a hypnotized
subject, and inducing amnesia for the suggested idea. Careful observations
show that such ideas will be carried out posthypnotically, even though
the subject is unaware of the "reason" for his conduct. In other words,
the suggested idea acts like an unconscious motivation.
The implications of unconscious motivation for adjustment and
mental health are extremely important. The development of an explanatory etiology, the understanding of mental symptoms and behavior disturbances, the interpretation of psychological mechanisms, mental conflicts, and frustrations, the value and limitations of self-determination, the
successful application of mental hygiene and of methods of treatmentall hinge on the existence, the extent, and the correct interpretation of
unconscious motivation. Whether normal adjustments are much affected
by unconscious factors is problematical and of relatively little importance;
however, the evidence seems to indicate clearly that abnormal responses
often are, and these offer the greater challenge to adjustment psychology.
Later on,. we shall discuss the content of the unconscious and the mechanism of its formation (Chapter Eight).

Hedonistic Theory
One other aspect of the Freudian dynamics closely related to the theories
of instincts and unconscious motivation, and of considerable importance
for the psychology of adjustment, is the pleasure principle. This notion
is generally referred to as psychological hedonism, which means that
conduct is dominated and determined by the quality of pleasure.
In the psycho-analytical theory of the mind we take it for granted
that the course of mental processes is automatically regulated by "the
pleasure-principle": that is to say, we believe that any given process
originates in an unpleasant state of tension and thereupon determines
for itself such a path that its ultimate issue coincides with a relaxation
of this tension, i.e. with avoidance of "pain" or with production of
pleasure. 11

This view, whether correct or not, is consistent with Freud's sexual


theory, since sexual activity is certainly dominated by pleasure. But it is
seriously questionable whether pleasure is the motivating force behind
all human conduct. Here again is the danger of oversimplification and
unscientific generalization. Granted that numerous responses, both normal and abnormal, can be explained by reference to the pleasure they
afford, there are just as many that can be accounted for by reference to
17 Freud, S. Beyond the pleasure principle. (Auth. trans. from the 2nd German
edition by C. ]. M. Hubback.) London: Hogarth Press, 1948, p. 1. Reprinted by

p<=;",=. Se, "," Syn,=d,. Op. 'h., pp.

15-16.

179

:r.

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


if we are to understand the dynamics of adjustment and mental health,
these various theories of motivation m_ust be integrated into a total consistent dynamics of behavior. This we have tried! to do in our evaluation
of motivational theories and will continue to do -in the remaining sections
of this chapter and the chapter that follows. : \

Range of Motivating Factors

In our efforts to develop a systematic account of motivation for the purposes of adjustment psychology, it would be helpful, especially in the
light of the foregoing criticisms, to determine the range and the classes
or types of motivating factors. We have said that the dynamics of human
responses cannot be reduced to a stimulus-response formula; nor to the
concept of instinct regardless of the form it assumes; nor to a physiologicalor voluntaristic interpretation. Therefore, if we are to determine what
the dynamics of adjustment involves, we must identify the factors to be
known and classify them in a way that is most meaningful for the understanding of adjustment.
These two aims can be realized at/the same time because by classifying them we necessarily indicate the 'range of factors involved. For the
purposes of adjustment psychology, ,the simplest and perhaps most useful
classification is the following (Figure 11).

1.

CONSCIOUS
MOTIVATIONS

2.

UNCONSCIOUS
MOTIVATIONS

Needs
Desires and Wants
Motives
Interests
Attitudes
Goals
Feelings
Experiences
Wishes
Complexes
Instincts
Habits and Mec/l.;fnisms

Fig. II-Classification of motivatirig-factors.


\

Admittedly, there are limitations to any system of classification, and the


one above is no exception. It has th~ virtues of simplicity and of being
particularly well suited to studying the relation. b.etween dynamics and
adjustment; but there are certain implications that would be misleading
if they were not carefully pointed out. This is u;ually the case with simple .
182

The Dynamics of Adjustment


dichotomies. For example, needs, desires, and attitudes are not always
clearly conscious and sometimes they are definitely unconscious. Similarly, the class of unconscious motivations means only that some feelings,
experiences, wishes, and the like, are unconscious. The important point
is that some adjustments are determined by conscious motivations, and
among them the factors we have included are most significant; other
adjustments are determined by unconscious motivations, and here repres~ed feelings, wishes, traumatic experiences, and complexes play a
domInant role. As long as we are aware of the limitations of this dichotomy, it should serve well as a basis for interpreting the relations between
motivation and adjustment.
HUMAN NEEDS AS MOTIVATING FACTORS

Nature and Concept of Needs


Of all dynamic factors in personality, there is none more important to .the
understanding of adjustment and mental health than human needs, because, by their very nature, needs are internal demands that must be
gratified in order to achieve adjustment. Needs are dynamic tendencies
oriented toward objects, qualities, or experiences that are required for
the physical, psychological, or social well-being of the organism. 20 Whenever, therefore, one or more of these basic tendencies is frustrated, inhibited, or not allowed adequate expression, the organism gravitates
toward mental reactions or forms of behavior that are inadequate, distorted, bizarre, symptomati'c, or pathological. To take a simple example,
the child who is denied a sense of security or belonging by parental
rejection or broken home will show symptoms of anxiety, withdrawal,
aggressiveness, or hostility, because, needing security and not knowing
how to achieve it, he strikes out blindly in a desperate effort to reduce
or escape the tension created by the frustrated need. If needs could be
consciously inhibited or willed out of existence, this development would
not occur; but, because they represent actual organic requirements, the
teiisions they create must be reduced in one way or another. If the situation is favorable to the gratification of the need, normal behavior results;
if not, abnormality or maladjustment may be the outcome. 21

20 See the definition of need in Cameron, N., &. Magaret, .A .. Behavior pathology.
Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1951, pp. 32-37. See also, Maslow, A. H. tIigher and
lower needs. f. Psychol., 1948, 25, 433--436. A thorough discussion of the nature and
functions of human needs will be f~und in Schneiders. Gp. cit., pp. 108-114, 118-125,
126-141. Compare Nuttin. Op. cit., pp. 164-170 and the whole of Chap. V; Carroll.
Gp. cit., Chap. II, especialiy pp. 43--49.
210n the relation of needs to mental health and adjustment, see Thorpe, L. P.
The psychology of mental health. New York: Ronald, 1950, Chap. II. Bernard, H. W.
Mental hygiene for classroom teachers. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1952, Chap. II.

K,,,,",

&

B"oo. Op. ci'., Clup. Vl.

183

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


Physiological Needs
The dynamic relation of needs to adjustment is clearly exemplified by
physiological needs. 22 Everyone knows that, for ~physical well-being and
integrity, the organism requires air, food, liqu,d, rest, shelter, activity,
elimination of waste products, and freedom froni noxious stimuli. Without these objects or qualities, the organism tends'toward physical weakness, ill-health, disease, or death. The end result, then, of frustration or
privation of these needs is physical maladjustment. 23 Because of these
characteristic consequences of deprivation, the sexual impulse, which is
certainly physiological in nature, does not fit well into this category.
Since sexual need is directed primarily to the preservation of the species
rather than of the individual, it is clearly different from other physiological needs. For the same reason, it is the one need whose gratification is
not required for adjustment. Sexual functioning is dominated by group
requirements or pleasure and not by the demands for adequate personal
adjustment. These characteristics do not make the sex drive less dynamic
than other needs nor do they make the problem of sexual adjustment less
severe or important. The inhibition or chronic frustration of the sexual
impulse or the failure to exercise control over or to subliminate sexual
desire can lead to damaging confli~ts and behavior disturbances. The
only point we wish to make here is that sexual need functions differently
in relation to adjustment than do other physiological needs, not that the
problem of sexual adjustment is insignificant.
Physiological needs bring out clearly why needs are referred to as
requirements and why their gratification is basic to the process of
healthy adjustment. But it should be understood that the gratification of
physiological needs ensures only the physical adjustment of the organism;
therefore, in themselves, these needs have little to do with psychological
well-being or mental health. This is particularly true in a society such as
ours, where the standard of living is relatively high, and basic physical
requirements are usually well taken care of. However,_wzmust note an
important relation between the gratification of physical needs and the
achievement of psychological adjustment. 24 Adequate and wholesome
physical care, particularly in early childhood, can contribute a great deal
to satisfy:ing the psychological needs for affection, security, and a sense of
beloriging. This fact is clearly illustrated in the differential effects of
breast feeding and bottle feeding in early infancy. Psychologists and psySee Symonds. Op. cit., Chap. II, especially pp. 28-30.
See Carroll's discussion on the need for physical security/Op. cit., Chap. III.
See also The basic needs of children. Report of the .!?teparatory Commission to the
Congress of Mental Hygiene in London, August, 1948. -Reprinted and published by
Community Child Guidance Centers of Chicago.
24 On the adjustive significance of biological needs, see Kaplan & Baron. Op. cit-,
pp. 148-149.
22

23

184

The Dynamics of Adjustment


chiatrists generally agree that natural breast feeding lays a more secure
groundwork for the psychological well-being of the child. In this natural
physical relation between mother and child, the seeds of affection and

Fig. 12-Human needs are dynamic.

security are more firmly planted and more readily nurtured than in the
unnatural situation of bottle feeding. Similarly, in later years, the psychological requirements of the child can be healthily nurtured in a setting
in which his physical needs are well cared for. This relation is of great
importance to adjustment and should be exploited for all it is worth in
the rearing of children. 25
25 See Maslow, A. H., & Mittelmann, B. PrinciPles of abnormal psychology.
(Rev. Ed.) New York: Harper, 1951, pp. 61-62. Ribble, M. A. Infantile experience
in relation to personality development. In Hunt, ]. MeV. (Ed.) Personality and the
behavior diso~ders. New York: Ronald, 1944, II, 621-651. See especially p. 647. An
excellent discussion of this relation is contained in Bowlby, ]. Maternal care and
mental health. New York: World Health organiza~'f!!p, 1951. Bowlby states that
"prolonged deprivation of the young child of materna ,ihre may have grave and far
reaching effects on his character and so on the whole 0, I is future life." The relation

185

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


Psychological Needs
Because the human organism is psycholQgical as well as physical, its
behavior and mental life are dominated by a nrtmber of psychological
requirements the satisfaction of which is fundamental to adjustment.
These requirements are generally referred to a~ psychological needs,
::tlthough the terms "emotional needs" and "adju~tment needs" are also
used. 26 Technically, a psychological need is defined as a tension resulting
from the absence or deprivation of a quality, experience, or relation that
is necessary to the psychological well-being (adjustment) of the organism.
But what is "psychological adjustment"? This condition is the equivalent,
in the psychological order, of physical well-being. It denotes a sense of
inner security, emotional tranquillity, happiness, peace of mind, selfsatisfaction, and personal worth. Contrast these qualities with the psychological condition of the typical neurotic person, and you will see
what is meant by psychological well-being. The neurotic is emotionally
disturbed, uphappy, dissatisfied with himse~f, and almost completely lacking in the sense of security and personal worth. This is what is meant by
saying that such persons, although physitally sound, are psychologically
. disturbed. 27
Among the psychological needs are several that stand out prominently
in their significance for adjustment and mental health. These are affection,
belonging, security, and status or personal worth. Related to these are the
needs for attention, independence, achievement, and experience. So pervasive and profound are the effects of these needs that they are universally regarded as the primary internal determinants of mental health and
adjustment, a viewpoint that is thoroughly substantiated by clinical experience with disturbed and maladjusted children and by observations
of children in institutional settings who are suffering from need deprivation of one kind or another. 28
of breast feeding to character formation is supported in Goldman, F. Breastfeeding
and character formation. II. The etiology of the oral character in psychoanalytic
theory. J. Personality, 1950, 19, 189-196, but in a later study th~eory-is seriously
questioned. See Thurston, J. R., & Mussen, P. H. Infant feeding gratifi(;1lti()n and adult
personality. J. Personality, 1951,20,449--458. See especially pp. 456--457.
26 See Gardner, G. The emotional needs of the child. In Liebman, J. L. (Ed.)
Psychiatry and religion. Boston: Beacon, 1948, pp. 69-90. Gardner also emphasizes
the importance of parental care. See epsecially pp. 71-72.
27 See Thorpe. Op. cit., Chap. II, especially pp. 35--44; Bernard, H. W. Toward
better personal adjustment. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1951, Chap. VIII.
~
28 Frank,-L. K. The fundamental needs of the child. Ment. hyg., N.Y., 1938, 22,
353-379; Ribble, M. A. The rights of infants: early psychological needs and their
satisfaction. New York: Columbia Univer. Press, 1943;-::..Goldfarb, W. Psychological
privation in .inf~ncy and subsequent adjustment. An;~r;- J: Orthopsychiat., 1945, 15,
247-255; Ce'nters, R. Job Satisfaction at Various Occupational Levels. pp. 477, 478.
In Kuhlen, 'R./G., & Thompson, G. G. (Eds.) Psychological studies of human development. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1952, pp. 470--478.
/'

186

The Dynamics of Adjustment


1. AFFECTION AND BELONGING. The need for affection and the need
for belonging, which are closely allied to each other, provide excellent illustrations of the close connection between psychological needs and
adjustment. Children need to be loved, and they need to feel that they
belong to someone or to a. family group; when they are given affection
in a wholesome manner, the sense of belonging is quickly instilled. When
these needs are stifled by rejecting, hating, selfish, or jealous parents, or
by the breakup of the home, the child feels unwanted. He becomes insecure and frightened and feels that there is no one to whom he can turn
to help him push back the threats or terrors of reality, a reality, incidentally, that he little understands and with which he is poorly equipped
to cope. The child who is secure in affection and the feeling of being
wanted reflects this security in a happy disposition, affectionate behavior,
and a wholesome relation with other people in his environment; similarly,
the child in whom these needs are stifled shows withdrawal, resentment,
hostility, anxiety, or aggressiveness. Here we have a clear example of how
the dynamics of basic needs find expression in behavior, the quality of
which is determined by how well or poorly the needs themselves are
gratified.
2. SECURITY AND STATUS. Denial of affection and a sense of, belonging will seriously affect the satisfaction of the needs for security and status.
The feeling of security is fundamental to good adjustment because it
provides the organism with the psychological means necessary to cope
successfully with the conflicts, frustrations, demands, and difficulties that
arise from day to day. This kind of security is not achieved through
economic or physical well-being, although, in later years especially, these
conditions can contribute to its development (or to insecurity); rather,
it is the inner conviction of one's own intrinsic worth, a conviction that
establishes status with reference to self and to others. 29 The conviction of
personal worth contr:ibutes to ego-security, and affection and a sense of
belonging contribute to the wholesome gratification of both the need for
security and the need for assurance of status. The internal cohesion of
the family, wholesome parent-child relations, adequate discipline, and
the security of a well-integrated society have immense influence on the
development of ego-security.30 Similarly, good parental attitudes, healthy
29 H. Sorenson discusses the different forms of- security ana" "their inter-relations
in On being secure. Education, 1952, 73, 238-240. See also Maslow, A. H. The
dynamics of psychological security-iris~curity. Charact. & Perr., 1942, 10, 331-344;
Carroll. Op. cit., Chap. IV. The need for emotional security. Maslow, A. H., Hirsh,
E., Stein, M., & Honigmann, I. A clinically derived test for measuring securityinsecurity. J. gen. Psychol., 1945, 33, 21-42; Knutson, A. L. Personal security as
related to station in life. Psychol. Monogr., 1952, 66, whole No. 336; Meltzer, H. Economic securitY and children's attitudes to parents. Amer. J. Orthopsychiat., 1936, 6,
590-608. The need for status is discussed at length in trOll. Op. cit., Chap. VI.
30 Arsenian, J. M. Young children in ~n insecu . situation. ]. abnorm. soc.

187

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


and worth-while experiences, opportunities for achievement and recognition, and group acceptance can foster the conviction of personal worth.
In the absence of such positive factors, a sense o security' and status cannot develop, with the result that behavior and i \mental stability become
disrupted. The insecure child becomes anxious,' timid, withdrawn, and
unhappy; and those children lacking in a sense Of personal worth often
show symptoms of hostility, aggressiveness, seclusiveness, or, what is
worse, an almost pathological superiority_31
3. ATTENTION. All fundamental psychological needs, but particularly
the need for security and status, are reflected in the craving for attention
that children (and some adults) consistently manifest. Gaining the attention of others is especially a boon to feelings of personal worth because,
temporarily at least, it divests the child of feelings of inadequacy and thus
contributes to the enhancement of his ego. Children who feel.insecure in
their own capacities or who have strong feelings of inferiority are most
likely to utilize behavior that secures attention; therefore, the more persistent attention-getting behavior becomes, the more certainly can we
conclude that the need for affection, se~urity, or status is being inadequately gratified. The happy child, in whom such needs are normally
gratified, has little need for the spuriO'us satisfactions of attention-getting
behavior.
4. INDEPENDENCE. The young child's craving for security, so forcibly expressed in his behavior, is tempered in later years, particularly
during adolescence, by the need for independence. Once the child breaks
away from the narrow confines of the family circle to establish relations
with playmates, schoolmates, friends, and occasional companions, the
striving for independence begins, and it continues to grow in intensity
until the end of the adolescent period, when often there is a complete
break with the family. This process is sometimes referred to as phychological weaning or emancipation from the home. 32 During these years,
the need for security also keeps its grip on the child-a_ ,situation, incidentally, that makes for conflict and emotional uncertaintY::but its hold
is gradually weakened as the child approaches the threshold of mature
living and adult responsibilities. Then young .people want to go away to
school, join the service, establish a "home" of their own (even if it is only
one room in a boarding house), or simply run away.3S
'
Psychol., 1943, 38, 225-249. Some writers regard security as the basic human need. See
Jayasuriya, J. E. Psychological needs of children. J. educ. Psychol., 1950, 8, 60-69.
31 Rose, A. A. Insecurity feelings in adolescent girls. N.(rv. CEild, 1944, 4, 46-59.
32 See RaIl, M. E. Dependency and the adolescent. sOC;Casewk., 1947,28, 123-130.
33 On the changing pattern of needs in childhood and adolescence, see Kaplan &
Baron. Op. cit., pp. 160-161. See also Finesinger, J. E. The needs of youth. Psychiatry,
1944, 7, 45-57; Johnson, G. The needs of youth. Cath. educ. Rev., 1938, 36, 3-16;
Morgan, A. E. The needs ,of youth. New) York: Oxford Univer. Press, 1939.

188

I .

'/

The Dynrmtics of Adjustment


This craving for independence manifests itself in many ways in the
behavior of children, affecting their adjustments to themselves and to
the persons with whom they come in contact. Where the family situation
is adequate, and parent-child relations are wholesome, independence expresses itself normally in the selection of friends, individual preferences
for clothes or school, requests for permission to stay out late at night or
to begin dating, and so on. But, in the overprotected or severely disciplined child, independence leads to conflict, confusion, hatred, aggression, or open rebellion.
A balance must be carefully maintained in gratifying such needs as
affection, security, and independence. Extremely close emotional ties of
affection with the parents can seriously blunt the normal development
of independence, so that at adulthood the person is clinging, immature,
and poorly adjusted. Similarly, too much security (over-protection) or
too little (the rejected, unwanted child) will inhibit or distort the growth
of independence. The insecure child, like the one smothered with affection, cann~t successfully achieve emancipation from the home, and thus
the realities of ~dulthood stand as a constant threat or barrier to mature,
efficient living. Insecure persons shy away from the responsibilities of
marriage or an important job; or, if they venture into marriage, their
marital relations are constantly tortured with hesitation, fear, uncertainty,
the intrusion of parental images, and desires for separation so that they
can return to the security and affection afforded by their childhood.
Mature living and good adjustment require ego-security; but they also
require a healthy measure of independence in judgment, decision, and
conduct.
S. ACHIEVEMENT. In all the situations we have described one can
discern the functioning of other psychological needs of considerable importance to adjustment, namely, achievement and experience. The need
for achievement is probably a special instance of the need for status,
because the higher the level of achievement the greater the feeling of
personal worth. The craving for personal achievement is manifested unmistakably in the behavior of people, and its frustration often leads to
personality difficulties. 34 Parental lack of interest in a child's accomplishments, or the deep conviction of failure that children experience when
their best efforts prove inadequate, ,can give rise to feelings of inferiority
or worthlessness. This is especially likely to happen when parents are
perfectionistic or hypercritical and strive to realize through their children the achievements of which they themselves were incapable. The
child may develop compulsive tendencies toward achievement (later to
become the adult with excessive drive or ambition to succeed) or a
34 See McClelland, D. C. et at. The achievement l1iJ't've. New York: AppletonCentury-Crofts, 1953. See also Carroll. Op. cit., Cha
, where achievement is
linked to the need for mastery.
.
-

189

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


chronic sense of frustration and failure, and a h:abit of gIvmg up too
easily. Or he may rebel against standards of achievement and refuse to
rise above mediocrity even if his natural capacities 1re well above average.
Conversely, of course, the satisfaction of the need for achievement enhances feelings of security and status and fost~ts the development of
wholesome attitudes toward self and toward others.
6. EXPERIENCE. Finally, we must take into account the relation
between adjustment and the need for experience. This basic requirement
of human nature, too often ignored or unrecognized by even the most
discerning persons, is one of the most dynamic factors influencing human
behavior. From infancy on, the organism is not only receptive in the
matter of experience, it actively seeks situations that provide experiences
of various kinds. Thrill seeking among adolescents is one of the most
striking illustrations of the functioning of this need, which is also referred
to as the craving for novelty. Admittedly, not all experiences gratify this
need; only those that are unusual, or different, or peculiarly satisfying in
some way. Thus a youngster wants to }ive on a farm for the summer,
paddle a canoe by himself, drive a car at eighty miles an hour, ride the
back seat of a motorcycle, smoke a cigarette, have a date, and so on-just
"to see what it is like."
/
The craving for no.vel or new experit!nces may be expressed in ways
that are no more striking than those we have used as examples, 'with which
everyone is well acquainted and which present no adjustment problem.
But often the need for experience takes a peculiar twist, especially if'it is
blocked by parental restrictions, social demands, or lack of opportunity
for normal expression. Then patterns of maladjustive behavior are established: joy riding, truancy, nomadism, illicit sexual relations, stealing,
drug addiction, and the like. The need for experience is not as basic to
psychological well-being as the other requirements described; yet it must
be carefull~channeled in the right direction, and care must be taken to
see that i~,is ~otl chronically
excessively th,:~rted'Y2.J.:nts a?d teache~s
should proy~ many and dIverse opportumtles for expreSSIOn of tI1lS
drive in a normal, ~cceptable,
and wholesome way that -contributes to
I
personality development and adequate adj~stment.

0:

Psychological Ndeds and Emotional Adjustment


/

In this discussion of the psychological needs of the human organism, we


have indicated their influence, both normal and abnormal, on mental
factors as well as on behavioral adjustments. Equally important are the
effects of need gratification or deprivation on-emoti6nal stability, especially in view of the fundamental relation b~en this factor and mental
health. For this reason the term "emotional needs" is sometimes used in
reference to psycholpgical. needs. Certainly, the wholesome and consuch needs as the
need for affection, security, and
tinuous gratification df ./"'
.
~

190

"',

The Dynttmics of Adjustment


belonging can do more to promote healthy emotional development and
expression than can any other internal or external determinants of adjustment. Children whose emotional needs are satisfied are happy, free in
emotional expression, and quick to establish good affectional relations
with others. 35 Unburdened by feelings of rejection, inadequacy, hatred,
inferiority, or jealousy, they are seldom given to emotional outbursts or
to fits of moodiness and depression. How unlike the fate of those childr;:n
whose emotional needs are chronically frustrated and forced into modes
of expression that stand in the way of mental health and adjustment. The
following case illustrates clearly the influence of emotional blunting or
impoverishment.
Janie was a young girl of nineteen, referred to the psychologist because
of academic failure and poor social adjustment in college. Interviews revealed
that the client's mother had died when the client was only four years old and
that she had been raised by the maternal grandmother, who was incessantly
critical and belittling of Janie's efforts to succeed. Her father, an emotionally
and vocationally inadequate person, showed little interest in the daughter
and was only too anxious to shift the responsibility to the grandmother.
Janie was constantly reminded that "she was just like her father" and would,
like him, grow up into a worthless human being. In this setting, Janie had
received almost no affection, was extremely lonely, unable to establish worthwhile social contacts, and was deeply convinced of her own inadequacy.
Emotionally starved, she resorted to excessive daydreaming and autoerotic
practices, which heralded a complete disintegration of her personality. Psychotherapy was largely ineffective.

In cases like Janie's, the emotional structure is seriously damaged.


These are the children who hate, or whose emotional make-up is shot
through with jealousy, hostility, anger, temper tantrums, sulkiness, or
anxiety, and who fin_d it impossible to set up adequate and wholesome
emotional relations with other members of society:.3rFtpm this category
are recruited the inadequate personalities, the ne'urotics,\the .d~linquents,

.~~lation t~

35 See Brown, F. The nature of emotion and its


'a1ti-social behavior.
,. abnorm. soc. Psychol., 1934, 28, 446--458; Meltzir"i H. Stu<:!ents:)adjustments in
anger. ,. soc. Psychol., 1933, 4, 285-309; Schneiders,"A.('A. ~m?tional development in
children. Education, 1951, 72, 216-223, especially .pp .. 219-220., Young states, "The
causation of emotional disturbance can be fully un<:!ers\:ood 0rl)': in relation to the
attitudes and motives of the individual' who experiences the emotion. . . . It should
be made clear that appetite is a'ne of the underlying factors in the affective life.
Appetites are' the basis of a large group of organically determined desires and in the
satisfaction and frustration of these appetitive 'impulses arise feelings of comfort and
discomfort, as well as emotional upsets." -Young, P. T. Emotion in man and animal.
New York: Wiley, 1943, p. 115. Reprinted by permission.
36 Many illustrative cases and incidents of such behavior patterns are found
in Redl, F., & Wineman, D. Children who hate. Chica~ Free Press, 1951.

;tI

191

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


and the psychopaths, in all of whom emotional distortion or impoverishment is a typical characteristic. The relation between needs and emotions,
incidentally, is not limited to psychological Aeeds, even though they
are the most important. The gratification or fl\ustration of any motivational factor always has emotional concomitants. 37
I

Social Needs and Adjustment


While psychological needs condition the personal and emotional adjustments of the organism, other dynamic factors-the social needs-exert a
more direct influence on interpersonal adjustments. We do not mean by
this that such psychological needs as affection, security, or status have no
implications for social behavior, nor that such social needs as approval
and recognition do not affect psychological well-being or personal integrity. The process of adjustment cannot be fragmented in this way.
Whatever happens to a person's ego-sec:urity or emotional stability is
certain to affect his social relations, and these relations, in turn, will affect
his internal make-up. This interrelation was emphasized earlier when we
discussed the intimate relations betwe~n personality, environment, and
culture (Chapters Three and Five). The point is that some dynamic
factors have more meaning for one ~spect of adjustment than for others,
even though all of them are complexly intermingled. The social needs of
primary importance for adjustment are participation, recognition, approval, and conformity.
1. PARTICIPATION. Of the social needs, participation is the most
significant. 3s This need impels the organism toward the sharing of experiences and activities and thus plays a major role in the process of socialization. Whenever damaging social experiences, unhealthy emotional ties
to the parents, or the overdevelopment of contrary motivations block
the natural expression of this need, the organism tends toward some form
of social maladjustment. Children who find it difficult or impossible to
participate in social experiences and activities have fewJ!.iends (if any)
among either sex, tend toward solitary activities to an abnormal degree,
shun parties, dances, and games involving participation, and Often manifest
a decided antisocial attitude. In extreme cases, such tendencies are reflected
in homosexuality or schizophrenia. Conversely, the normal development
and expression of the need for participation leads to behavior pat~erns
that ensure the wholesome social adjustment of the organism.
2. RECOGNITION. Participation in social life and the development of
interperson-al relations will be conditioned to an important degree by the
need for recognition. Because man is by nat~'3--S0Ciallanimal-which is
37

See McCabe, A. R. Meeting the emotional heeds of children. Soc. Casewk.,

1950, 31, 332-339.


38 See Atwood, B. S. Social participation and juvenile delinquency. Indiana Bull.
Charities and Correction, 1933, No. 210, 208-211....-

192

The Dynamics of Adjustment


why social needs exist-the recognition of his abilities, achievements, and
personal qualities by his fellow human beings is of considerable value
and importance to him. The opinions and evaluations of others are an
objective refiection of personal worth; and it may be that the dynamics
of recognition is determined by its intrinsic relation to the need for
status. Here we have a good example of how psychological and social
needs. are intermingled, the expression of one being determined in many
instances by the dynamics of the other. Whether the blocking of recognition has serious effects on adjustment is difficult to say, for many persons seem to get along without recognition; but it is well known that the
gratification of this need has a definite salutary effect on adjustment.
Feelings of inadequacy, inferiority, or discouragement, and a sense of
failure or lack of achievement can be mitigated by healthy doses of
recognition. This fact can be exploited to advantage in promoting normal
adjustment.
3. SOCIAL APPROVAL. Closely allied to recognition is the desire for
social approval; but where recognition is based on evaluation of traits or
behavior, social approval involves social values. The drive for recognition
often finds expression in conduct that is morally or socially undesirable,
as delinquency and criminality. Thus one might recognize .a criminal as
being the outstanding member of his group, without condoning or approving his behavior. More often, perhaps, recognition and social approval
go hand in hand. Like recognition, social approval reflects the status or
personal worth of an individual. Social disapproval can have a damaging
effect on the self-concept, on feelings of adequacy, achievement, and
personal worth, and can, in extreme cases, lead to serious social maladjustment. These effects will vary a great deal with such factors as personal make-up and developmental level. An extremely sensitive person
will react more disastrously to social disapproval than will the person
who is emotionally well-adjusted; and we may expect the adolescent to
react more strongly than the young child. As a general principle, the
effects of attempts to satisfy needs will be determined or conditioned
always by the context. within which the needs strive for gratification.
4. CONFORMITY. In much the same way as approval is linked to
recognition, the need for conformity is linked to social approval. This
relation is especially noticeable in adolescence, when conformity seems
to be consistently evaluated in terms of the approval or disapproval of
friends or of the group. Very few things seem as painful to the adolescent
as the frustration of this need, whether in the matter of styles of dress,
staying out late at night, or dating; it is during this period that the drive
for conformity reaches the peak of intensity. Here again it is questionable
whether uninhibited expression or blocking of the drive has any profound or lasting effects on adjustment. In some instances, parental restrictions on conformity lead to emotional ups~ hostility, or rebellion;

'tJ

193

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


but usually these effects are temporary and disappear as the youngster
reaches a higher level of maturity or develops better scale of values.
However, since we are interested here in the 9ynamics .of adjustment,
whether these adjustments are temporary or permanent, tqe functioning
of the need for conformity, like that' of any otH.er need, must be taken
into account. Not all needs have the same dynamic value for adjustment,
but, more important than their varying impact, is the fact that all of them
influence the course of adjustment to some extent. 39

The Question of Spiritual Needs


In view of our earlier assertion (Chapter Four) that adjustment and
mental health require an adequate orientation to all aspects of reality
(including, therefore, God), and considering, too, the significant implications of religion for mental health (Chapter Six), we should frankly
face the question whether there are spiritual needs in personality that
bear on the problem of adjustment in the way that other needs do. We
noted that man's physical, psychological,' and social needs stem directly
from his nature; therefore, to the extent that human nature is spiritual,
we should expect to find needs that correspond to this part of personality.
Certainly, an inadequate orientation to spiritual reality (God) can have
as profound a detrimental effect on adjustment as the thwarting of other
needs, which suggests that there are basic requirements of, a spiritual
nature in human personality. In other words, just as tpe child needs the
security and affection his parents can give him, and just as he needs the
independence that comes with growing up, so, too, he needs, in the
words of the catechism, "to know, to love, and to serve God." Everything that we have learned from experience, the psychological clinic, or
psychiatric practices points to the necessity of a sound religious orientation for the achievement of mental peace aAd stability; and therefore, as
part of the dynamics of human adjustment, we should recognize the
existence of spiritual needs. Among them may be distinguished the need
for symto know arid love God, the need for spiritual solace;'the_need
~pathy, understanding, and forgiveness, the need for purity .of heart, and
the need for eternal salvation. These basic cravings of the human mind
should make it clear why prayer, the sacraments, confession, and a sound
religious orientation can be so efficacious in maintaining or restoring mental health and peace of mind (Chapter Six).
That spiritual needs are closely allied to and often ;parallel psychological _needs is a fact that requires little emphasis.' As we have
pointed out, the personality of mali is an integrated whole, and we should
expect the most intimate re)atfoQs,
among differeiir-aspe~ts
of personality.
... , _.-

39

For a more. d~;ail;d discussion of these needs, especially as related to adolescent

conduc~ . and adjustnienf,~see Schneiders. Op. cit., Chap. IX.

194

The Dynamics of Adjustment


The need for affection so unmistakably manifested in child behavior is
certainly akin to the need for love of God. The youngster's craving for
security finds a close parallel in the need for salvation. But we must note
that as the child grows toward maturity his world of reality expands, and
the parents, who at one time were the primary source of affection and
security, no longer play the same role. The simple pattern of relations that
provided the satisfaction of basic needs gives way before a continually
expanding outlook on life and reality; and thus, as the child grows older
and his spiritual needs begin to function more noticeably, a more expansive orientation to reality becomes necessary. No longer can parents,
friends, and teachers provide all the answers that are necessary for
effective living. Nor can wife, children, friends, and work provide the
soillce that is required for peace of mind. DisaPfointments, failures, depression, discouragement, and conflicts require something more than
human relations or the joy of work can make available. It is then that
spiritual needs are felt most strongly, and their gratification becomes as
imperative as the need of a child to be loved and protected. Psychology
and mental hygiene must recognize these facts if the problems of adjustment and mental health are to yield to their principles.
MOTIVATION, PERCEPTION, AND ADJUSTMENT

Needs and Values as Determiners of Perception


In trying to understand the relation between psychological dynamics and
adjustment to reality, it is important to keep in mind that the "reality"
to which a person strives to adjust will be determined in large meamre
by his peculiar needs and values. In a well-known experiment by Bruner
and Goodman, poor children overestimated the size of coins more than
did rich children, suggesting that the children's need had an effect on
perceptual judgment.-4 o In other words, reality is changed, enlarged, or
distorted by the influence of different motivations.
This relation has been known for a long time, but its implications
for adjustment and mental health require a great deal of emphasis. If an
adequate orientation to reality is assumed to be a basic criterion of adjustment, and if reality is determined to some degree by subjective factors,
40 Bruner, J. S., & Goodman, C. C. /Value and need as organizing factors in perception, J. abnorm. soc. Psychol.,-1947, 42, 33-44. See the follow-up study on this
experiment reported in Carter, L. F., & Schooler, K. The effect of psychological need
on perceptiorL In Kuhlen & Thompson (Eds.) Gp. cit., pp. 246-252. See also Pepitone,
A. Motivational effects in social perception. Hum. Relat., 1950, 3, 57-76; Postman, L.,
& Bruner, J. S. Perception under stress. Psychol. Rev" 1948, 55, 314-323; McClelland,
D. C., Atkinson, J. W., & Clark, R. A. The projective expression of needs. III. The
effect of ego-involvement, success, and failures on pe~ePtion. J. Psychol., 1949, 27,
311-330.
.

195

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


the problem of adjustment becomes even more complicated. Despite this
disturbing fact, there is clear evidence that reality is subjectively perceived, and, in attempting to evaluate the particidar adjustments of different persons, we must take into account the peculiarities of their
perception of reality.
I \

Whatever be the individual's basic attitude toward life, whether it be


grounded in rational or emotional processes, he tends to perceive the
world in terms of his personal outlook upon it. A maxim attributed to
the French equivalent of our FBI is appropriate here: "The eye sees'
what it looks for, but it looks for only what is already in the mind."
If a person views the world as a place in which security is to be found
only through reliance upon others, through a vigorous "striking back"
or through retreat into himself, he behaves accordingly. In any event,
his behavior is conditioned by the way he {eels about things; he never
has learned that his feelings are relatively unimportant, that it is only
what he does that counts. Kant has said: "We see things not as they are,
but as we are." 41
This viewpoint regarding the contributions of the perceiver to the thing
perceived is echoed in many places. Rogers, for example, in his recent
publication on' 'client-centered therapy, states as an essential proposition,
"The organism reacts to the field as it is experienced and perceived. This
perceptual field is, for the individual, 'reality.' "42 Expanding this principle, he writes, "This is a simple proposition, one of which we are all
aware in our own experience, yet it is a point which is often overlooked.
I do not react to some absolute reality, but to my perception of this
reality. It is this perception which for me is reality."43 To the child,
therefore, parents, school, teachers, and playmates are somewhat different
from what they are to an adult who cannot see with the eyes of a child.
The following case illustrates this point very well.
~.-.,.._" ' - -

Steckle, L. C. Problems of human adjustment. New York: H_arper, 1949, pp.


105-106. Reprinted by permission.
42 Rogers, C. R. Client-centered therapy. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1951, p. 484.
Reprinted by permission.
43 Ibid. (Italics mine with exception of the word 'is.) See also Fensterheim, H.,
& Tresselt, M. E. The influence of value systems on the perception of people. J.
abnorm. soc. Psychol.,I-,1953, 48, 93-98; Postman, L. Perception, motlvation, and behavior. J. Personality, 195'3,22, 17-30; Erikson, C. W. The case for perceptual defense.
Psychol. Re'7.:., 1954, 61, 175-181; Klein, G. S., Schlesinger, H. J., & Meister, D. E.
The effect of personal value on perception: an experimental critique. Psychol. Rev.,
1951, 58, 96-112; Cattell, R. B., & Wenig, P. W: Dynamic and cognitive factors
controlling rnispnception. J. abnorm. soc. Psychol., 1952, 47, 797-809; Chodorkoff, B.
Self-perception, perceptual defense, and adjustment. J. abnorm. soc. Psychol., 1954,
49, 508-512.
41

196

The Dynamics of Adjustment

\
\

R-P

'.... ..... _-, ",,/

\
I
I

ADJUSTMENT

Fig. 13-How needs and values influence perception and alter the
process of adjustment. I = Individual; N-V = Needs and Values;
R = Reality; R-P = Reality as perceived.
Mary was a fourteen-year-old girl who was having considerable difficulty
adjusting to the home situation. She was in almost constant conflict with her
mother because she refused to come home after school hours, rebelled at
doing housework, quarreled with other children in the family, resented the
father's discipline, and was generally unhappy when at home. Yet Mary's
teachers reported her to be a model student. She was happy and carefree at
school, got along well with classmates, was always willing to help the teachers
in school chores, and maintained a high scholastic average. It is not difficult
to understand Mary's adjustment problem. To her, school meant everything that her home did not. She perceived the school as a place of achievement, acceptance, security, and social equality. Actually, Mary's home was a
very good one; but it was her different perception of the two situations that
caused the adjustment difficulties. As she grew older and more mature, these
perceptions changed, and today Mary is a well-adjusted girl, both at home
and at school.

Here, then, we have another factor to consider in trying to understand the process of adjustment. ,It is not enoug~.to know the determinants

,t

197

NatU1'e and Conditions of Adjustment


and dynamics of human response and a person's objective relation to
reality; we must also ascertain the manner in which and the degree to
which needs, values, and other motivations copdition his reaction to
reality. Only when this peculiar reaction is knoFn and understood are
we in a position to evaluate or interpret individual adjustments. Subjecthe individual
tive perception applies to all aspects of reality, including
I
himself.44 Therefore, what we have said regarding the influence of the
self-concept on adjustment and mental health (Chapter Four), should
be brought into line with this view. How a person regards himself is just
as important to the process of adjustment as how he perceives objective
reality.
SUMMARY

In this chapter on the dynamics of adjustment, we have studied basic


internal factors that influence the course ot adjustment and mental health.
First, we indicated the close relation between internal factors and
the conditions and determinants of adjustment studied in the preceding
chapter. We noted, in fact, that moti~ation can be classified among the
psychological determinants; however, they merited separate consideration because of their special significance for adjustment. We noted, too,
that not all motivated responses fit into the concept of adjustment;
rational and goal-directed responses, especially, are outside the concept.
Adjustive responses arise in an effort to meet internal demands imposed
on the organism.
We then studied different viewpoints of motivation, including the
stimulus-response, the physiological, and the instinct theories, hedonism,
unconscious motivation, and the voluntaristic hypothesis. Each one of
these viewpoints was analyzed and evalu~ted in terms of its significance
for and contributions to the understanding of adjustment and mental
health. We noted that no one of them was adequate by itself to explain
the dynamics of adjustment, although each one contrilzyted something
to the better understanding of human motivation. Speciaiemphasis was
put on the psychoanalytic doctrines of instincts, unconscIous motivation,
and hedonism, because of their important implications for adjustment.
Following this analysis, we studied the range of motivating factors and-.
suggested that, for the purpose of adjustment psychology, the simple
dichotomy of conscious-unconscious be used as a system ,of classification.
With these preliminary considerations out of the way, we turned to
the study of human needs in relatiol). to adjustmen~~ Defining needs as
internal demands that must be grati~~a 'in :o,;:der _to achieve adjustment, we
considered, first, the physiological needs of ll.uman organisms. Although
H See Rogers, C. R. Some observations on the organization of personality. Amer.
Psychologist, 1947, 2, 358-368.
"
.

198

The Dynamics of Adjustment


not of basic importance in themselves for, adjustment, since, being readily
satisfied in our society, they create little tension, conflict, or frustration,
these needs affect psychological well-being through their influence on
the, needs for affection, security, and a sense of belonging. Major emphasis was placed on the psychological needs, including affection, security,
status, belonging, attention, independence, achievement, and experience,
because of their direct relation to psychological well-being. In each
instance, we analyzed and exemplified the effects of these needs on adjustment and mental health and indicated their relations to one another and
to emotional health. This study of psychological needs was complemented by an analysis of the social needs of participation, recognition:
social approval, and conformity, and the spiritual needs to know and
love God, spiritual solace, sympathy, understanding, forgiveness, purity
of heart, and eternal salvation. In each instance, the implications of these
needs for adjustment and mental health were carefully drawn, and their
relation to other needs indicated. If
In the concluding section, w~J dealt briefly with the problem of
motivation, perception, and adjustment, in the knowledge that a person's
adjustments to reality will be conditioned always by the particular way
in which he perceives reality. The individual manner of perceiving or
interpreting reality (including the self) is determined in large measure
by the needs and values of the individual.

QUESTIONS, EXERCISES, AND PROJECTS


~.

Explain in your own words the relations and differences between the
determinants and the dynamics of adjustment.

2. What are the psychological implications of the functioning of physiological needs? .


3. On the basis of your experience with people whom you have known,
write up several case histories that exemplify the frustration of
psychological' needs.
4. Why is the sexual impulse differently related to adjustment than are
other needs? What are the implicatio!1s of this difference for the
Freudian theory of dynamics?
5. What is hedonism? How -is it related to Freudian theory, and what
are its ,limitations in the explanation of behavior?
6. Discuss in detail the relations among the various psychological needs.
Are there similar relations between psychological and social needs?
Explain.
7. Is all behavior and conduct adjustive? Ex p1.'f." your answer.

't!

199

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


8. Critically evaluate any two theories of motivation in relation to their
implications for adjustment.
9. Write a term paper on the theory of unconscious motivation, citing
experimental and clinical evidence to suPPOrt\ your hypotheses and
conclusions.
'
10. Discuss the implications of different needs for physical, psychological,
and social adjustment.
SELECTED READINGS

BERNARD, H. w. Mental by giene for classroom teachers. New York:


McGraw-Hill, 1952. Chaps. II-V.
BROWN, J. F. Tbe psycbodynamics of abnormal bebavior. New York:
McGraw-Hill, 1940. Part III.
CARROLL, H. A. Mental bygiene: the dynamics of adjustment. (2nd Ed.)
New York: Prentice-Hall, 1951. Chaps. II-VI.
GIBSON, J. J. Tbe perception of tbe viiual world. Boston: Houghton
Mifflin, 1950.
/

KAPLAN, L., & BARON, D. Mental hygiene and life. New York: Harper, 1952.
Chaps. V, VI.
MASLOW, A. H. Motivation and personality. New York: Harper, 1954.
Chaps. V -VIII.
SHAFFER, L. F. The psychology of adjustment. Boston: Houghton Mifflin,
1936. Chap. XIV.
SYMONDS, P. M. Dynamic psycbology. New York: Appleton-CenturyCrofts, 1949. Chap. II.
THORPE, L. P. The psychology of mental health. New York: Ronald, 1950.
Chaps. II, III.
TUTTLE, H. s. Dynamic psychology and conduct. New__ York:
Harper,
----"...___
1949. Part II.

200

~ EIGHT

THE DYNAMICS OF ADJUSTMENT (continued)


Needs and desires. Desires and motives. Voluntary conduct and habit.
Nature of mental conflict. Conflict, adjustment, and mental health. Outcomes of mental conflict. Feelings as dynamic tendencies. Emotions and
the dynamics of adjustment. Content of the unconscious. Mechanism and dynamics of the unconscious. Determinants, motivation, and etiology.
Causes versus conditions of adjustive response. Predisposing versus exciting
determinants. Situational maladjustment. Factor of stress. Nature and function of symptoms. Symptoms and syndromes. Symptoms and causes.

DESIRES AND MOTIVES IN RELATION TO ADJUSTMENT

Needs and Desires


Internal demands leading to adjustive response are not limited to the needs
described in the preceding chapter. Though they are the most significant
dynamic factors we will consider, we must recognize the influence on
adjustment of a large number of desires or wants that also give rise to
tensions, conflicts, and frustrations. These wants sometimes spring from
basic needs, or they may represent prior experience or evaluation. The
origin of desires is important, because the more closely they are linked
to needs, the more dynamic are they likely to be. 1 For example, the desire
for an education, position, fame, fortune, or political power often stems
from craving for security, status, recognition, or achievement; consequently, the effects of these desires on adjustment will be similar to those
produced by the original needs. Other desires have little or no reference
to actual requirements, either physical or psychological, and result simply
from evaluation of an object or activity as good, or from some experience
that was pleasurable and satisfying. The desires to play golf, take a trip,
read a book1 attend a movie, or visit friends belong to this category. Such
desires have little to do with the problems of adjustment as we have out1 See Chap. XIX in Moore, T. V. The driving forces of human nature. New
York: Grune & Stratton, 1948. See also, Nuttin, J. Psychoanalysis and personality.
(Trn~. by G. ",mb.) N,w yo,k, Sheed & W~d, ~' pp. 241-246.
201

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


lined them; they do not ordinarily function as demands and therefore can
be relinquished with little difficulty. But, when they are symbolic of
deeper personality needs, these desires do cause [tension or frustrations;
then some form of adjustment becomes necessary. Thus the desire to
read may represent nothing more than a mild cra~ing for relaxation; but
it may also symbolize a tendency toward vicaribus experience, or the
need to escape from frustration, boredom, or r~sponsibility, in which
case it has a direct relation to the mechanisms of adjustment.

Desires and Motives


Motives, referred to ordinarily as reasons or values, function as the mainsprings of the majority of our desires. While some desires originate in
basic needs, others are si~ply volitional tendencies that we experience
whenever there are motives or reasons for acting in a certain manner.2
Thus a person wants (desires) to buy a car because of the difficulties of
transportation (motive, reason) without one. Motives, therefore, constitute the dynamics of reasonable, voluntary conduct in much the same
way as needs constitul:e the dynamics of ,adjustive responses. The ability
to evaluate a course of action and to act reasonably has important implications for adjustment and mental health; it is a means of mitigating the
pressure of needs, tensions" and frustrations, and of modifying the adjustive responses that result from them. For example, the feeling of .inferiority
may lead to compensatory functioning in the direction of superiority;
but evaluation and voluntary self-direction can modify this tendency.
Similarly, the application of the capacity for reasonable conduct to the
problems of marriage, home, school, or job can contribute a great deal
to their solution.
Ordinary motives, values, or reasons are the groundwork for the
development of permanent values (value ~ystems), principles, ideals,
interests, attitudes, and goals, which are collectively referred to as sustaining motives because they support rather than initiate conduct. The
significance of these motives for effective living, mental health, and
~"
adjustment has already been indicated in earlier discussions of the criteria
of adjustment, the importance of rationality and ~elf-determ'ination, and
the value of goal-directed activity. Let us~merely emphasize that, in
adult life particularly, the efficient functioning of these motives is indls-

,
. ) d eSlres,
.
.
. a SImI
"1ar f as h"IOn.
2 Y oung mterprets
nee d s (or appetites,
an d ,motives
m
A desire, he says, "is a conscious experience. It is the subjective aspect of a motive
and is always flriented. In so far as desires rest upon the physicochemical state of the
organism, they are the conscious aspect of appetites; but the cqncept of desire is
broader than this. The anticipated goal of a desire may refer to any object or activity
under the sun. Desires range in degree from those th:{(;re felt very mildly to the
most intense cravings ... A person may desire anything from a beefsteak to a place
in heaven."-Young, P. T. Emotion in man and animal. New York: Wiley, 1943, p.
152. Reprinted by permission.

202

The Dynamics of Adjustment (continued)


pensable to the achievement of a high level of adjustment and the maintenance of mental and emotional stability. Whereas we can expect needs
to dominate the adjustive efforts of children, the pattern of adult life
should be dominated by rational motives and behavior. The more that
adults gravitate to childish, immature ways of behaving, the more unstable
and maladjusted they become.

lVoluntary Conduct and Habit


Behavior initiated by motives is correctly referred to as voluntary conduct, which means that it is self-directed and controllable. The frequent
repetition of voluntary responses is the basis of habit formation; and, as
we noted earlier, habits are important to adjustment because they promote
facility and efficiency of response. Here again one is reminded of the
essential criteria of adjustment outlined in Chapter Four, one of which
was the possession of wholesome and worth-while habits. However, we
must examine this relation very carefully to determine where the concept of habit fits into the dynamics of adjustment. Habits themselves are
a way of responding to situations and demands of all kinds, and are
therefore a part of the total adjustment process; but they are unique in
that once they are fully established they achieve what has been called
functional autonomy. 3 This means that habits become independent of
their motivational origins and develop a dynamic quality of their own.
It is this characteristic that makes them important to the dynamics of
adjustment. In many situations requiring adjustive response, behavior is
not determined by needs, motives, or desires, but simply by whatever
habits are evoked by the situation. Smoking, social drinking, conversation,
leisure reading, play, and similar activities can often be explained in this
manner.
Important to adjustment also is the fact that habits are mechanical,
facile, and ready to function on the least provocation. Because of these
qualities they can contribute a great deal to the efficiency and ease of
adjustment; that is why we say that the possession of worth-while habits
is a criterion by which adjustment can be evaluated. By the same rule,
of course, these qualities can militate against adequate adjustment, first
because adjustment requires a certain degree of adaptability and resilience; and, secondly, because many habits are in themselves impediments
tci wholesome adjustment. This app'lies with equal force to mental, moral,
and emotional habits, as well-as to habits that are more objective and
behavioral in character. Thus, habits of lying, procrastination, laziness,
tardiness, gossiping, slovenliness in speech or work, and so on, are as
3 This term was first coined by Allport and applied to motives, but it has since
been applied to other factors that influence adjustment. Allport himself was clearly
aware of the general applicability of his concept. A~.ort, G. w. Personality: a
psychological interpretation. New York: Holt, 1937, c. . VII.
1

2~

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


detrimental to good adjustment as worth-while habits are beneficial. Here
again we are reminded of the importance of effeCtive training, especially
in early childhood, for training plays a leading role in the development
of worth-while habits.

,I
I

DELIBERATION AND CONFLICT

The Nature of Mental Conflict


The discussion of motives and voluntary conduct leads directly to the
question of deliberation, choice, and conflict. Many adjustment situations
are characterized by the simultaneous development of contrary desires
and motives, a condition that gives rise to mental conflict, 4 unless the
issue is resolved immediately by an impetuous or habitual decision. Some
of these conflicts are intramental in nature, and others are interpersonal.
For example, we often experience conflict between desires and principles,
or between the interest of the moment and responsibilities, or between
impulses and moral ideals.
As St. Paul said many centuries ago, "1 see another law in my members, fighting against the law of my mind, and captiv:ating me in the law
of sin" (Rom. 7: 23). The same conflict was expressed by Goethe when
he cried, "Two souls within my bosom dwell," the one pulling him
toward material things, the other toward spiritual concerns. These are
instances of intramental conflict, whereas conflicts between parental
demands or restrictions and children's wishes or between social rules: and
personal desires are examples of the interpersonal variety. Speaking of
conflict in childhood, Moore says, "There is a double conflict-one without, with nature and its inexorable laws and man and his unbending will;
the other within, with his own ideals of conduct."5 Actually, the development of conflicts is much more complicated than this. Symonds, for
example, lists the following types of conflict: conflict between basic
drives, between immediate wishes, between immediat~.}nd remote drives,
between two ideal~ or ambitions, between two duties, between duty and
ambition, between two antagonistic beliefs, between drives, and external
frustration, between drives and inner restraints, between drives and antic4 There is an extensive literature on the problem of conflict. Good discussions,
from varying points of view, will be found in Horney, K. Our inner conflicts. New
York: Norton, 1945; Luria, A. The nature of human conflicts. New York: Liveright,
1932; Guthrie, E. R. The psychology of human conflict. New York: Harper, 1938;
Miller, N. E. Experimental studies of conflict. In Hunt, J. ,McV. (Ed.) Personality
and the behavior disorders. New York: Ronald, 1944, I, 431-465; Vaughan, W. F.
Personal and social adjustment. New York: Odysse.z;~1952, Chap. VII; Jesus-Marie,
B. de (Ed.) Conflict and light. (Trans. by P. Carswell -and C. Hastings) New York:
Sheed & Ward, 195,2.
5 Moore, T. V. The driving forces of human nature. New York: Grune & Stratton, 1948, p. 253. Reprinted by permission.

204

The Dynamics of Adjustment (continued)


ipated self-punishment, between drives and thoughts of one's own
limitations, between introjected systems, between ego-ideal and superego,
between inner restraining systems and outer encouragement, and between
two restraining systems. 6
Regardless of type, however, the mechanism of confiict is always
essentially the same: a contention or opposition between opposed motivations or courses of action, which is fought out on a psychological level.
In other words, all conflicts, no matter how they get started, are essentially psychological. Cameron and Magaret state the issue very simply.
By conflict we mean the mutual interference of incompatible reactions. The interference, as we have seen, may occur between simple
responses, attitudes, roles, or self-reactions. The contradictory reactions
may be overt or covert, easily identified or altogether inaccessible. They
may be sharply circumscribed or widely includve. Whatever the character of the mutually interfering reactions, however, conflict has one
necessary consequence: it alters the smooth flow of ongoing behavior.7

The effect of conflict on behavior will depend partly on the nature of


the conflict. Normally, the immediate outcome of conscious conflict is
deliberation (or discussion, which is a type of deliberation on the verbal
level). Deliberation is a process of comparative evaluation by which we
weigh the good and bad points of different courses of action against each
other and thus determine which one we should choose. It is the clearest
instance of the application of intelligence and reason to a problem of
adjustment. The outcome of deliberation, if successful, is an act of decision or choice, which enables us to resolve the conflict by accepting one
of the possibilities and rejecting all others. The disposition of conflicts
in this manner is of considerable importance to mental health and adjustment; we may recall in this connection that integration of motives and
resolution of conflicts was one of the essential criteria of mental health
outlined in Chapter Four.

Confiict, Adjustment, and Mental Health


It is not the existence but rather the resolution of mental conflicts that
functions as the keystone of mental health and adjustment in situations
of conflict. The adequate handling of conflict is a part. of the integration
6

Symonds, P. M. Dynamic pJychology. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts,

1949, pp. 255-265. See also Maslow, A. H., & Mittelmann, B. Principles of abnormal
psychology. (Rev. Ed.) _New York: Harper, 1951, pp. 54-56; Cameron, N., &
Magaret, A. Behavior pathology. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1951, pp. 254-260.
Thorpe, L. P. The psychology of mental health. New York: Ronald, 1950, pp.
110-112.
7 Cameron, N., & Magaret, A. Behavior pathology. Boston: Houghton Mifflin,
1951. p. 152. R,p,;n",d by p<roll";on.
~

205

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


of motives necessary to mental stability and constitutes an important
step in the development of character and the full-scale integration of
personality. Conflicts of one kind or another are linevitable in the course
of human existence and are, therefore, a constant challenge to personalfortitude and moral strength. s Victories cannot b~e won unless there is a
struggle or conflict to begin with; and each merital victory over conflict
is a further step toward moral strength and pers~nality integration.
Psychiatric reports usually imply that all conflicts are detrimental.
It is known, however, that a person may have many conflicts without

detrimental results. Indeed, some conflicts may be useful in motivating


a person to greater activity. Conflicts may be detrimental or useful
depending upon their number and intensity and the issues they involve.
They are likely to be detrimental when they either become so intense
that the emotional balance of the individual is upset or when they
involve an undesirable change in behavior. . . . The way in which a
person resolves his conflicts is probably the most important criterion of
their benefit or detriment. A person may solve his conflicts by increased
I
energy toward the attainment of a s.ocially valuable goal. On the other
hand, he may attempt to solve his conflict by escape, especially into
/
neurotic symptoms of illness. 9
Sherman goes on to say that "it is commonly believed that creative work
is impossible without the stimulating effects of conflicts. A person who
does not have some systematized conflicts is not sufficiently energized to
attempt to attain accomplishment beyond those specifically required by
his environment."lo This viewpoint is not, of course, shared by all writers.
The psychoanalytic school, particularly, finds it' difficult to admit the
value of conflict. Maslow and Mittelmann, for example, emphasize the
damaging effects of conflict.
Conflicts are painful for several reasons. They give th~ individual
a feeling of lack of integration and of threatening dis~rganization. They
further lead to a feeling of hesitation and indecision.i;hey may also
represent threats to the self-esteem and to the feeling of adequacy. They
are problems that we are unable to solve and- they therefore represent
a lack of power in us and inferiority_U ,
8 One writer points out that it is equally important from the standpoint of mental
health that "many such battles should be lost" in order to learn that we camiot have
everything that we want in this life. See Moore. Gp. cit., p. 252.
9 Sherman, M. Basic problems of bebavior. New York: Longmans, Green, 1941,
pp. 286-287. Reprinted by permission. (Italics mine.) Se~also p. 309.
10 Sherman, M. Basic problems of behavior. NeW"'York: Longmans, Green, 1941,
p. 287. Reprinted by permission.
11 Maslow, A. H., & Mittelmann, B. Principles of abnormal psychology. (Rev.
Ed.) New York: Harper, 1951, pp. 57-58. Reprinted by permission. See also Cameron

206

/'

The Dynamics of Adjustment (continued)


The reference here, however, is mainly to unconscious conflicts; and it
is generally agreed that conflicts that cannot be consciously dealt with are
damaging in their effectsP

Outcomes of Mental Conflict


1. THE INFLUENCE OF PERSONALITY MAKE-UP. The outcomes of
ment!!l conflict will be determined by a number of factors, the most important of which is personality make-upY For example, there are some
persons in whom drives, desires, or motives are so weak and underdeveloped that they seldom experience a struggle between opposed tendencies.
These persons have little opportunity to utilize conflicts in t~e development of personal integration. Generally, they present a picture of weak,
flabby personality make-up, with little drive or ambition.
There is also another group of individuals in whom mental conflicts
are conspicuously absent, but for a different reason. These are the persons dominated by basic needs and impulses. For them, contrary motivations, such as principles and ideals, have little psychological meaning. The
compulsive, psychopathic person is an extreme example of this group.
Obviously, where one or another motivation is persistently dominant,
there is little room for the functioning of other tendencies, and therefore
little possibility of conflict. Thus the psychopath, unlike the neurotic,
is relatively free of mental conflict and is characteristically lacking in
mental organization and character development.
A third kind of personality organization significant for understanding
the meaning of conflict is represented by the neurotic, who is characterized by an almost complete inability to resolve mental conflicts, especially
those that have serious implications for emotional stability or mental
health. The neurotic person is constantly torn by inner conflicts between
right and wrong, impulse and principle, responsibilities and desires, ideals
and practicality. Because of immaturity, lack of experience, emotional interference, or failures in training, he is incapable of efficient deliberation
and decision. Not knowing which way to turn or how to direct behavior
and thinking efficiently, he is in a state of constant mental turmoil, hesitation, and uncertainty. Hence there is little integration of motives and
just as little integration of personality and character. The failure of the
neurotic to resolve indecision and conflict robs him of the victories over
motivation that he needs for peace-of mind, emotional stability, and ego.<

& Magaret. Op. cit., pp. 252-253. These writers list three bad effects of all conflict:

tension, impoverishment of behavior, and distortion of behavior. Such effects leave


little room for the effective use of conflict.
12 See pp. 208-209.
13 Sherman, M. Mental conflicts and personality. New York: Longmans, Green,
1938, pp. 280-283.
~.
!
-

207

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


security. These inadequacies constitute the immediate basis of neurotic
symptom formation.
Finally, there is the kind of personality chara~terized by a high level
of maturity and integration in whom mental \COnflicts are typically
resolved with little difficulty. Such persons have a background of rich
experience in making' decisions, effective internal ~nd external discipline,
opportunities for wholesome development, and the satisfaction of having
achieved numerous victories in their conscious deliberations and choices.
Here we are reminded of the many factors discussed in preceding
chapters as important to mental health that have a direct relation to the
problem of conflict. Wholesome parental discipline, good training, selfdetermination, goal-directed activity, development of independence,
feelings of security and personal worth, habits of decision, and so on, are
all significant for the ability to cope successfully with mental conflicts.
Here again we have a good example of how interdependent are the multifarious aspects of adjustment and mental health. The nature, criteria,
determinants, and dynamics of adjustment are like a multicolored mosaic,
each part of which contributes to the character and appearance of the
whole.
2. THE INFLUENCE OF THE NATURE' OF THE CONFLICT. Apart from the
factor of personality organization, we must note that the outcome of
mental conflict will be determined to a great extent by the nature of
the conflict itself. Some conflicts are superficial and easily resolved; others
are deep-seated and often hopelessly mixed up with emotions, which
makes them much less amenable to deliberation or reason. Thus the problem of deciding whether to study or go to a movie is more easily solved
than the conflict that often rages between sexual desire and moral responsibility. Similarly, intramental conflicts are generally more severe in their
effects than those that arise between one person and another or between
the individual and society. Intramental conflicts readily disturb emotional
equanimity, whereas those of an interpersonal nature are more likely to
interfere wIth the social adjustments of the individual.'"Of the-.!_wo effects,
the former has more serious implications for mental stability.
We have left for final consideration the important fact that some
conflicts develop at an unconscious level and 'are therefore more damaging
in their effects than those at a conscious level. 14 As we have saId, the
normal outcomes of mental conflict are deliberation and decision; but. these
outcomes are precluded in the case of unconscious conflicts, since they are
14 Admitting that conscious conflicts may be "extremely severe," Maslow and
Mittelmann point out that such conflicts "rarely breed neurosis/(even though there
may be some 'symptom' results), whereas unconsci?ll?fcoiiflicts, even when they are
apparently less severe or important ... are much more likely to eventuate in general
psychic illness or character change."-Maslow, A. H., & Mittelmann, B. Principles of
abnormal psychology. (Rev. Ed.) New York: Harper, 1951, p. 53. Reprinted by
permission.

208

The Dynamics of Adjustment (continued)


not accessible to deliberation. Typical of such conflicts are those involving the desires for security and independence, sexual craving and the
divine law of God, hatred and love of parents, inferiority and the desire
for achievement. Anyone of these contentions may be conscious, but
often they develop and function without a person's knowledge of them,
a condition that is conducive to serious disturbances of mental stability.
3. THE EFFECTS OF UNRESOLVED CONFLICTS. Whenever mental conflicts' cannot be resolved because of personality factors, emotional entanglements, or inaccessibility to conscious deliberation, they are likely to
affect adjustment and mental stability adversely.15 Some of these effects
we have already noted, but a more complete listing is necessary if we are
to appreciate the full impact of conflict on adjustment. First of all, unresolved conflicts seriously disturb emotional equanimity and peace of mind,
interfering with the efficient control of emotional responses and mental
efficiency. Secondly, they militate against the organization and direction
of behavior and the integration of personality. Thirdly, conflicts tend to
produce a state of continuous frustration, because they interfere with the
normal expression of motivational tendencies. Fourthly, they lead to the
development of disabling symptoms, which function as symbolic efforts
to reduce the tension that the conflict produces. You realize, of course,
that the difficulties outlined here can be expected only when there is a
failure to resolve conflicts in an intelligent and rational manner.
FEELINGS AND EMOTIONS IN RELATION TO ADJUSTMENT

Feelings as Dynamic Tendencies


No statement of the dynamics of adjustment would be complete without
a consideration of the relation between affective states, adjustment, and
mental health. 16 In fact, the foregoing discussion contains several references to this relation, and there remains only the task of fitting it into
the dynamics of adjustment. Among the affective states of importance in
this connection are those listed below, for which the term "feelings" is
most appropriate and which occupy a prominent place in the literature
of psychopathology.
1.
2.
3.
4.

Feelings
Feelings
Feelings
Feelings

of inferiority and inadequacy


of guilt
of rejection, worthlessness, and not being wanted
of insecurity

15 See Thorpe. Op. cit., p. 113, for a diagrammatic schema of the outcomes of
conflict.
16 See Tyson, R. Current mental hygiene practice. J. clin. Psychol., Monogr.
Suppl. No.8, Jan., 1951, Chap. III. See also Crow, L., & Crow, A. The emotions and
individual adjustment. In Mental hygiene in school and home life. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1942, Chap. III.
~
,

209

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


5.
6.
7.
8.

Feelings
Feelings
Feelings
Feelings

of
of
of
of

resentment, hostility, and hatred


anxiety
dep'endence .
frustration

MOTIVATIONS
(Needs. Desires. Etc.)

_____ NORMAL
BEHAVIOR

Symptomatic
Behavior
Feelings of
/
REJECTION. HOSTILITY.: _
"
AGGRESSION. ETC.

Inadequate
Personality

Mental
Instability

Fig. 14-illustration of the connections between mOtivation, feelmgs, frustration, conflict, and adjustment.

You will note, of course, that all these feelings have figured in our interpretations of adjustment at one point or another. The important thing
is that each one of th'em plays a prominent role in determining the co~rse of
adjustment and mental health. In fact, anyone or any combination of them
is likely to impair psychological well-being, especi~~ly if it becomes a permanent and integral part of motivation. Yet such{e]lings are only secondary
reactions that depend upon or stem from more basic dynamic tendencies.
No one starts out in life with anyone of these feelings; they must therefore result from something that happens to the organism in the course of
210

"

The Dynamics of Adjustment (continued)


experience and development. That they have an intrinsi<; relation to basic
human needs is clear; they are, in fact, affective derivatives of the thwarting or frustration of needs, particularly those of a psychological nature,
and, in some instances, of the mental conflicts engendered by different
motivations. Figure 14 is a schematic picture of the relations between
these various dynamic factors and the process of adjtistment. In the
diagram, needs and desires, such as the need for affection, security, or
achievement, are represented as being blocked by such factors as parental
rejection, social taboos, and punitive discipline, which gives rise to feelings of various kinds. These feelings, then, function as intermediary dynamic forces in the development of inadequate adjustive reactions, restrictive personality characteristics, or mental instability. The primary causes in
these situations are the motivations and frustrations that arise in the course
of adjustment; yet the feelings, as secondary causes, are just as important
in understanding and interpreting the dynamics of the situation. In fact,
should these feelings not develop, the adjustment picture would be quite
different. 17
The responses that result from such situations as Figure 14 illustrates
will, of course, be determined by a host of different factors, as we saw
in the case of mental conflict; but in general we can expect behavior
disturbances, mental symptoms' of various kinds, and inadequate or
crippling personality characteristics. For example, feelings of hostility
are often expressed in aggressive behavior; insecurity in a feeling of
anxiety; dependence in immaturity; and guilt in compulsive behavior.lS
There are no hard and fast rules governing the development of abnormality and maladjustment, and in each case the diagnosis and interpretation
of symptomatic responses must be carried forward in the light of whatever knowledge can be brought together regarding the patient's history,
personality make-up, developmental level, and other factors that bear on
his difficulty. Later _in this chapter, we shall deal with etiology and
symptomatology, and there we shall find additional answers to this complex question of reactions to frustration.

Emotions and the Dynamics of Adjustment


The damaging effects of negative feelings on,adjustment.and mental health
give us some idea of the significance of emotional reactions to the dy-

A good discussion of this relation will be found in Kaplan, L., & Baron, D.
Mental hygiene and life. New York: Harper, 1952, Chap. IX,'especially pp. 242-246.
See also the study of infants' emotional reactions to mothers' '!tbsence in Spitz, R. A.
Personal emotional adjustment during infancy. In Kuhlen, R. G., & Thompson, G. G.
(Eds.) Psychological studies of human development. New York: Appleton-CenmryCrofts,,1952, pp. 490-495.
IS See Chap. Eleven.
17

211

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


namics of behavior, since feelings and emotions are not very different from
each other. We have noted a number of times how important emotional
adequacy and development are to the process of adjustment, and we need
only turn to the nature of emotion to discover why. If we take as examples
the typical reactions of fear and anger, we readily note two characteristics
of primary significance: (1) they are psychophysical in nature, and (2)
they are generally disruptive in their effects on the mental and behavioral
responses of the organism. To say that emotions are psychophysical means
that they have a physical as well as a mental aspect and therefore are as
prone to influence physical processes as to disturb the mental stability or
equanimity of the organism. This is particularly the case with primitive
and sometimes violent reactions like fear and anger, although there are
many other reactions that produce similar effects. In the etiology and
development, therefore,:,"of mental symptoms as well as psychosomatic
disorders, emotions play a prominent role.
The disruptive effects of intense emotional reactions on mental processes are well kno~n. Rage, fear, depression, jealousy, or hatred interfere
with the efficient functioning of mental processes of all kinds. Attention,
perception, judgment, and reasoning are apt to be adversely effected, and
such typical symptoms as disorders of association, delusions, hallucina. tions, and illusions may develop. Moreover, these disruptive effects are
carried over into the behavior of the organism, causing impairment of
the person's adjustments to reality. The enraged or jealous person is not
only handicapped mentally; he is hindered also in the efficient organization
and direction of behavior necessary to meet the demands of his environment. 19
Intense emotional reactions and those that fail to find adequate
expression in normal behavior eventually lead to psychosomatic dis.orders.
Peptic ulcer, high blood pressure, and digestive disturbance are typical
symptoms of emotional, disturbance. The reason for these effects is that
emotions involve deep-seated reactions in the glandular and autonomic
nervous systems, which, when not allowed to take a normal course, often
lead to serious' physiological disturbances. Thus chronic worry, which is
essentially a fear reaction, is likely to lead to digestive upsets or to
symptoms of cardiac disease because the reaction of fear normally involves the mechanisms of digestion and circulation. The effects of normal
fear quickly wear off; but chronic fear (or worry) continues to stimulate
physiological reactions that cannot be properly utilized by the organism.
It is then that psychosomatic symptoms develop.20
It must be understood that we are referring here only to excessive,
19 Brown, F. The nature of emotion and its relation to anti-social behavior. J.
abnorm. soc. Psychol., 1934, 28, 446-458; Meltzer, H. Students' adjustments in anger.
J. soc. Psychol., 1933, 4, 285-309.
20 These disorders are treated at length in Chap. Fourteen.

212

The Dynamics of Adjustment (continued)


abnormal, or pathological emotions, not to normal emotions. We have
already indicated (Chapter Four) that emotional adjustment depends as
much on the capacity for normal expression as it does on control or
inhibition and that the complete suppression of emotion is itself pathological. In any case, whether normal or pathological, emotions play a
dominant role in reinforcing the dynamics of behavior. Like feelings,
they are intermediary elements in the process of adjustment, resulting
from the expression or frustration of other motivational tendencies, and
thus they give rise to various behavior patterns, personal characteristics,
and expressive symptoms. Here again we see a striking instance of how
diverse motivational factors coalesce to bring about the particular adjustments of human organisms.

UNCONSCIOUS MOTIVATION IN RELATION TO ADJUSTMENT


I

The Content of the Unconscious

In our analysis of the Freudian dynamics (Chapter Seven) and, by implication, in various phases of our own interpretation of motivation, we
have indicated that the development of adjustment, the condition of
mental health, and the formation of behavior symptoms are determined
to an important degree by unconscious factors. It must be understood
that by this term we do not mean an entity or some mysterious "part" of
the human mind that "lies below" the realm of normal consciousness.
Concepts like these are ill-suited to the interpretation of mental phenomena, because of their spatial and topographical implications. The
unconscious is simply the aggregate of processes or experiences of which
at the moment we are not aware, or which, because of strong inhibiting
factors, are not accessible to awareness by the ordinary mechanisms of
recall. 21 Thus many of the feelings discussed earlier in this chapter, such
as guilt, inferiority, or hostility, may be unconscious and inaccessible to
introspection or recall because of their disagreeable nature. Similarly,
experiences that are damaging to the self-concept or emotionally repugnant are often relegated to the unconscious. Again, there are certain '
wishes and desires that are contrary to moral, spiritual, or social values
and ideals, and for that reason are not consciously tolerable. This concept of the unconscious and its contents is based upon the simple fact that
the human mind naturally turns away from or actively rejects (represses)
experiences and tendencies that cannot be readily harmonized with a
wholesome outlook on life.
21 See Nuttin, J. Psychoanalysis and personality. (Trans. by G. Lamb.) New
York: Sheed & Ward, 1953, Chap. III.

213

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


The Mechanism and Dynamics of the

UllCOllSCiOUS. 22

1. REPRESSION. Freud used the concept of rfpression to explain the


mechanics of unconscious formation, and it is as good a concept as any
if it is not used in a restrictive way to exclude aU\other possibilities. The
term "repression" refers to the exclusion from consciousness of processes
and experiences. that are frightening, disagreeable, damaging to egosecurity, or intolerable for any other reason. It is a special kind of forgetting, a forgerting that is not induced in the usual manner by lapse of
time, disuse, or lack of practice.

Repression represents a flight of the ego from danger. it represents


an endeavor on the part of a person to escape from tendencies within
himself that he finds dangerous and untenable. Freud has likened repression to the process in the body of building up a wall of protective tissue,
which will isolate the tumor or diseased part from the rest of the
organism. R~pression has a comparable function of isolating from the
conscious part of the mental life that' which is not acceptable because
it is dang<:rQus or repulsive or bad. Repression takes its place as one
of the meaSures that the ego can ,adopt in defending itself against unacceptable'and dangerous tendencies within. It is probably the most
important defense against unacceptable impulses. 23
Repression, therefore, is a dynamic process directed toward preserving
the integrity of the mind by excluding factors that threaten its internal
harmony or imegr/tion. This is understandable and in line with the
generally accepted axiom of psychology that disagreeable or disturbing
experiences and tendencies are likely to be pushed out of mind and
forgotten.
'
2. SYMBOLIC EXPRESSION. Whatever the mechanics of the formation
of the unconscious, the more important fact is that repressed tendencies
do not lie dormant in the manner of ordinarily forgotten~experiences.24
>~

22

See Dalbiez, R. Psychv:malytical method and the doctrine of Freud. (Tr:ms.

by T. F. Lindsay.) New York: Longmans, Green, 1941. Vol. II, Chap. II.
23 Symonds, P. M. Dynamic psychology. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts,
1949, p. 184. RepriIlted by permission. For a more detailed discussion of repression as
a defense mechanism, see Chap. Eleven. Experimental studies of repression are reported
in Adler, D. L. Evidence for repression and rationalization in the solution of moral
conflicts. Psychol. Bull., 1941, 38, 600-601; Sears, R. R. Survey of objective studies of
psychoanalytic concepts. Bull. No. 51. New York: Social Science/Research Council,
1943, Chap. VI; Gould, R. Repression experimentalv..:analyzed: Charact. & Pers.,
1942, 10, 259-288.

-24 See Moore. Op. cit., Chaps. IV and V, especially pp. 74-83; Vaughan. Op. cit.,
Chap. X; Lindgren, H. C. The psychology of personal and social adjustment. New
York: American Hook, /)53, Chap. III.
/

214

The Dynamics of Adjustment (continued)


Because of their inherent motivational force and their strong affective
quality, unconscious feelings, wishes, and experiences tend dynamically
to express themselves in the mental life and behavior of the organism.
Miss Primrose, the English teacher, finds it necessary to assure her
classes at least once each day that she has their best interests at heart.
The very fact that she finds it necessary to reassure them is a clue to
her students that something is amiss; and, if this in itself were not
revealing, her cold and hostile tone makes it doubly clear how she feels
about students. She further reveals herself by her defensive attitude
whenever she believes that her motives are being questioned by parents,'
her fellow teachers, or her principal.
Mrs. Larkspur is always saying, "My family comes first in everything." Yet she is "up to her ears" in club work to the extent of spending afternoons, evenings, and week ends in the service of her organizations. Her very behavior is a clue pointing to the strong probability that,
unconsciously, she either dislikes her family or despises her role as a
wife and mother, or, at best, really prefers org:lllizational activities to
homemaking. 25
The unconscious wishes, ideas, and feelings reflected in these two
cases have been shut out of consciousness because to experience them
would be intolerable; hence they are expressed indirectly and symbolically.
In some cases, these tendencies are expressed in the person's reactions to
others or to the role he supposes them to play; in others, they find their
way into dreams, unaccountable errors, peculiarities of behavior, and
pathological symptoms. Thus unconscious guilt is expressed in the form
of a compulsion; a traumatic experience as a phobia for high places or as
an' obsession regarding purity; a wish for the death of an enemy as a dream
of his traveling to a distant land; a forbidden sexual desire as frigidity.
There is nothing very strange in this symbolic expression, since symbolism
is a natural function of the human mind (pages 223-225); when a situation exists that precludes direct expression of wishes and feelings, we are
most likely to resort to symbolic formulation. This statement should not
be construed as agreement with everything that Freud said regarding
symbolism, because in this area as in so many others his generalizations
reached far beyond the facts he started with. As in the case of sex, the
unconscious, and the concept of -repression, the strict Freudian interpretation of symbolism can be accepted only with a great deal of modification. When this is done, it becomes a useful concept in explaining the
dynamics of the unconscious.
25

Lindgren, H. C. Tbe psyclJology of personal and social adjustment. New York:

Am,ricm Book, 1953, pp. 49-50. R,p"."d by p'm'i~n.

2IS

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


BASIC PRINCIPLES OF MOTIVATION

The many facts brought out in this discussi~n of the dynamics of


adjustment can be conveniently brought together in a set of principles of
motivation that will further our understanding olr the whole problem.
1. Motivations are dynamic. They do not function as static entities
in relation to behavior and adjustment, but rather exert their influence by
reason of an inherent power to bring about changes in human response.
It is of the utmost importance to realize this, because it means that, of
necessity, the organism will make some kind of adjustment, even when the
possibility of adequate response is largely precluded by personal limitations or environmental restrictions. In other words, motivational dynamics
is important to the understanding of maladjustment and abnormality.
2. Motivations influence mental life as well as objective behavior.
This principle helps relate the problem of adjustment to that of mental
health. As we have seen, needs, desires, and emotions significantly affect
mental functions, such as perception, imagination, thinking, and belief;
and, under conditions of frustration, conflict, or stress, they can distort
mental functions, giving rise to mental symptoms and disrupting mental
health. 26
/
3. Motivations are closely interrelated. Often they function together
in the determination of response. Thus the functioning of needs, such as
the need for affection, security, and status, is determined by their intrinsic
relation to each other and by their relations to physiological and social
drives. Desires and motives are often derived from basic needs, and, in
turn, the influence of needs is conditioned by rational deliberation and
self-determination.
4. Motivations are conditioned by the social context in which they
function. This is part of the broader principle that governs the relation
between personality and environment. Such heeds as the need for affection, security, or recognition will be more readily stimulated and gratified
in one environmental setting than in another; and, simila-rly,.th_-blocking
or expression of motivations will vary with the environmental setting .or
framework of social relations within which the motivation occurs. These
phenomena are expressed succinctly in the principle of social facilit:gion,
according to which the expression or inhibition of motivations and behavior is facilitated b~ the character of the social conditions in which they
take place.
'
5. Motivations follow the principle of individual variation. The
dynamics of adjustment is determined not only by environment or social
context but also by the peculiar personality pr.g~ization of which it is
26 See Sarnoff, 1., & Katz, D. The motivational bases of attitude change.
soc. Psychol., 1954, 49, 115-124.

216

J. abnorm.

The Dynamics of Adjustment (continued)


a part. This is to be expected in view of the unique nature of each personality; but it is a point too often ignored or forgotten in interpreting the
quality of adjustment. To the extent that the pattern of motivation is
unique and individual, we may expect the pattern of adjustment and
mental health to be unique, and in this sense all problems of adjustment
must be regarded as distinctive and as transcending the general principles
that govern the process of adjustment.
O. Not all motivations are known, either to the person in whom the
adjustment occurs or to an external observer. This principle is derived
from the facts regarding unconscious motivation. The understanding of
adjustment and mental health, of normal behavior and abnormal personality, therefore, hinges on a full appreciation of the extent to which and
the manner in which the behavior and mental' life of individuals reflect
experiences and tendencies of which they are unaware. Similarly, adequate diagnosis, interpretation of symptoms, and the development of
therapeutic or remedial measures must take into strict account the possible
relations between unconscious, dynamic factors and the quality of individual adjustment. The application of these basic principles to the
dynamics of human adjustment should be of considerable value in helping
us to a better understanding of the discussions that follow in succeeding
chapters.
ETIOLOGY AND SYMPTOMATOLOGY IN RELATION TO ADJUSTMENT

Determinants, Motivation, and Etiology


A generally accepted principle among psychologists and psychiatrists is
that the understanding, interpretation, and treatment of adjustment problems require a thorough study of the causes and conditions that underlie
them; and for this reason we have devoted these three chapters to analyzing the determinants and dynamics of the adjustment process. The study
of causes and conditions, as they relate to disease or maladjustment, is
referred to as etiology/7 and thus a great deal of the preceding discussion
has to do with the etiology of mental disorder or maladjustment, as well
as with the explanation of adjustment as such. However, the investigation
of the dynamic background and determinants of behavior and mental
processes is not the same thing as etiology. These factors underlie all
human response, normal as well as abnormal, and it was our deliberate
intent to follow this broader line of investigation, consonant with our
general purpose of studying adjustment in all of its phases. Etiology,
therefore~ IS only one part of this broader study, and behavior dynamics
27 A thorough discussion of etiology will be found in Rosanoff, A. Manual of
psychiatry and mental hygiene. (7th Ed.) New York: Wiley, 1938, Chap. I. See also
M,mow Mittelm"",. Op. d,., Chap" X-XII.
~
217

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


or motivation is a special area that must be know.n as a necessary background to the study of etiol_9gy. In and b:y themselves, dynamic factors
such as needs, desires, or motives do not cause m~ladjustment or abnormality; they function merely as the origins or mainsprings of human
responses. It is when they are interfered with or distorted by frustration,
conflict, or environmental stress that maladjustment may result. Similarly,
the conditions and determinants of adjustment arid mental health outlined in Chapter Six have as much or more to do with normal behavior and
personality development as with maladjustment.

Causes versus Conditions of Adjustive Response


It is important also to distinguish clearly between causes and conditions of
adjustment and maladjustment. A condition is some factor, internal or
external, that functions as a determining influence on, or as a prerequisite
for, the appearance of certain effects. For example, a broken home or
drunkenness is a condition and not a cause of delinquency. If it were a
cause, delinquency would be much more widespread than it actually is.
However, if a drunken father beats a child, the beating may act as a
cause of rebellion, running away, or violence against authority. Causes,
then, are the immediate antecedents (agents, principles, originators) of
certain effects, without which these effects would not occur. Thus
dynamic factors, such as needs and motives, are true causes of normal
behavior; whereas such factors as frustration, conflict, traumatic experiences, and pathological feelings are causes of abnormal response. 28

Predisposing versus Exciting Determinants


The distinction between causes and conditions is not unlike the distinction often found in the literature of abnormal psychology regarding predisposing and exciting causes of maladjustment and personality disorder.
Predisposing causes (determinants is a better term here) are those factors
that incline a person toward some form of mental disorder or maladjustment. By themselves, they never precipitate the difficultY;-but_Q1ey serve,
as it were, to prepare the soil for its development. HereditY,lp1aldevelopment, inadequate parent-child relations, poor environment, occupational
hazards, chronic illness or disease, punitive discipline, broken homes, and
chronic frustration or failure are examples of predisposing determinants
of maladjustment. Note that anyone of them, or any combination, ,may
exist without the development of abnormality; but where they do exist,
the chances-for such development are greatly increased. This fact explains
and justifies our intensive study of these factors in Chapter Six.
Exciting or precipitating causes are those/de-inent; in the situation
that ignite or touch off the difficulty, like a match applied to a trail of
28

See Chap. Nine for a discussion of frustration and adjustment.


/'

218

The Dynamics of Adjustment (continued)


gunpowder that leads quickly to an explosion. Let us suppose, for the
sake of illustration, that a certain person is extremely introverted, sensitive, and withdrawn. Perhaps, as a child, he was rejected, mistreated, or
ridiculed by parents and friends, and experienced a succession of failures.
This person is predisposed to the reaction of schizophrenia. The soil is
well prepared. Now, let us suppose further that, in a fatal accident, this
person suddenly loses his wife, on whom he had been greatly dependent.
The Itraumatic shock of her death, the loss of support, and the imminent
threat of a reality that he fears act to precipitate the psychosis. Already
withdrawn because of his fear of reality and a long history of rejection,
mistreatment, and personal failure, he now loses contact with reality com':
pletely and sinks into a complete psychosis. Great catastrophes, loss of a
job, traumatic experiences, death of near relatives, business failures, loss
of one's fortune, accidents, serious physical injury, incurable disease, and
failure in school are examples of factors that serve to precipitate mental
disorder.
Situational Maladjustment
Normally, it is the combined influence of predisposing and excltlng
~auses or determinants that leads to one or another form of maladjustment. But we must ask ourselves: In every instance of maladjustment or
mental disorder, are there a personal history and background that act as
predisposing causes? Are both sets of causes always operative? There are
many psychologists and psychiatrists who would answer these quesFions
in the affirmative. They believe that no disorder is without a personal
history to account for it. The psychoanalysts emphasize this doctrine
most strongly and go so far as to insist that the basic personality structure
is determined for good or ill in the first five or six years of life.
Yet there is reason to doubt this interpretation; and there is at least
one school of psychotherapy-the client-centered group-that de-emphasizes the role of ea~ly background in the development of personality
disturbances in favor of what might be called a situational approach. In
this view, adjustments are determined more by the exigencies and forces
operating at the present time than by the personal background of the
patient. This would certainly be true where the pressures exerted against
mental stability and wholesome adjustment are so great as to break down
the most highly developed resistance. Combat soldiers, for example, are
often subjected to psychological'stresses and traumatic experiences that
even the best-adjusted person cannot always cope with successfully.29
If in these situations there is symptom development or mental breakdown,
it would not be attributed to faulty training, over-protection, frustration,
29 Grinker, R. R., & Spiegel, J. P. Men under stress. New York: Blakiston, 1945;
Janis, I. L. Air war and emotional stress. New York1:tcGraw-Hill, 1951.

't!

219

Nature and Conditio11S of Adjustment


or similar factors in the patient's background. SImilarly, other situations,
such as the loss of limbs, the sudden death of one's parents, or the failure
to pass an examination for medical practice after fears of grueling effort,
could precipitate a personality disorder without benefit of predisposing
causes. However, even in such instances there ate ~ersonality differences;
and it is probable that in the majority of cases of ,maladjustment, predisposing factors play an important part.

Situational Maladjustment and the Factor of Stress


The concept of situational maladjustment evolves readily into the idea of
stress, which has received a great deal of attention in recent years in
connection with the study of adjustment and abnormality. Stress is
closely related to several important etiological factors, particularly frustration, conflict, and precipitating causes. Kraines, for example, in his
chapter on stress as a determining factor in neuroses and psychoses, refers
to it as a precipitating factor; and in many situations it does function in
that way.30 White tells the story of a young man in the air force who was
referred to his flight surgeon because, on his tenth and eleventh bombing
missions, he had fainted at ten thousand feet. Careful investigation brought
out that the stress of combat evoked 'a latent anxiety that had its roots
in his early childhood. 31 In this case, personality factors were clearly the
predisposing causes, and stress the precipitating cause. In other instimces,
particularly where stress is excessive, it may be the sole cause of symptom
formation or breakdown.
Adjustment to stress and strain can be made in a variety of ways.
Some people are able to meet and survive very great amounts of stress
without damage to themselves, while others break in meeting small
amounts. Where stresses are in proportion, to the capacity of the person,
adequate adjustment is achieved; if the stresses are greater than capacity,
adjustment is inadequate; and if stresses are much too great, the person
evolves behavior which, while it enables him to maintain some sort
of equilibrium between what is within and what com~from without,
necessitates special care and often detention. 32

In other words, stress-producing situations function always in terms


of individual personality factors (predisposing causes), although "an
amount of stress can be produced that will break almost any 'person."33
30 Kraines, S. H. The therapy of the neuroses and psychoses. Philadelphia: Lea
& Febiger, 1948, p. 157.

31 White, R. W. The abnormal personality. New York: Rona!Cl, 1948, pp. 65-73.
See also \Volff, H. G. Life stress and bodily disease._In:':Weider, A. Contributions
toward medical psychology. New York: Ronald, 1953; Pp.- 315-367.
32 Anderson, }. E. TJ;e psychology of development and personal adjustment.
New York: Holt, 1949, pp. 421-422. Reprinted by permission.
33/bid., p. 422.
220

The Dynamics of Adjustment (continued)

Fig. IS-Stress as a determinant of adjustment.

We can take only so much.

Kraines also, as well as many other writers, emphasizes personal factors.


"In general, it may be said that stress produces tension in proportion to
the person's attitude toward it; that is, stress tends to be as bad as he feels
it to be."34 This idea, as we shall see in more detail in the next chapter, is
34

Kraines, S. H. The therapy of the neuroses an~J1SYChOses. Philadelphia: Lea


,a"re the statement by Ander-

& Febiger, 1948, p. 158. Reprinted by permission. Co

221

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


very similar to the concept of frustration tolerance. Each individual reacts
to stress within the limits of his capacities and development. As Kaplan
and Baron remark,
I
In the psychological realm as in the physical\ there are limits to the
capacity of the individual to adjust to the varying conditions which
place him under stress. Within these limits, suth conditions encourage
constructive effort. When stresses become too great, effectiveness IS
impaired. The individual is unable to make adequate adjustments. 35
Just as one must learn to cope with conflicts and endure a certain degree
of frustration, he must also mature to the point where he can tolerate
some stress.
Development toward mature levels of behavior involves the expansion
of our' limits of tolerance of stress, a progressive increase in ability to
function comfortably and adequately under increasing degrees of frustration and conflict. This process is fostered when we augment our
ability to endure stress without harmful effect and when we develop
more adequate methods to successfully overcome or reduce tension. 36
Moreover, it is not enough to simply endure stresses and frustrations;
like conflict, they can be exploited to the advantage of personal growth
and adjustment. Stress is harmful only when it interferes with happiness
or causes breakdown of inner controls or personality integration. "The
experience of ~tress not only adds zest to living but also is essential to the
development of the mature personality. It is through contact with reality
and through growth in ability to adapt to stress that the individual
matures socially and emotionally."37 Thus the student who learns to face
up to the stresses of daily studies, examinations, and assignments will
become better equipped to meet other and heavier responsibilities in later
life. Similarly, the young adolescent girl who accepts the responsibilities
of housework and child care in the family will find it easier to stand 'up
under the stresses of married life later on. Adjustment,_as we have said
often, is living; and learning to live under conditions of ~s' is one of
the essential conditions of good adjustment.
son, "Here it is quite clear that it is the feeling 'of stress rather than the actual
measurable amount of stress which is often in question in distinguishing between
serious and temporary stresses."-Ande!'son, J. E. The psychology of development
and personal adjustment. New York: Holt" 1949, p. 158. Reprinted by permission.
See the author's distinction between frustration and the feeling of frustration in the
following chapter.
35 Kaplan,' L., & Baron, I? Mental hygiene and life. New York: Harper, 1952,
pp. 288-289. Reprinted by permission.
_/;.;36 Kaplan, L., & Baron, D~.\Mental hygiene am/ life: New York: Harper, 1952,
p. 289. Reprinted by permiss'ion\
37 Kaplan, L., & Baron;--i):-Mental hygiene and life. New York: Harper, 1952, p.
283. Reprinted by permission.

222

The Dynamics of Adjustment (continued)


Let us inquire briefly into the relation between stress and frustration,
since they are often linked in discussions of adjustment. Stress is a condition in which the organism is faced with certain demands and pressures
from without that tax its ability to a greater or lesser degree in effecting
an adjustment. Thus we speak of the stress of daily living, academic
work, marital adjustments, and vocational responsibilities. In these instances, the word "strain" is often used as a synonym for stress. Frustration 'is a condition in which the motivation or behavior of the organism is
blocked by some internal or external factor. Conflict, as we saw, is a
contention between opposed motivations or between motivations and.
external demands. Cameron and Magaret distinguish stress and frustration
in a similar manner.
Let us define stress as a situation in which a person's ongoing behavior
is altered from its customary pattern, because of continuing pressure
from others or from his own reactions.
And by frustration we shall mean
a situation in which a person's ongoing motivated behavior is temporarily or permanently prevented from reaching consummation. 38

That each one of these factors influences the other is well known, and it
is not always clear which one exerts the greater influence. The more important fact is that, under certain conditions and motiv~tions or because
of personality factors, conflicts, stresses, and frustrations can give rise to
various behavior difficulties and maladjustments and thus become part of
the etiology of mental ill-health and personality disorder.

The Nature and Function of Symptoms


Maladjustments are characteristically reflected in the development of
symptoms or symptomatic behavior; thus between etiology and symptomatology there are certain relations of paramount significance. Let us
realize, however, that symbolic response is not alien to the normal, welladjusted personality; it is, rather, a natural part of thinking and behavior.
Language, for example, is a system of symbols for the communication of
thoughts, experiences, and attitudes; and symptoms, we may note, arc
the language of the disturbed personality-symbols whose meaning can
be read and interpreted by experts as precisely as can the writings and
sayings of an author or poet. In the normal course of development, symbols of one kind and another come to be used consist(:ntly as substitutes
for both stimuli and responses, and thus figure prominently in ordinary
adjustments. A flashing light is a symbol of danger, and tipping one's
hat is a symbol of respect, in much the same way as words are symbols
38 Cameron, N., & Magaret, A. Bebavior patbology. Boston: Houghton Mifflin,
1951. pp. 44.47. R,p,;n"d by p,_,;on.
~

223

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment

of ideas or feelings. This capacity for, and tendency toward, symbolic


expression, common to all normal persons, conrtitute the psychological
basis for symptom formation in disturbed personalities. 39
In many instances of maladjustive behavior, the
symptomatic response
, I
is determined by some one element in the total situation; this element
functions symbolically to touch off the total response. A student, having
failed an examination in a certain classroom, fails again in the same room,
not because of inability or lack of preparation but because the situation
symbolizes failure, and he reacts to the situation in terms of its special
meaning (symbolism) rather than its objective characteristics. Often our
failure to react adequately to others is determined by the symbolic meanings they evoke and not by their actual qualities. In interpreting the
behavior or mental reactions of maladjusted persons, then, we must try
to find out the special significance of their behavior and the symbolic
meanings that they attach to different situations. 40
Symptoms are forms of behavior or, response that signify (1) the
existence of illness or pathology, (2) di?turbed psychogenic conditions,
(3) stress, frustration, or conflict, and (4) tension. Thus fatigue may be
a symptom of neurasthenia, which is a neurotic reaction to stress or
frustration. These signs are not the aisorder itself-they merely signify
the existence of the disorder, in much the same way as fever signifies the
existence of a physical illness. And, just as physical symptoms often
represent the organism'S efforts to cope with illness or pathology, psychological symptoms are an effort to meet the demands of adjustment.
In this characteristic we can discover the true meaning and economy
of psychological symptoms. As Page expresses it,
the symptoms of the psychoneurotic usually provide a solution to his
problems, and for this reason the patient inay cling to his symptoms and
resist treatment. Loss of memory is an inconvenient neurotic symptom,
but as long as it persists, the patient is protected from thinking about
the disturbing experience that was initially responsibk -fOr-the loss 9f
memory .... The compulsion to count steps and read signs is annoying,
but by concentrating on this senseless task the patient perhaps avoids
more disagreeable thoughts. The soldier 'torn between duty and fear
finds in a neurosis a solution to his dilemma. If he is unwittingly overtaken by chronic fatigue, a paralysis, or some other psychosomatic dis39 Symptoms and symbols, however, are not identical. Both function as signs,
but symptoms are regarded as special signs of illness ore .dlsabilit~. Thus, the night
terror is symptomatic of disturbed emotions, wherea5;"f1le _content of the dream is
symbolic of hidden fears and other mental processes. Hence it is possible to speak
of symbolic symptoms. See Kraines. Op. cit., pp. 33-40.
40 See Sherman. Op. cit., pp. 191-199. See also, Strecker, E. A., & Appel, K. E.
Discovering ourselves. New York: Mac!11illan, 191.4, Chap. XX.

224

The Dynamics of Adjustment (continued)


turbance, he will be removed from the battlefield without loss of
self-respect.41

There is no implication here, of course, that symptoms are consciously formulated as a solution to a problem; nor are they faked, any
more than the symptoms of high blood pressure are simulated by the
patiept. In some instances, there is malingering (faking of symptoms for
conscious purposes); but in the typical neurotic adjustment this is not
the case. Symptoms are unconsciously formed for the purpose of adjusting to the demands of a frustrating or stressful situation.

Symptoms and Syndromes


Symptomatic responses sometimes occur more or less in isolation, as when
a relatively normal person develops a twitch of the eyelid (tic), a phobia,
or an obsessional idea. This is not uncommon and reminds us of the important difference between a person with one or two neurotic symptoms
and a person with a neurotic personality. The neurotic personality is
characterized by' a definite group of symptoms called a "syndrome."42
A syndrome is an organized pattern of symptoms that are related to each
other in definite ways, a fact that enables us to distinguish classes of personality disorder. For example, hysteria, which is a neurotic disorder,
manifests itself systematically in a variety of symptoms, including functional paralysis, anesthesia, and somnambulism. But in each of these manifestations there is discernible a common quality-autonomous functioning
in some aspect of behavior or mental reaction. Syndromes, therefore, are
patterns of responses that are determined in their organization by the
pathological aims that dominate the personalities of maladjusted individuals. 43
41 By permission from Abnormal PsyclJology, by J. D. Page. Copyright, 1947.
McGraw-Hill Book Company, p. 98. See also Moore, T. V. Personal mental hygiene.
New York: Grune & Stratton, 1944, pp. 18-20; Brown, J. F. The psychodynamics of
abnormal behavior. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1940, Chap. IV, especially pp. 71-75.
42 This distinction-is similar to the hypothesis developed by Marcuse in a recent
article. Marcuse suggests that "in certain cases symptoms may be of an autonomous
nature and should therefore be attacked directly. An autonomous symptom may be
defined as one which is not deeply imbedded in the psychic structure of the individual and one which does not reflect an underlying conflict." Autonomous symptoms are distinguished from "true" symptoms which are always signs of something
else, for instance, an underlying conflict. This hypothesis, as Marcuse points out, is
essentially the same as Masl_ow's distinction between coping and expressive behavior.
-Marcuse, F. L. The nature of symptoms in the minor behavior disorders. ]. abnorm.
soc. Psychol., 1953, 48, 151-152. Reprinted by permission of the American Psychological Association. Maslow's position is defined in his article, The expressive component
of behavior. Psychol. Rev., 1949, 56, 261-272.
43 See Wittenborn, J. R., & Holzb~rg, J. D. The~, erality of psychiatric syndromes. ]. consult. Psych., 1951, 15, 372-380. The c Ie: usions from this factorial

225

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


Symptoms and Causes
Symptomatic responses will be determined also :by other factors, including personality make-up and background, experience and success in the
exploitation of symptomatic behavior, the peculiarities of the present
situation, and, principally, the causes and conditions that underlie the
maladjustment. To illustrate, compulsive behavior js typically a symptom
of guilt feelings, because the person feels compelled to expiate or undo
in some way the wrong he feels he has committed. Thus he may wash
repeatedly in the course of each day-an obvious symbol of the desire to
be cleansed of guilt. Similarly, hysterical paralysis symbolizes an unconscious desire to escape from or avoid an intolerable situation; and scruples
represent a deep conviction of moral uncertainty and inadequacy. These
few examples indicate that symptoms are not accidental or haphazard
but are determined by the causes and conditions underlying the particular
difficulty.
Let us not forget, however, the other factors mentioned. The kind
of personality disposed to neurosis will develop symptoms different from
those of the prepsychotic personality, just as the psychopathic person
manifests symptoms peculiar to his type of maladjustment. Furthermore,
those symptoms will recur and become fixed that have proved to be of
value in realizing the aims of the patient. For example, if a child discovers
through trial and error that illness brings him the attention or affection
he craves, illness in one form or another is likely to become a perman~nt
part of his adjustment pattern. Similarly, symptomatic behavior that is
peculiarly suited to the situation that requires some kind of adjustment
will take precedence over other forms. Thus the neurotic housewife,
who is bored with the routine of housework or child care develops a
fatigue syndrome, and the student who is (terrified by an examination
faints just as the examination begins. In each instance, symptomatic behavior is "chosen" with the same idea in mind: to dominate or control a
situation by. the exploitation of symbolic expression ....

---------

'

SUMMARY

In this concluding chapter on the dynamics of adjustment, we complemented our preceding study of needs by considering the dynamics of
motives and desires, habits, deliberation and conflict, feelings and. emotions, and unconscious motivations. We noted briefly the-interrelations
among these factors and stressed their implications for 'adjustment. The
process of rational motivation leads to the dey~lopme~t of important
/

_/.--'

study are in substantial agreement with the above interpretation. See also Wittenborn,
). R. Symptom patterns in a group of mental hospital patients. J. consult. Psychol.,
1951, 15, 290--302.

226

The Dynamics of Adjustment (continued)


sustammg motives, such as ideals, principles, and interests, and is the
groundwork of voluntary conduct and habit formation, all of which are
of significance to adjustment and mental health.
The study of rational motivation paved the way for a consideration
of deliberation and conflict. Observing that conflicts between opposed
motivations are common and are often resolved by the expedient of
deliberation and choice, we studied briefly the problem of abnormal
conflict and its effects on adjustment. The outcomes of conflict are
determined by personality make-up and by the nature of the conflict
itself. In well-adjusted, stable personalities, conflicts are utilized for the.
development of moral strength and character; in less stable persons, they
lead to emotional upsets, disorganized behavior, personality disintegration, chronic frustration, and the development of disabling symptoms.
The third section of the chapter outlined the dynamics of feelings and
emotions. Feelings of inferiority, guilt, rejection, and the like, arising from
the blocking of basic needs and desires, often lead to inadequate personality, mental instability, and symptomatic behavior. Emotional disturbance has similar effects because of the disruptive influence of emotions on
mental processes and behavior. But here we noted another fact, that
emotions, because of their psychophysical character, can disturb physiological functioning and lead to the development of psychosomatic
symptoms. All such effects, and the dynamics underlying them, were
then brought into relation with the concept of unconscious motivation.
Here we dealt briefly with the content of the unconscious, its dynamics,
and the mechanism of its formation, with particular reference to repression. We emphasized that unconscious repressed wishes, drives, feelings,
and experiences are not static but continue to function in the manner of
other dynamic processes and are a primary source of symbolic functioning as manifested in dreams, errors, and neurotic symptoms.
Finally, the facts regarding motivation were brought together in a
set of six basic principles: (1) all motivations are dynamic; (2) they influence mental life as well as behavior; (3) they are dynamically interrelated; (4) they are conditioned by social context; (5) they vary with
individuals; and (6) they are not always consciously known.
This statement of principles was followed by an analysis of etiology
and symptomatology in terms of the facts brought out earlier regarding
the determinants and dynamics of adjustment. Etiology as the study of
causes of disorder was distinguished from motivation, and the causes of
adjustment response were distinguished from its conditions and determinants. These distinctions proved useful in explaining differences between predisposing and exciting determinants of mental disorder and
maladjustment and in discussing the problem of situational maladjustment
and stress. The last part of the chapter outlined the nature and function
of symptoms, the generality of symbolic functio~g, the relation between

'tJ

227

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


symptoms and causes, and the influence of personality, neurotic aims, and
situational peculiarities on the development of sytmp~omatic responses.

QUESTIONS, EXERCISES, AND PROJECTS

1. Discuss and exemplify the relations between basic needs and desires;
between needs and feelings; between feelings and adjustment.
2. Evaluate the statement that all conflicts lead to m~ladjustment.
3. Explain in your own words why unconscious motivation stands in
the way of wholesome adjustment.
4. Why do unconscious motivations lead .to symbolic formulation? Can
you cite any personal experiences that exemplify this relation?
5. Explain the difference between repression and forgetting, and discuss
their respective implications for adjustment.
6. In what way is motivation related to ~tiology? Etiology to symptomatology?
7. Compare Symonds's The dynamic;s of adjustment with Woodworth's
Dynamic psychology. Critically evaluate each book.
8. Discuss and evaluate the different factors that determine conflicts and
the formation of symptoms.
9. Write a short term paper, based on available sources, on the empi~ical
validity of the concept of unconscious motivation.
10. Explain the implications of habit-formation fqr adjustment.
11. What is the difference between the causes and conditions of adjustment? Between predisposing and excitirtg causes? Exemplify.
12. Discuss the influence of emotions on mental health and adjustment,
with particular reference to psychosomatic disorders.
13. Describe four basic principles of motivation, and mdicate their significance for the explanation of adjustment processes.
14. What is the connection between etiology a-nd the determinants of
adjustment?
15. Explain in your own words the function of symptom formation.

SELECTED READINGS

J. E. The psychology of developme,,{t-:and personal adjustment.


. New York: Holt, 1949. Chap. XVII.
BROWN, J. F. The psychodynamics of abnormal behavior. New York:
;McGraw-Hill, 1940. Chap. IV.
ANDERSON,

228

The Dynamics of Adjustment (continued)


CAMERON, N., & MAGARET, A.

Behavior pathology. Boston: Houghton

Mifflin, 1951. Chap. IX.


J., & MILLER, N. E. Personality and psychotherapy. New York:
McGraw-Hill, 1950. Part VI.

DOLLARD,

GRINKER, R. R., & SPIEGEL,

J.

P.

Men under stress. New York: Blakiscon,

i945.
Our inner conflicts. New York: Norton, 1945.
Mental hygiene and life. New York: Harper, 1952.
Chaps. VII-XI.

HORNEY, K.

KAPLAN, L., & BARON, D.

Psychology of adjustment. New York:


Van Nostrand, 1952. Chaps. II, III.

MIKESELL, W. H., & HANSON, G.

Unconsciousness. New York: Wiley, 1942.


MOORE, T. v. The driving forces of human nature. New York: Grune &
Stratton, 1948. Chaps. III-VI, XVIII-XX.
SHERMAN, M. Basic problems of behavior. New York: Longmans, Green,
1941. Chaps, I, II, VII.
---. Mental conflicts and personality. New York: Longmans, Green,
1938.
THORPE, L. P., & KATZ, B. The psychology of abnormal behavior. New
York: Ronald, 1948. Chap. VII.
VANDERVELDT, J. H., & ODENWALD, R. P. Psychiatry and Catholicism. New
York: McGraw-Hill, 1952. Chap. IX.
WALLIN, J. E. w. Personality Inaladjustments and mental hygiene. (2nd
Ed.) New York: McGraw-Hill, 1949. Chap. XIII.
MILLER,

J.

G.

229

"i?

NINE
1\

THE PROCESS OF ADJUSTMENT


, I
Motivation and the process of adjustment. Reality principle. Basic pattern
of adjustment . . Nature and types of frustration. Frustration, privation, and
threat. Frustrations in childhood, in adolescence, and in adulthood. Charact:eristics associate.t!: with frustration. Frustration as dynamic. Signs of frustration. Results of 'frustration. Frustration tolerance. Factors determining
response to frustration. Principle of varied response. The solution: adjustive
versus unadjustive 'reactions to frustration. Criteria of adequate solution.
A psychological criterion of adjustment.

ELEMENTS OF THE ADJUSTMENT PROCESS

Motivation and the Process of Adjustment

In our survey of the dynamics of adjustment in the two preceding


chapters, it became increasingly clear that motivation is the keystone for
understanding the process of adjustment. Needs; motives, feelings, and
emotions are internal forces that cause tension and disequilibrium within
the organism. Both of these conditions are unpleasant and repugnant,
because freedom from tension and an equilibrium of internal forces are
more natural to the organism than their opposites. For the same reasons,
conflicts and frustrations are unpleasant and repugn~t;-opposed as they
are to the natural tendency of the organism toward intemal harmony,
peace of mind, and the satisfactions realized from the expression of needs
or motives. This is particularly true when tensiQp. and disequilibrium
represent the disruptive influence of pathological feelings and excessive
emotion, or the failure to realize wholesome need gratifications because
of abnormal conflicts and frustrations. Adjustive response, then, whether
good or bad, may be regarded simply as an effort on the part of the
organism to ..X,educe or escape from tension a!:d to Ii-estore the more
natural co~ditions of equilibrium. The qualitt-()f the response, that is,
whether it is wholesome, efficient, damaging, or pathological, will be
determined by such factors as personality make-up, the quality of the
motivation, environmental determinants,/ ' the peculiar character of the
230

The Process of Adjustment


frustration, and the individual's relation to reality. The first of these
factors we have already studied at considerable length; in this chapter we
shall direct our attention to the phenomenon of frustration and the functioning of the reality principle.
.

Adjustment and the Reality Principle


As we have noted, some of the most serious aspects of adjustment and
mental health are determined by the attitude toward, and the manner in
which, the individual reacts to the world of people, things, and relations
that constitute reality. For this reason it is generally assumed that a
healthy attitude toward reality and good contact with it are indispensable
requisites for mental health and wholesome adjustment. Thus, when we
outlined the specific criteria of adjustment in Chapter Four, we mentioned
ability to get along with people and an interest in them, a wide range of
objective interests, and adequate orientation to and contact with reality.
Therefore, excessive daydreaming and introversion, antisocial attitudes,
solitary amusements, lack of interest in the welfare of others, pathological
drinking, cynicism, excessive criticism of one's fellows, selfishness, hostility, and delinquency are all disruptive of an adequate relation to reality.
Even the in9ividual himself is a part of reality; therefore, all adjustments
involve this important relation. It is reality that imposes the demands,
restrictions, codes, and mores with which the individual must learn to
deal and to which he must manage to adjust effectively. Hence adjustment is a process by which the internal demands of motivation are brought
into harmonious relation with the external demands of reality. In this
setting, conflict, stress, and frustration arise, and the organism is driven
to explore different behavior possibilities in order to secure relief from
tension.

Basic Pattern_of Adjustment


Whether we are dealing with a simple, everyday adjustment or a highly
complex adjustment, such as a neurosis, there is a basic pattern in which
certain elements can always be distinguished. Let us suppose that a young
child wants affection from a mother too occupied with other duties to
meet the child's need. The child will be frustrated and will strike out in
one direction or another to find a possible solution to the problem and
thus reduce the tension of the need and the frustration. He may temporarily abandon the effort, turn -to some other activity, seek affection
elsewhere, or indulge in thumb-sucking. Similarly, an adult, frustrated in
the desires Jor affection, children, or achievement, seeks and ultimately
hits upon some form of activity or expression, often of a symptomatic
kind, that serves to gratify the desire and to reduce tension. Thus, typically, the frustrated desire for children is redirected (sublimated) into
welfare work, clinical psychology, teaching, or lyarding care of children.

't1

231

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


Whenever adequate outlets are unavailable, be.cause of situational or
personality limitations, the outcomes of frustratic:m are likely to assume
a neurotic or psychotic character.
!
In all situations of frustration, we can readily discern essential and
common elements. These are (1) motivation, (2), frustration, thwarting,
or blocking of drives and motives, (3) varied response, and (4) solution,
that is, reduction of the problem, frustration, or tension by the adoption
of some form of response.! Remember, however, that this sequence applies
only to situations in which blocking or frustration occurs. If a child is
hungry and avails himself of cookies that are handy, the sequence of
events can be very simply diagramed: motivation~satisfying behavior.
However, the same child, hungering for affection, security, or belonging,
may turn to gluttonous eating as a substitute response when these needs
are not adequately gratified. 2 In this case, the sequence of events may be
diagramed as follows:

~
"SI.

"01.

. ; '9'1
Motivation ~---------. Normal Response

~ SUBSTITUTE

(abnormal) RESPONSE

Fig. 16-Illustration of the influence of frustration.

In some instances, substitute responses are not readily available. Then


the person casts about for a response that will gratify the motivation and
! See McKinney, F. The psychology of personal adjustment. (2nd Ed.). New
York: Wiley, 1949, pp. 14-19. McKinney uses almost the same hnguage to describe
the elements of adjustment but, in place of the factor of solution, includes satisfaction, nonadjustive behavior, and readjustment. See his -general principles of personality adjustment, ibid., p. 19. See also Page, J. D. -Abnormal psychology. New York:
McGraw-Hill, 1947, pp. 30-31. Page also describes the adjustment process in terms
of basic elements. The adjustment process is also outlined in Thorpe, L. P. The
psychology of mental health. New York: Ronald, 1950, pp. 106-114. The_ sequence
suggested in the present text is adapted from Shaffer, L. F. The psychology of
adjustment~ Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1936.
2 Sherman makes the observation that frustration occurs ,1only with significant
behavior. "Frustration does not occur when an acrjVlty--; with' which there has been
interference, is of little importance."-Sherrnan, M. Basic problems of behavior. New
York: Longmans, Green, 1941, p. 88. The point is well taken, but it narrows the
meaning of frustration. See our distinction between subjective and objective frustration in succeeding pages.

232

The Process of Adjustment


thus reduce tension. 3 This situation is pictured in Figure 17, in which the
four elements described earlier are indicated. This diagram requires little
explanation and may be applied to the example just cited and to many
other situations that are much more complex. The diagram indicates that
motivation assumes a variety of forms, anyone of which may be subjected
to blocking or frustration by some aspect of reality-parental restrictions,

Fig. 17-Illustration of the elements involved in a typical adjustment process in which frustration is a determining factor.

physical barriers, social codes, discipline, and the like. Because of the
tension that this blocking causes, the organism "explores" different modes
of response CA, B, C, D in the diagram) until it hits upon one that is
satisfying because it reduces tension and frustration. This response, then,
constitutes the solution of the difficulty. The case of the child whose
hunger for affection is gratified by eating is a good example of this
mechanism, particularly because eating is a natural symbolic substitute
for the gratification of hungers that are not physiological in nature.
There are several characteristics of the frustrating situation that
should be emphasized. First of all, when motivation is denied natural
gratification or expression, the response hit upon as a solution is a substitute and may therefore be inadequate, distorted, or abnormal, especially if the organism is poorly equipped for substitution or if the
motivation is such as to preclude conscious control and direction. Segel
remarks,
The individual who is frustrated tends to act in a different manner
from what he does in a nonfrustrating situation. This is an important
point. He reacts in a way which is detrimental to himself and often to
3 H. W. Hepner has two interesting chapters on adjustment by substitution.
See Psychology applied to life and work. (2nd Ed.) New York: Prentice-Hall, 1950,

Chap'. III ond IV.

233

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


those about him. Furthermore, the type of re~ction which takes place
in one frustrating situation not only tends to appear every time that
situation is presented, but also tends to spread t? other situations, so that
the individual reacts to other (more normal) situations through a frustrated type of behavior. This tends eventually: ~o become a pattern and
the individual is then said to have a neurosis. 4 ~

Whether the reaction to frustration is always detrimental, as this statement implies, is doubtful, but it is likely to be under the conditions
described above. Secondly, we must note that there is no necessary connection between frustration and the substitute response. Eating is a
natural substitute for behavior determined by such needs as affection and
security; but we must realize that there are other possibilities for substitution in such a situation, anyone of which may serve to reduce tension.
However, the more a substitute response deviates from the aim of the
motivation, the more distorted and abnorll1al it becomes. Finally, varied
response is itself conditioned by the intensity of the motivation and the
character of the frustration. In many situations, the blocking of a drive
or motive terminates the process; there' is neither varied response nor
solution. If a child is forbidden to go swimming, he may do nothing more
than sit down and read a book. This IS a substitute response, if you wish
to call it that, but it is indifferently related to either the motivation or the
frustration. You can see from this that the quality of adjustment will
always be determined by the kind of motivation involved and by the
degree of frustration in the situation. Characteristics like these are important to the understanding of what adjustment is actua:lly like.
I

THE PHENOMENON OF FRUSTRATION

Nature Of Frustration

From the foregoing interpretation, and from earlier discussion, one can
see that the understanding of adjustment and mental stabili.!y hinges to an
important degree on the nature, characteristics, and outcomes-of frustration. One may think, from our ready use of the _term in preceding paragraphs, that this is an easy matter to decide; but, actually, frustration is
very complex in nature, and there are many opinions to take into account
in trying to define its essential characteristics/i Symonds, for example,
4 Segel, D. Frustration in adolescent youth. Bull. 1951, No.1. Washington: U.S.
Office of Education, 1951, p. 24. Reprinted by permission. See also vVright, M. E.
The influence of frustration upon the socjal relations of young/children. Character
&- Pers., 1943, 12, 111-122. Exploration and substitution-need not, however, lead to
behavior difficulties. See the section on exploration -;:;;d -substitution as normal adjustments in the following chapter.
5 Much of the material in this section is developed along the lines suggested by
P. M. Symonds in his Dynamjc psycbology. New York: Appleton-Cemury-Crofts,

234

"

The Process of Adjustment


considers any blocking of behavior or motivation a frustration, even
when there are means available for adequate adjustment. 6 Shaffer 7 regards
frustration as involving a situation in which accustomed reactions fail to
bring satisfaction; thus situations to which one can readily adjust are not
thought of as frustrating. Maier 8 defines a frustrating situation as one in
which learning is inhibited and other forms of response are adopted;
whereas Maslow and Mittelmann9 conceive of frustration as involving
danger to the integrity of personality, the lowering of self-esteem, or
damage to the feeling of security. Finally, there is the viewpoint that
frustration occurs only in those situations in which the individual is
actively striving to reach a goal that is important and attainable. Inter-
ference with this striving is interpreted as frustration.
Definition of Frustration
All these interpretations contain something of value for the understanding
of frustration; but for our own purposes we should try to arrive at a
definition that is helpful in explaining the precise connection between
frustration and adjustment. To accomplish this aim, there are several
points that must be clarified.
Frustration applies, first of all, to the blocking or hindrance of behavior as well as motivation or mental activity. A child trying without
success to reclaim a toy from a playmate shows typical signs of frustration like crying, hitting, or disorganized and aimless behavior. So, too,
does the motorist whose car stalls on slippery pavement; he curses, spins
1949, Chap. III. However, the theory of frustration is found in many works, and
no single study adequately explains the complexities of frustration phenomena. A
number of important studies are named in the following pages. See especially Maier,
N. R. F. Frustration: the study of behavior without a goal. New York: McGrawHill, 1949; Rosenzweig, S. Frustration as ,an experimental problem. VI. General outline of frustration. Charact. & Perr., 1938, 7, 151-160; Dollard, ]. et al., Frustration
and aggression. New Haven: Yale Univer. Press, 1939; Miller, N. E., et al., The
frustration-aggression hypothesis. Psychol. Rev., 1941,48,337-342.
Theories of frustration should be brought into line with experimental approaches
to the problem. A review of the literature and experimental results will be found
in Korner, A. F. Some aspects of hostility in children. New York: Grune & Stratton,
1949, Chap. VI. See also Cameron, N., & Magaret, A. Behavior pathology. Boston:
Houghton Mifflin, 1951, Chap. II, especially p. 48. Sherman. Gp. 'cit., pp. 87-97. McKinney, F., et al., Experimental frustration in a group test situation. ]. abnorm. soc.
Psychol., 1951, 46, 316-323; Maier, N. R. F. Mechanisms in Frustration. Compo
psychol. Monogr., 1950, 20 (1), 61-94.
6 Symonds. Gp. cit., po' 43.
7 Shaffer. Gp. cit., p. 117.
8 Maier. Frustration. pp. 123-129.
9 Maslow, A. H., & Mittelmann, B. Principles of abnormal psychology. (Rev.
Ed.) New York: Harper, 1951, pp. 61, 67-70. See also the definition by Cameron
,nd M,,,,re' qoo",d in a"p. VIlI. p. 313.
~

235

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment

Fig. 18-The phenomenon of

frustrati~~~-'

the wheels, or rails angrily against the vicissitudes of fate. On the mental
and motivational level, frustration is clearly manifested by the teacher
who fails to arouse interest in her students, by the adolescent faced with
a serious mental conflict that resists solution, and by the mathematician
who cannot solve a certain problem. 10 In all, 5chjnstarlces, the existence
10 An interesting experimental study of the effects of frustration on the hunger
drive is reported in Cameron & Magaret. Op. cit., p. 48. Existing on a severely restricted diet for six months, the subjects gave many indications of, thwarting that
were both behavioral and mental. Some chewed gum incessantly, others collected

236

The Process of Adjustment


of frustration is determined by objective signs or criteria rather than in
terms of a preconceived notion of what frustration should be. What
these signs are we shall note later in our discussion.
Secondly, an acceptable definition of frustration should be predicated
on a clear distinction between subjective and objective frustration. To be
frustrated is not the same thing as to feel frustrated. The subjective feeling of frustration is more important to adjustment and is manifested
unmistakably in the external signs of frustration. The mere blocking of
motivation, behavior, or mental activity is certainly a kind of frustration;
but if the person does not react subjectively (emotionally) to the blocking, it has little psychological meaning, especially where adjustment is
concerned. Thus, if a person is hungry and dinner has not been prepared,
he is temporarily frustrated in the gratification of this need; but, if he
does hot feel frustrated, the chances are there will be no aftermath of
the objective frustration and hence no effect on adjustment. Note, however, what happens when this situation produces subjective frustration.
The person becomes angry and irritable, complains about the dinner not
being ready, or prances aimlessly about until it is served. Failure to
recognize this distinction between objective and subjective frustration
leads to different and sometimes confusing definitions of frustration. If
you will go back over the various viewpoints described earlier, you will
see that many of the differences could be reconciled on the basis of this
distinction. l l
Thirdly, it is important to note that the character of frustration and
its subsequent effects on adjustment vary considerably with the kind of
motivation or response involved and with the psychological context in
which it occurs. For example, the blocking of basic needs, such as the
need for affection, security, or status, has a great deal more frustration
significance than interference with casual desires or motives. Similarly,
the frustration of behavior directed toward important goals has deeper
meaning for adjustment than the blocking of incidental responses. The
student who fails a course required for graduation or for entrance to
medical school is more apt to show signs of frustration than one who
cannot take notes because he forgot to bring his pencil to class. The context of behavior is important too. In situations where substitution can be
easily made or where learning can be readily exploited for purposes of
eliminating any hindrance to effective adjustment, frustration may be
temporary and remain at the objective leve}.12
recipes, talked and fantasied about food during the day, and dreamed of food at
night. Some of the behavior assumed an almost pathological form.
11 Compare the interpretation of frustration as an individual experience in
Kaplan, L., & Baron, D. Mental hygiene and life. New York: Harper, 1952, p. 254.
12 In connection with these characteristics of frustration, see Britt, S. H., &
Janus, S. Q. Criteria of frustration. Psychol. Rev., 19:i:147, 451-459.

"'t)

237

Natztre and Conditions of Adjustment


In the light of these considerations, alld for the special purposes of
adjustment psychology, frustration may be fiefined as the subjective
reaction to .the blocking or hindrance of significant behavior or motivation that leads to interference with adequate a1nd effective adjustment.
Interpreted in this way, one can see that frustration is an essential element
in the progression of human responses from initial motivation to whatever
adjustments the organism can accomplishY
Types of Frustration
Apart from the basic distinction between objective and subjective frustration, already indicated, there is also the difference between external
or impersonal frustrations and those that are internal and personal in
nature. 14 The distinction is important, because the effects of frustration
will vary considerably from one kind to the other.
1. IMPERSONAL FRUSTRATION. Impersonal frustrations are those originating in some aspect of the environment or cultural setting. They include
privations, such as poverty, lack of cultural or recreational advantages,
absence of playmates, and inadequate funds for education; deprivations,
such as the sudden loss of wealth /01' social position, the breakdown of
one's means of transportation, or the death of parents on whom one is
dependent; and obstructions, such as parental restrictions, social conventions, and moral laws that stand in the way of personal gratifications.
It should be understood that privations or deprivations by themselves do
not bring about negative effects; rather, the frustrations to which they
give rise come about only when they cause loss of prestige, status, or
security, failure of achievement, and the like. Poverty or sexual deprivation may be borne without any difficulty until it begins to imply
inferiority, lack of personal status, isolation, or rejection, which reminds
us that frustration is basically a personal affair, to which external factors
contribute only when certain conditions already exist. 15
2. PERSONAL FRUSTRATION. Internal or personalfrw;trations generally affect adjustment more than those externally determined. Since, as
we have said, the significance of frustration increases in proportion to the
degree of subjective reaction to frustrati~g conditions, we may expect __
that personal privations, deprivations, or barriers will have a more direct
and damaging effect on adjustment than those that are impersonal.
/

Compare the statement on the essential character of need ,f~ustration in Snygg,


D., & Combs, A. W. Individual behavior. New York: Harper, 1949, p. 116.
14 See Symonds. Op. cit.,.,pp. 44-47.
_//
15 "The degree of frustr~tion felt by the inill;"idual will be a function of the
,
.r '.
meaning of the frustrating ,event in Ihis field and, in particular, how he perceives
that event as affecting the l satisfaction of n~ed."-Snygg, D., & Combs, A. W. Individual behavior. New York: Harpe~,
1949,' R.r 117. Reprinted by permission. Here
,
again we are reminded of tl}e close relationSbetween personal perceptions and ad~
J
justment (Chap. Seven).
13

238

............---

The Process of Adjustment


Poverty, for example, can be very frustrating when one wants an education, position, or power; but it will seldom exert as much influence on adjustment as bodily deformity, lack of intell~gence, or sudden loss of sight.
Poverty can be attributed to the weaknesses or failures of others; but personal defects are peculiarly one's own and for that reason have much
greater power to produce a deep and crippling sense of frustration. It is
these.'frustrations that we come across most often in studying the etiology
of behavior disorders. The following case illustrates the potency of real
and imagined personal defects in producing personality disorders.
The client, an attractive youngster nineteen years old and a sophomore
in college, was referred to the clinic because of a serious speech handicap.
He complained of difficulties with his studies, being laughed at in class, not
being popular with girls, lack of manly qualities, extreme fatigue, various aches
and pains, poor sleep habits, and of course the habit of stuttering. He thought
of himself as being physically, socially, and emotionally inadequate, and vastly
inferior to his classmates and friends. He was deeply convinced of his inability
to attract girls or to continue to stimulate their interest if he should manage
an initial attraction. His self-concept included feelings of inferiority, particularly in the areas of social communication and masculinity, and a body image
that centered around visual deficiency, physical weakness and unattractiveness,
and chronic fatigue.
The client's difficulties had begun early in life with the onset of stuttering
at the age of seven. From that time on, he had felt socially and personally
inade.quate and "queer," feelings that were strengthened by the rude jibes of
classmates directed at his speech handicap. The situation worsened considerably in late adolescence when the goal of becoming an officer in the air force
was shattered by a rejection based on visual deficiency. Already burdened
with inferiority and inadequacy, his self-concept suffered additional damage
by this failure, which he interpreted illogically as being his own fault, thus
adding feelings of guilt to an already severely damaged ego.
Interview therapy, directed toward the deyelopment of insight into the
causes of his feelings and reactions, growth of a healthier self-concept and a
better evaluation of his own shortcomings and potentialities, had a marked
effect on the client's personality. He now sees himself in a much healthier
light, the feelings of inferiority and guilt have been greatly reducea, and social
adjustment has improved.

Personal privations include any defects, real or imagined, in a person's physical, mental, moral, spiritual, or social make-up, the effects of
which will vary with the part of the p'ersonality involved. Generally, it
may be assumed that mental defects will be felt more keenly than those
of a physical nature, and that moral defects will be regarded more seriously than either of the other two. These reac~s will be conditioned
by individual peculiarities, particularly one's pet~~al scale of values; but
239

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


in assessing the relation between personal defects and frustration, we must
first determine the special meaning they have for the person and where
they stand in his scale of values. We must take ~ccount of the fact, too,
that imagined defects can be just as potent in the idevelopment of frustration as real ones. The personal conviction of mopl inadequacy, physical
unattractiveness, or intellectual deficit, even though it does not correspond to objective fact, is often the cause of deep~seated frustrations; and
it should be noted that the effects on adjustment are no different nor less
severe than the effects of real defects. In fact, the ultimate effects may be
more damaging to stability because it is impossible to properly evaluate
imagined defects. They are nurtured in a psychological soil that is in
itself unfavorable to healthy mental'development and are therefore less
amenable to adequate evaluation than defects that are real and fully
apparent.
These principles can be applied just as well to personal deprivations,
or loss of abilities and characteristics, as in cases of chronic illness, injury,
sensory incapacitation, or structural impairment. But there is an important difference that may affect frustration noticeably. Privations or defects
are usually regarded as congenital, and thus an integral part of personality,
whereas deprivations are adventitious and only accidentally related to
personality make-up. There is quite a difference, for example, between
being born blind and becoming blind through injury or disease. In the
one case, blindness is an integral part of the personality, and the feeling
of frustration gets off to an early start, with possible damaging effects on
the person's adjustment. Yet we know, too, that it may work the other
way around. The person who suffers the loss of a vital capacity may
become more seriously frustrated because he realizes much more keenly
what this deprivation means. Similarly, it often happens that persons born
with a structural defect are less seriously affected in their adjust.ments to
the demands of reality than those who suffer physical loss later in life.
Never having known the virtues of physical wholeness, they may experience little frustration in situations where this fact"Or-is-irnportant. In
addition, in congenital cases there is more likelihood. of effective compensation than when the deprivation is adventitious. The deeper implications of these facts will receive fuller treatment in our discussion of the
mechanisms of defense in Chapter Eleven.
The external obstructions described in connection with impersonal
frustrations are paralleled by internal barriers that play a definite part in
the development of personal frustrations. In fact, the moral, social, and
cultural taboos and regulations that function as external obstructions are
often the same factors that become internalizecF(introcepted) as subjective barriers leading to frustration. At this point, frustration and mental
conflict merge as co-determinants of adjustment. 16 Internal barriers in
16

See Rosenzweig, S. An oudine of frustratjon theory. In Hunt,

240

J.

MeV. (Ed.)

The Process of Adjustment

the form of moral prohibitions and principles, conventional codes, cultural taboos, and so forth, come into conflict with other motivations of
an instinctual or habitual character and thus create frustration. Again,
however, the depth and possible damage of such frustrations depend
largely on the level of personality integration, the ability to cope with
conflicts by rational deliberation and choice, the extent of moral development, the level of maturation, and similar factors. In some instances, there
is relatively little subjective frustration; in others, it becomes so intense
as to cause severe personality disturbances. Differences like these point
to the need for extreme caution in interpreting the effects of frustration.
It can mean radically different things in different persons.
The quality of internal frustrations may be expected to vary also
with the character of the motivation involved, including its innate
strength, its relation to other dynamic factors, and particularly its emotional connotations. The greater the strength of a need or drive, the more
imperatively does it lead to some form of expression; hence the frustration is more deeply felt when strong drives come into conflict with internal barriers than when weaker motivations are functioning. Similarly,
mental conflicts and frustrations are deepened by the interplay among
different motivations. The sex drive, for example, is often reinforced by
ego-needs like status and recogIlition, in which case sexual frustration
more decisively affects adjustment than when it is functioning alone. If,
in addition, as is usually the case, there are strong emotional components
like fear or anxiety, the frustration is still further deepened and behavior
more markedly affected. For these reasons, the chronic frustration of
basic needs, such as affection, security, achievement, and independence,
often leads to damaging personality characteristics and disturbed behavior. Pathological aggressiveness, hostility, destructiveness, delinquency,
and a host of mental and behavioral symptoms can be traced to these
intrapersonal frustratiQns.
3. RELATION BETWEEN IMPERSONAL AND PERSONAL FRUSTRATIONS. It
is worth noting also that external and internal frustrations are closely
interrelated. The deprivations or obstructions that arise in a person's
environment are often the occasion for serious personal frustration. The
death of parents, for example, may be regarded by the young child as
rejection; the superiority of others is often taken as a reflection of personal inferiority; punishment may enhance feelings of guilt that already
exist. Conversely, intrapersonal frustrations have a way of influencing
external determinants. To a person in whom the feeling of personal worth
is stifled by the feeling' of inferiority, such a factor as parental rejection
can be a much more serious handicap in making adjustments than it is to
Personality and the behavior disorders. New York: Ronald, 1944, I, 382. Cameron
Qp. cit., p. 49; Maslow, A. H. COnflict,~stration and the theory of
threat. ,. abnorm. soc. Psychol., 1943. 38, 81-86.

& Magaret.

.'

241

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


a person who has not experienced inferiority. Here, again, we are reminded of the dynamic relations between personality and environment
described in earlier discussionsY
I

Frustration, Privation, and Threat

We have seen that frustration is a concept of many meanings, its exact


meaning in any instance depending on the theoretical convictions of the
writer or the particular emphasis placed on some aspect of frustration.
Rosenzweig, for example, identifies primary frustration with privation,
by which he means the absence of an end situation that is necessary for
the satisfaction of an active need. Secondary frustration arises from
obstacles or obstructions in the p~th to the goal of the active need. When
obstacles are active they become dangerous, and frustration develops as
a threat to personal security. "In other words, whereas passive obstructions entail only the need which is frustrated, active ones invoke additional needs pertaining to the immediate security of the organism. This
distinction serves to indicate that frustration includes situations both of
satisfaction and of danger."18 Here, th~n, we have the theory of threat
linked to frustration, and thus the immediate
determinants of adjustment
/
include four possibilities-conflict, stress, frustration, and threat.
Other writers take a similar view. Maslow states, "The one concept
that is important is neither conflict nor frustration but the essential
pathogenic characterisic of both-namely, threat of thwarting of the basic
needs of the organism." And again, "All the following are felt as threatening in our sense; danger of thwarting of the basic needs; or the conditions
upon which they rest, threat to life itself, threat to the general integrity
of the organism, threat to the integration of the organism, and threat to
the organism's basic mastery of the world."19 Similarly, Maslow and
Mittelmann state that frustration
will be defined as a deprivation which is also a threat to the personality,
particularly to the self-esteem or feeling of security.~~
The serious psychopathological reaction arises if the patient feels
17 For somewhat different classifications o(frustration, see Cameron & Magaret.
Gp. cit., pp. 47-49; Rosenzweig. An outline of frustration theory. In Hunt. (Ei{)
Gp. cit., pp. 380--382.
18 Rosenzweig, S. An outline of frustration theory. In Hunt, J. MeV. (Ed.)
Personality and the behavior disorders. New York: Ronald, 1944, I, 381. Reprinted by
permission.
19 Maslow, A. H. Conflict, frustration, and the, th_eory of threat. J. abnorm. soc.
Psychol., 1943, 38, 82. Reprinted by permission.of.ttIle_Ame~ican Psychological Association. See also Maslow, A. H. Deprivation, threat and frustration. Psychol. Rev.,
1941, 48, 364-366;- Zuckerman, M. The effect of threat on perceptual affect in a
group. ]. abn01;'m. soc. Psychol., 1951, 46, 529-533; Eriksen, C. W. Defense against
ego-threat in memory and perception. ]. abnorm. soc. Psychoi., 1952, 47, 230--235.

242,

The Process of Adjustment


severely deprived of one of his vital needs. He perceives this blocking
of a vital need as an extremely serious threat, one which endangers his
whole existence; at least potentially he feels catastrophically threatened. 20
Hogan offers a different interpretation of threat, but one that is nevertheless directly related to the. problem of adjustment. 21 In his view, threat
occurs when the self perceives its experiences as being inconsistent with
the structure of the self. Threat relates to concepts or values regarding
the S(!lf. Nevertheless, "at different levels of theoretical importance or
interest one may speak of threat to concepts and values, threat to the self,
threat to the security, adequacy, or worth of the self, or threat to its,
need satisfaction." In other words, interpr.etation of the meaning of threat
will be determined by one's frame of r~ference; but, regardless of this
fact, threat, like frustration, "is a motivating factor of prime imp ortance."22 This viewpoint, as the author points out, is clearly related to the
interpretation suggested by Snygg and Combs. According to these
authors, threat is defined as
the individual's awareness of menace to his phenomenal self. Since his
need is to maintain and enhance it, the only thing he can do under
threat is to defend the organization which exists. This mayor may not
result in a removal of the thr~at he feels. If it does, the crisis has been
met and the organism's need is satisfied. On the other hand, if the
individual cannot solve the threatening situation the threat may persist
and continue to frustrate need for long periods of time. Such threats to
the phenomenal self are the most characteristic aspect of persistent
tension states. 23
Let us note that this interpretation of threat and tension is basically
different from others that. try to explain the nature of frustration. Admittedly, as Hogan states, one can approach the problem from different
points of view; but there is a real difference between the idea of threat as
the blocking of vital needs, and threat as the disruption of the "phenomenal self." In the latter view needs and need gratifications are subordinate in impo_rtance to the integrity of the self. Frustration as threat
is not directed against the satisfaction of vital needs but against the inner
security of the self. As Hogan states,
At the root of threat, to be sure, lies the possible thwarting of needs.
20 Maslow, A. H., & Mittelmann, K Principles of abnormal psychology. (Rev.
Ed.) New York: Harper, 1951, pp. 61, 68. Reprinted by permission.
21 Hogan, R. A. A theory of threat and defense. J. consult. Psychol., 1952, 16,417424.
22 Hogan, R. A. A theory of threat and defense. J. consult. Psychol., 1952, 16,
418, 419. Reprinted by permission of the American Psychological Association.
23 Snygg, D., & Combs, A. W. Individual behavior. New York: Harper, 1949,

p. 118. R,p';""d by p,rm;'.on.

243

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


Yet, if need satisfaction were of prime importance in maladjustment,
need-persistive reactions would usually predominate; and occasions when
they did to the detriment of cherished values w?uld be viewed with less
concern. Yet the conditions established for neeod satisfaction seem predominant in maladjustment. The individual is absorbed with defending
his system of defenses. It appears that deprivadon involving threat and
not deprivation alone is responsible for maladj~stment.24
Thus the self is injected into the center of frustration theory, and the
concept of threat, however it is interpreted, becomes an essential part of
the theory. In attempting to understand the significance of frustrations at
different levels of development, we should keep in view both interpretations of the meaning of threat.

Frustrations in Childhood
Before continuing with the analysis of frustration, it will be helpful to
pause for a moment and study some of the typical frustrations that occur
in the course of daily experience. 25 Since they vary considerably with
developmental level, we begin with those that characterize early childhood. At this period, frustrations are/ of course most closely linked to
basic needs since the child has not reached the motivational level where
rational motives, ideals, or goals play a significant part in determining
behavior. Nor, perhaps, are frustrations as yet a threat to the phenomenal
self. Typically, the very young child is frustrated by loss of love, restriction of behavioral exploration, family rivalries, sex and age patternings,
which force him into socially accepted but undesirable modes of behavior, and parental restrictions, which interfere with a growing independence.
Segel cites a study by Baldwin, Kelhofn, and Breese on preschool
and first-grade children that illustrates very clearly the effects of parental
attitudes on frustration and adjustment.
Their results show the amount of consideration giv~'to~the-child in his
early years has a definite bearing on whether or not he will be frustrated.
The type of psychological atmosphere seemed to have more to do with
frustration than the physical environment 'at this level. The main ..classifications of behavior of parents toward their child and t,he general
resulting behavior of the child, frustrated or otherwise, which they
found are as follows:
I

24 Hogan, R. A. A theory of threat and defense. J. consult. Psychol., 1952, 16,423.


(Italics mine.) Reprinted by permission of the Ameri/an Psychological Association.
25 Good discussions of the sources of frustratipn at different age levels will be
found in Kaplan & Baron. Gp. cit., pp. 256-260; Maslow & Mittelmann. Gp. cit., pp.
63-64, 69-70; and Thorpe. Gp. cit., pp. 106-108.

244

The Process
PARENTAL BEHAVIOR
1.

Rejection of children
a. Passive or ignoring.

b. Active or repressing.

2. Casual autocracy
a. Casual autocracy (as a policy).

b. Casual autocracy (as an expediency).


c. Casual indulgence.

of Adjustment

CHILD BEHAVIOR

A desperate seeking for affection and


attention. Expression in near social
or near delinquency type of behavior.
Withdrawn, shy and stubbornly resistant in situations demanding response. Retreats into self.
Rebellious, earning a certain grudging respect. Sometimes anxious
compliance.
Rebellious, almost uncontrollable at
times. Insistent in wanting to command a situation.
Develops conflicts, shy outside the
home situation-aggressive through
refusing contacts with others.

3. Acceptant
a. Indulgent.

b. Pseudo-democratic.

c. Scientifically democratic.

d. Warmly democratic.

Learns to fool parents and get his


own way by wheedling actions.
Tends toward emotionality.
Tends to develop intellectual abilities.
Aloofness developed. Unpopular
with other children.
Learns a lot, open to new ideas, tends
to reason, but does not understand
other children too well.
All-round development of the child. 26

The majority of childhood frustrations, then, are external, resulting


from the blocking of needs and desires by the imposition of external rules,
demands, and restrictions, and by the 'failure of adults to provide situations and relations that lead to the wholesome gratification of needs. We
can easily see why broken homes, working mothers or mothers too busily
occupied with social affairs, fathers who never find time for the children,
the only-child situation, severe punishment, rigid discipline, lack of
opportunities for play and free expression, lack of playmates, and poverty
26 Segel, D. Frustration in adolescent youth. Bull. 1951, No. 1. Washington: U.S.
Office of Education, pp. 29-30, Reprinted by permission. See the other studies also

report,d by Segcl, pp.

)()")l.

245

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


are prolific sources of frustration for the young child. Small wonder that
"warmth," acceptance, and permissiveness figure ~o prominently in current therapeutic efforts to reduce the effects of c~ronic frustration. 27

Frustrations in Adolescence

,\

Many of these childhood frustrations are carried lover into adolescence,


but there are motivational changes that alter the picture. Adolescents,
too, are affected by interference with independence, school failures, sex
patterning, and the like. Yet there is noticeable a shift from external to
internal frustrations. The adolescent is more subject than the child to
mental conflicts revolving around sex desires, the need for experience,
moral principles, social expectations, and the needs for conformity, recognition, and social approva}.28 He is more clearly conscious of his personal
limitations, particularly when they have social implications, and he is
more likely to be seriously affected by the lack of achievement. On the
threshold of adult responsibilities, the adolescent is yet denied the privileges of holding a job, voting, joining the armed forces as a volunteer,
living. away from home, or getting married. In other words, plagued with
a growing number of internal frustrations, the adolescent is also faced
with new restrictioI).s and regulations to which the young child is seldom
subjected. For these reasons, adolescence is often singled out as a 'period
of considerable stress and conflict, when both internal and external frustrations reach their peak. Because of immaturity and lack of experience,
the average youth is poorly equipped to deal efficiently with frustrations.
His intellectual, moral, and social perspectives and values have not developed sufficiently to help him resolve conflicts and frustrations in an
efficient and wholesome manner. Thus in adolescence the groundwork
is often laid for maladjustments that appear ,later in adulthood.

Frustrations in Adulthood
Adulthood brings with it its own store of frustrations, both internal and
external, m~inly because of increasing responsibilities:-- :Added to the
personal frustrations that arise from conflicts, and the chronic failure to
gratify needs and desires, are the stresses and threats associated with
vocational and marital responsibilities. In marriage, the possibilities of
frustration are legion; it is not surprising to find.a high incidence of maladjustment among married couples. Imagine the depth of frustration and
threat that resuits from wanting children and not being able to have
21 See Seashore, H. G., & Bavelas, A. A study of frustrationin children. J. gen.
Psychol., 1942, 61, 279-314. A great deal of the li~r.ature cited previously with
regard to parent-child relations, delinquency, broken 'homes, and so forth, provides
additional material on frustration in childhood.
28 For a good discussion of this point, see SegeL Op. cit., Sec. VI, especially

p~.

34--38.

246

The Process of Adjustment


them; or, conversely, having too many children, closely spaced! In the
sexual sphere, too, marriage, which is supposed to provide opportunities
for normal and wholesome expression of sexual desire, often leads to the
most serious frustrations and conflicts, because of fear of pregnancy,
sexual immaturity, or inhibitions stemming from childhood and adolescence. In addition, the young housewife is often frustrated in her social
inclinations, in her desire for freedom of expression and activity, or in
her ~mbition to achieve a high level of efficiency in homemaking; while
the husband is frustrated in his desires for male companionship, participation in sports, and freedom in the use of family funds. These are only a
few of the numerous possibilities that could be cited; but they are good
examples of the kinds of frustration that the responsibilities of marriage
bring in their wake. Later on (Chapter Sixteen), we shall discuss the
problem of marital adjustment more fully and present other examples
of frustration.
The frustrations and tensions of marriage are similar in many respects
to those associated with a job or a career, since both marriage and vocations impose demands and restrictions that cannot always be handled
successfully. T~e limitations of a job may seriously frustrate functions
and abilities, as when a person with good intellectual capacity is required
by circumstances to do work far below his natural abilities. Or ambition
may be frustrated and goals blocked either because the vocational situation does not afford opportunities or because the vocation is not suited
to a person's ambition. The facetious remark that all dentists are frustrated doctors, and all psychologists frustrated psychiatrists, while not
necessarily true, serves nevertheless to exemplify the possibilities of
vocational frustration. Sometimes, too, in the vocational sphere, there is
a great deal of frustration of beliefs, attitudes, and convictions. The
progressive-minded teacher, -for example, may find himself in a school
or a community w:here his convictions are frowned upon and his methods
n<5t tolerated by the school board or the principal. The young social
wor~er, fresh from professional school, may find scant opportunity to
put jnto practice the new ideas and theories propounded by her teachers.
Here again you can set! that there are many possibilities for frustration,
s<lme of which can seriously affect the personal and vocational adjustments
of i~Qividual workers.
We must take note also of the serious frustrations that occur because
of impediments or failures in work and marriage. For the majority of
adults, both work and marriage are necessary to adequate adjustment;
therefore, when illness, injury, forced retirement, divorce, separation, or
spinsterhood make either one or both impossible, frustration is the inevitable outcome. It is largely through the medium of work that persons
utilize their time and efforts productively, realize ambitions, express their
talents and capacities effectively, and gratify t~ needs for achievement,

,tJ

247

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


status, security, and recognition. For most men, there is nothing so frus.,.
trating and threatening as forced idleness, ~hatever the cause; and .it is
small wonder that the practice of retirement brin~s so many problems of
adjustment. Any effective program of mental hygiene and psychotherapy
must seek the elimination of idleness and provide \opportunities for pro,;
ductive effort, regardless of the age or condition of the person. The need
for such programs is highlighted by the emphasi~ put on occupational
therapy in mental hospitals and by the increasing interest shown in recent
years in the problems of adjustment posed by the aged. 29
Even greater than the frustrations of forced idleness are the frustrations caused by impediments to marital happiness. While there are some
people who successfully sublimate natural desires for children, st;xual
gratification, and companionship, by means of special vocations, they
are relatively few; and certainly this number does not include those who
have failed at marriage or who have been forced into a state of "single
blessedness." Any person who fails to find a mate, or to keep one, is
frustrated, no matter how adept he is at ,sublimation or rationalization;
and this frustration, which is always serious because of the character of
the motivations involved, will be reflected in personal characteristics and
behavior. Nature, it is said, will not b(i, denied or mocked. Where marital
inadequacy exists, there is small chance of mental stability or wholesome
adjustment. Only if one's life and work are dominated by the highest ideals
and spiritual goals can this pitfall be avoided.
That these typical adolescent and adult frustrations involve seripus
threat to the integrity of the self and the self-ideal is a fact that requires
little emphasis. For the adolescent faced with the intense moral conflicts
engendered by sexual desires; for the young housewife subjected to the
stresses of family life; or for the older person who is informed that his
usefulness has ended, there can be no more serious threat to the structure
of the self. In the face of such damaging frustrations, it is almost psychologically impossible to escape the development of avoidant, defense, or
escape mechanisms. Once the inner integrity of th6-self-concept IS
breached, the road ~o maladjustment is laid wide open.
~,

Characteristics Associated v;ith Frustration


Whenever subjective frustration develops, that is, the feeling of being
frustrated, the person shows several typical characteristics. Prominent
among them are tenseness, stiffness, and rigidity. Marital and vocational
failures evoke these characteristics in a striking manner. Frustration necessarily creates tension, and because it interferes with natqnll expression, it
causes the person to become stiff and rigid. ~]1~ responses, especially
29 For a good discussion of some of these problems in later adulthood, see
Gilbert, J. G. Understanding old age. New York: Ronald, 1953. See also Preston,
G. H. Should 1 retire? New York: Rinehart, 1952.

248

The Process of Adjustment


those that are in any way related to the cause of the frustration. Thus the
maritally frustrated person is tense and rigid with persons of the opposite
sex; in contacts with children, in discussIons about marriage, or in work
that repeatedly evokes the feeling of frustration. The degree of tension
and rigidity will be determined by the depth of the frustration, whether
it is\ chronic or merely temporary, and the kind of motivation involved.
Frustrations involving basic psychological needs, marital desires, or vocational aspirations are likely to be deep and chronic and may be expected
to produce considerable tension and rigidity.
Frustrations are also characterized by a strong emotional quality,
which serves to reinforce the subjective feeling of frustration. Both the
hindrances involved and the resulting tension are unpleasant, and there
are likely to be other emotional concomitants such as irritability, annoyance, anger, resentment, envy, and jealousy. The quality of feeling will
vary with the nature of the frustration. Anger and aggression, for example, are common results of the frustration of needs in childhood,
whereas resentment, envy, or jealousy are familiar concomitants of adult
frustrations relating to work, marriage, or social position. In every instance, however, unpleasantness is the invariable component. so
Because frustrations represent failure and inadequacy, there is one
characteristic especially common to frustrated persons: a strong tendency
toward projection, the mechanism whereby one's failures and inadequacies
are attributed to a source outside oneself. This does not occur in every
instance of frustration, but it is likely to occur when the frustration
involves significant motivations. The student, for example, who is blocked
in his efforts to achieve a degree will tend to project his own inadequacies
onto the teachers, the school system, examinations, and so forth. Similarly, the housewife, frustrated in her desires for exciting romance, or
efficiency in homemaking, or freedom of action, will often find the causes
of her failures in her husband, too many children, or the unreasonable
demands of the marriage state. Other mechanisms may also be utilized to
take the edge off frustration, including sublimation, rationalization, and
a sour-grapes attitude, all of which serve to reduce the tension and unpleasantness associated with frustration (Chapter Eleven).

Frustration as Dynamic
In view of these characteristics and the nature of frustration itself, the
point is often made that frustration functions as a dynamic factor in the
determination of behavior. Whether this viewpoint is correct or not, it
is certainly true that frustration is an integral part of the series of events
that culminate in some form of overt expression. The initial and more
basic factor is the motivating condition; yet, without the frustration, this
so

See Symonds. Op. cit., p. 47--48.

249

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


particular culminating response would not occur.' Moreover, the frustration itself is dynamic in so far as it functions as a tendency within the
organism toward expression in the mental reactions lor the behavior of the
individual. 31 As we noted with respect to habit in the preceding chapter,
once the frustration is well established and becobes chronic, it tends
toward functional autonomYl and thereafter Willi influence various responses independently of its motivational origins. I

Signs of Frustration
The dynamics of frustration may be expected to lead to the development
of symptomatic behavior or external signs that betray its existence. Some
of these manifestations are very common and well known, especially
since everyone experiences frustration at one time or another in the
course of his daily strivings. When, for example, you wait interminably
for someone to answer your phone call, you know what happens. You
begin to doodle or scribble. These are meaningless responses occasioned
by the inability to do anything else in a completely frustrating situation.
Here one can detect, too, the presence of annoyance, anger, and similar
emotional reactions. Sometimes these ,meaningless responses are actually
behavioral explorations, which function as an effort to break out of a
frustrating situation. Similar to these responses is stereotypy, or, the meaningless repetition of responses, as exemplified in the endless pacing back
and forth of a person completely frustrated in his efforts to solv~ a
problem. The expectant father often manifests this kind of behavior because of his complete inability to help in any way.
Another thing likely to happen in cases of frustration is emotional
disrzcption, ,leading to explosive discharge of tensions and pent-up feelings,
or to confusion. A small child, frustrated i~ his efforts to reach a toy,
may suddenly burst into tears or loud wailing until the situation is
changed in his favor. An adolescent girl, denied the privilege of dating
or staying but late at a party, angrily rejects the wiSer-der;~ns of her
parents. Where the motivation is little understood and the usual expressions of frustration are unavailable, there is likely to be emotional confusion, involving simultaneous sti~ulation ,of feelings such as anger,
annoyance, envy, jeal~usy, or anxiety. In much the same way as abnormal
conflict precludes rational deliberation or thinking about a problem, so
alOn this point;""see Mohsin, S. M. Effect of frustration on problem-solving
behavior. J. abno,rk. /b~. Psychol., 1954, 49, 152-155; Filer, R. J. Frustration, satisfaction, and other ,fictors affecting the attractiveness ot,goal objects. J. abnorm. soc.
Psychol., 1952,~47: 203-212; Hartley, H. S. Confiict,'ftustration, and fatigue. Psychosom. Med., 1943, 5, 158-172; Child, I. I., & Waterhouse, I. K. Frustration and the
quality of performance: I. A critique of the Barker, Dembo, and Lewin experiment.
Psychol. Rev;, 1952, 59, 351-362.

250
,: )

The Process of Adjustment


frustration makes it difficult to express feelings in a normal and wholesome manner.
Emotional disruption is reflected, in part, in the unusual energy and
the almost dogged application to tasks that characterize the frustrated
person. 32 Vocationally and _ maritally frustrated persons usually show
these qualities. The devotion of the spinster to her work and the ceaseless
social activity of the childless wife are good illustrations. Because frustration sets off emotional reactions that cannot find normal expression, the
energy of these reactions is expressed in excessive activity of one kind or
another. Devotion to work serves this purpose also, and in addition it
helps to reduce the feeling of frustration through the sense of accomplishment that work produces. This does not mean, of course, that all
persons showing a great deal of energy and serious application to duty
are frustrated, any more than calm deliberation always indicates conflict.
However, we must recognize that in many such instances, it is neither
drive nor high purpose that motivates energetic application or accomplishment, but rather the existence and dynamics of a deep-seated frustration.
It is to be expected, of course, that frustrations, particularly those
that resist all efforts at reduction, will often lead to acceptance of. failure,
and that chronic frustration will generate a habit of easily giving up.
The attitude, so often observed, of "'what's the use, I couldn't succeed no
matter how hard I tried" is a clear sign of chronic frustration. Domineering or perfectionistic parents who never afford children the opportunity
of achievement or who fail to recognize ability and effort are often the
cause of these damaging attitudes. For this reason, the imposition of adult
standards on the efforts and aspirations Of children can lead to the most
detrimental effects on adjustment. Once the conviction is established that
no amount of effort will serve to overcome obstacles to achievement,
success, affection, or any other goal or quality of mind, the sense of
frustration becomes an integral part of the mental structure, and there is
little hope that the demands of reality or of inner strivings can be met in
an efficient, wholesome manner.
It is small wOl1der that chronically frustrated people show reluctance
to assume responsibility. The conviction that certain failure is in store for
them regardless of the degree of effort expended causes them to shy away
from tasks or positions that involve serious resp~nsibility. The willingness
to accept responsibility is always- determined in part by the inner conviction that one possesses the abilities and personal qualities to meet what32 Compare the concept of "flight into reality" described in Steckle, L. C. Problems of buman adjustment. New York: Harper, 1949, p. 45. Symonds states bluntly
that "the person who burns the most energy in some enterprise is the person most
frustrated."-Symonds, P. M. Dynamic psycbology. New York: Appleton-Centuryerof". 1949. p. 58. R,p"",d by l~m",,;on.
~
251

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


ever demands arise, and also that the cards are not stacked against one.
H a student graduating from high school were c;onvinced that he had
reached the upper limits of educational achievement, there is little chance
that he would undertake the responsibilities of a Qollege education. Responsibilities demand ability, effort, and achievem~nt, which a sense of
frustration can block very effectively. Thus we qm understand why a
frustrated housewife and mother, convinced that ,success in marriage is
unattainable, develops fatigue, headache, bachache, and similar symptoms,
so that she can dodge the responsibilities that the marriage state imposes.
Results of Frustration
As our last illustration suggests, frustration is often the springboard for
the development of maladjustive behavior. 'I7he child frustrated by school
adopts the simple expedient of truancy; the adolescent who is denied
recognition or status turns to delinquency; the adult frustrated in the
realization of personal ambitions drifts from one job to another until
there are no jobs left for him. Aggressiqn, antisocial behavior, destructiveness, escape or defense mechanisms, hostility, crime, and similar
symptomatic responses are often outcomes of the frustration of basic
needs, motives, and goals. One can se~ the importance and the necessity
of understanding the phenomenon of frustration in all its different aspects.
It can tip the scale toward normality or abnormality, adjustment or
maladjustment.
Frustration Tolerance
From what has been said about frustration one might get the impression
that it must inevitably lead to personality disorder or symptom formation.
That this is not so was suggested earlier in our distinction between objective and subjective frustration, where we intimated that it is the subjective,
emotional, and chronic reaction to objective, frustration that is significant
for adjustment and mental health. It should be clear thauome frustration
is unavoidable, simply because it is impossible in our socieryand culture,
and with our personal limitations, to secure the gratificatiori of all needs,
to realize all personal ambitions, goals, and ideals, or to avoid all stresses
and strains. For every motivation there are many internal or external
barriers that stand in the way of fulfillment, and it would require an
excision of most human motivations or a complete revamping of our
society and culture before the majority of frustrations could 'be eliminated.
There are many causes of tension and d,istress: ql':tarrels, misunderstandings, loneliness, rain on Sunday, furmi~ fire going out during a
cold snap, defeat, failure, handicaps, a stalled car, a mosquito circling
the pillow, accidents, sickness, shocks, waiting for a phone booth, longwinded speakers, traumas, bereaven:~g,t, being cut in on when you're

252

The Process of Adjustment


dancing with the adorable one, boredom, "standing room only," "the
line is busy," incompetent help, unpaid bills, no letter in the mail, not
being invited, breaking one's glasses, broken promises, ants at a picnic,
pain, etc. Every human being has to face such hardships. The mature
person develops frustration tolerance, inuring himself to upsetting
events so that they do not disturb him overmuch. 33

frustrations, once they exist, cannot always be reduced; and therefore, 'to maintain emotional tranquillity and peace of mind, some degree of
frustration tolerance is necessary. Frustration tolerance means simply the
capacity to accept inevitable frustrations, as against trying to overcome'
them or reacting to them in a subjective, emotional, or damaging way.
Cameron and Magaret define tolerance for stress and frustration as "the
ability to endure pressure, delay, thwarting and conflict without developing maladaptive reactions."34 According to Rosenzweig, "frustration
tolerance may be defined as an individual's capacity to withstand frustration without failure of psychobiological adjustment, i.e., without resorting to inadequate modes of response. In its broadest implications the
concept is related to resistance in the medical sense."35
Obviously, the person deprived of an arm or hand simply cannot
become a surgeon no matter how much he wants to; the youngster with
poor eyesight cannot become an aviator; the child whose father dies
cannot have the love of both natural parents. There are countless instances
like these, some of major and others of minor significance, some temporary
and some permanent; but all of them make frustration inevitable. It is
therefore important to appreciate that a certain degree of frustration
tolerance is an essential part of adequate adjustment and mental health.
Both lack of frustration and too much frustration are inimical to good
adjustment and stand in the way of the development of frustration tolerance. Indulgent, lenient, and overprotective parents are the primary
causes of the first difficulty. The only way to learn how to live with frustrations is to experience them, and sooner or later the parents can no
longer stand between the child and reality, can no longer provide gratifications for every need and impulse or protect the child from the realities
of daily life. 36 Then lack of experience in dealing with frustration is going
to have a damaging effect. Learning to accept or to cope with frustrations
33 Vaughan, W. F. Personal and social adjustment. New York: Odyssey, 1952,
p. 49. Reprinted by permission.
34 Cameron, N., & Magaret, A. Behavior pathology. Boston: Houghton Mifflin,
1951, p. 50. Reprinted by permission.
35 Rosenzweig, S. An Outline of Frustration Theory. In Hunt, J. MeV. (Ed.) Personality and the behavior disorders. New York: Ronald, 1944, I, 385. Reprinted by
permission.
36 See Hybl, A. R., & Stagner, R. Frustration to]anee in relation to diagnosis
and therapy. f. consult. Psychol., 1952, 16, 163-170.
,

.'

253

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


is as much a part of growing into maturity as learning how to speak and
write; without such learning there is little chance10f dealing adequately
with the demands of self or of reality. Rosenzweig, goes so far as to suggest that frustration tolerance might even provide, \
a working definition of the difference between the psychotic-in whom
a generalized low frustration tolerance would 'be said to obtain; the
neurotic-in whom certain circumscribed areas of low frustration tolerance (complexes) might be posited; and the normal individual-in whom
relatively high frustration tolerance would usually be found throughout
the personality.37

In their experimental study of frustration tolerance, Hybl and Stagner


found that normal subjects and schizophrenics showed high frustration
tolerance, and in this respect were significantly different from neurotics, alcoholics, and psychopaths. 38 These results partly conflict with Rosenzweig's formula, even though the low frustration tolerance of neurotics
is in the expected direction. The- unexpected high tolerance of the
schizophrenics is explained by Hybl and Stagner as attributable to a
drastic restriction of the phenomen~l field. The schizophrenic "denies
that it is important for him to succeed on the task, he also denies that it
matters if he fails. By drastically restricting his phenomenal field, he
protects himself against any disturbance."39 This interpretation is probably
correct, since frustration cannot exist when the necessary conditions
,
I
of frustration are removed.
Excessive frustration inhibits learning of the kind necessary to adjustment. If a child is told occasionally that he cannot go out and play
because there is work to be done or if recognition is sometimes postponed
because of circumstances that cannot be avoided, the child can learn to
defer gratifications or even give them up altogether; but if he is continuously or repeatedly frustrated in his efforts to achieve gratification of
needs and 'desires, it is impossible for him to learn tolerance of frustration,
since no one can give up important desires all of ~time, Play, for
example, is natural and necessary to children; no child can accept giving
up play altogether, but he can learn to def~r such activity for a time, and
it is this learning that is important to adjustment. Where frustration of
important motivations is continuous, subjective frustration, rather than
frustration tolerance is the inevitable result.
Apart from those instances wherein circumstances pfeclud~ entirely
the realization of certain motives and desires, the essence of frustration
tolerance consists in tbe capacity to postpone,-action /~r satisfaction until
__,/-~

37 Rosenzweig, :S. Frustration as an experimental problem. VI. General outline of


frustration. Charact. .& Pers., 1938, _7, 153. Reprinted by permission.
38 Hybl, '& Stagner. Op. cit., p. 170.
39 Ibid., p. 1~9.
"

254

The Process of Adjustment


opportunities are more favorable. When a child can say, "Okay, Mother,
I'll wait until next week, or next month, or next year for what I want,"
we know that he has reached a point where he can deal with frustrations
adequately. Frtfstration tolerance is a clear sign of maturity, and maturity,
we noted earlier (Chapter Four), is one of the most important criteria
of good adjustment. The important fact for personal maturity and wholesome adjustment is the realization that, from time to time, some activities
and gratifications must be deferred, and the realistic acceptance of this
fact is one of the best indicators of the ability to deal effectively with
demands that arise in the course of daily living.
We must, however, enter a note of caution. Too much frustration
tolerance can be as bad as too little. There are some persons who relinquish desires and activities too easily; they get into the habit of giving up,
which is one of the signs of frustration. After a while, rather than make
the effort, such persons regularly yield to restrictions, demands, or limitations imposed,on them and thus never learn the important lesson of reducing -frustrations. Where frustration tolerance is necessary to effective
adjustment, it is wholesome and beneficial; but where it is used to escape
from effort or to win the affection and esteem of others, it can be detrimental to both adjustment and maturity .

. Factors Determining Response to Frustration


Now we may ask, what determines the responses made to a frustrating
situation? 40 We know that there are many response possibilities-emotional
outburst, tolerance, symptomatic behavior, delinquency, and so on. But
'Yhy do people react in different ways, even when the motivations and
the situations are similar?
1. CHARACTER AND STRENGTH OF THE MOTIVATIONS. Some of the
factors involved in determining the outcomes of frustration we already
know. It is clear, for example, that the frustration-adjustment pattern
will be affected by the character and strength of the motivations involved.
Casual and insignificant motivations, when frustrated, will not affect behavior in a serious way, .while the blocking of needs such as the need for
affection and security almost certainly will adversely influence adjustment,
the effects depending always on the strength of the motivation. Even
ordinary desires, when strong enough, can cause behavior difficulties if
they are thoroughly frustrated. The outcom~e in such cases will depend a
great deal on the special meaning these desires have. To some persons,
clothes, social position, or amusement mean more than affection, security,
or achievement; hence the response to frustration is quite different from
what we would normally expect.
40 See Symonds. Op. cit., pp. 49-52. Maslow and Mittelmann list only three
factors determining the effects of frustration: (1) the degree of frustration, (2)
nature of the impulse that is frustrated, (3) personali~trucmre._op. cit., p. 64.

255

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


2. CHARACTER AND STRENGTH OF THE BARRIER. The kind of barrier or
privation causing frustration will affect responses to an important degree.
Children will react differently to parental discipliAe and restrictions than
to the regulations imposed by teachers or othe~ persons in authority.
In the one instance there may be frustration tolef~nce, in the other open
rebellion or aggression. It makes a difference w~o imposes frustrating.
conditions. Similarly, the restricting influence of moral principles may
be expected to affect responses differently than will social codes or cultural traditions. If, for example, sexual behavior is self-regulated in terms
of a wholesome morality, frustration will have little adverse effect on
adjustment; whereas a puritanical code of sexual behavior often produces
damaging effects on mental stability and adjustment. Here, too, the
strength of the barrier is important. Where parental, social, or internal
restrictions are completely unyielding, so that there is no possible alternative to frustration, the effects on behavior will be apparent. Maladjusted
persons often have a set of rigid codes and principles from which they
cannot allow the slightest deviation. In such cases, the outcome of frustration will include strong guilt feelings; scrupulosity, obsessions, compulsive behavior, anxiety, and phobias. These are but a few examples of
many that could be used to illustrate the effects on' adjustment of the
barriers and motivations that enter into a frustrating situation.
3. PSYCHOLOGICAL CONTEXT. The psychological context in which
frustration occurs is another important factor determining response to
frustrationY Where there is a high level of emotional security and
maturity, frustration is not likely to have a damaging effect. One can
readily see, for example, that a physical or mental privation like poor
eyesight, illness, or intellectual weakness ~ill be more frustrating and
cause maladjustment more quickly in the emotionally immature person
than in one who is emotionally stable. Similarly, the loss of one or both
parents in childhood can be adjusted to effectively by the emotionally
secure child, whereas it might precipitate a serious diso~rder in one already
insecure in his emotional relations.
- .~
4. PERSONALITY STRUCTURE. The factor of emotionaL security is
closely related to personality structure. We have pointed out several times
that adjustment is routed through personality, and therefore the peculiar
make-up of personality will condition the outcome of frustration. Included in personality structure are developmental level, organization of
motives, drives, attitudes, and sentiments, the extent of symbolic functioning, existence of predisposing factors, extent and influence of unconscious determinants, level of intellectual funcJ:ioning and self-determination, and fund of available habits. Thus, to~aKe one example, response
41

Segel cites a number of studies to point up this relationship .. See Segel. Op.

cit., Sec. V.

256

The Process of Adjustment

to frustration will be more adequate where there is a high level of intellectual functioning and self-determination than would be the case where
responses are determined by unconscious factors. The student who reacts
to academic failure by more intensive study is adjusting far more adequately than one who reacts with inferiority and the development of
compensatory mechanisms.
The degree of ego-involvement and ego-integrity will also affect
reactions to frustration. If, in the example just mentioned, academic
failure is regarded as a reflection of inherent personal weakness (egoinvolvemeryt), the effect on adjustment might be damaging. Referring to
the differences and similarities in the content of individual egos, Sherif
and Cantril point out,
These contents of the ego, these things, persons, ways of conducting
oneself, social norms of various kinds, provide for the individual the
standards of judgments or frames of reference which determine to such
an important degree his social behavior and reactions. And when any
stimulus or situation is consciously or unconsciously related to them by
the individual, we can say there is "ego-involvement." Thus, the ego in
its various capacities enters in as an important determinant which may
color, modify, or alter our experiences and behavior in almost any
situation. For our standards, our values, our goals and ambitions, our
ways of doing things have become involved. We feel elated, restricted,
gratified, supported, disturbed, or insecure, in these ego-involving situations.
This ego-involvement can and does range from what may be a
temporary moderate involvement in a laboratory experiment with some
task to be performed where we feel that somehow our capacities or
abilities are at stake, to complex social situations in which we feel involved, because of some threat to, or enhancement of, our position as a
member of some' gang, group, or class we identify ourselves with.42

Such possibilities make ego-integrity important also, because the integration of motives, attitudes, feelings, and so on into a well-knit organization
precludes, or at least offsets, the damaging effects of frustrations. In fact,
as we noted earlier in discussing the criteria of adjustment (Chapter
Four), personal integration is a necessary condition for the achievement
and maintenance of adjustment and mental health. Where this condition
obtains, frustration is not likely to evoke inadequate responses.
5. AVAILABILITY OF SUBSTITUTES. Finally, we may note that frustrations will be conditioned by the availability or lack of substitutes. If a
young lady~ frustrated in a love affair by the death or desertion of her
42 Sherif, M., & Cantril, H. The psychology of ~o-involvements. New York:
Wiley, 1947, pp. 117-118. Reprinted by permission.
.

,
I

257

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


fiance, can in a short while develop an interest In someone else or temporarily direct her energies and interests toward a satisfying activity, she
will make a good adjustment. But if no substituie is available, she will
probably become maladjusted. Similarly, the housewife who finds romance
in loving and caring for her husband and childr~n quickly offsets the
frustrations that inevitably arise in marriage. We Ihave' noted that frustrations of one kind or another are inevitable in the course of daily
existence. Where some of them are concerned, tolerance is the only
answer; but, in many instances, detrimental effects on adjustment can be
forestalled by being able to turn to a substitute, especially in situations
where tolerance is not easily developed. 43 We have said that adaptability
is one of the criteria of good adjustment, and making use of available
substitutes is merely a special instance of adaptability. Thus the student
who, failing to qualify for the study of medicine, elects a career in
dentistry or pharmacy is taking a long step toward the reduction of what
might have become a chronic frustration. Similarly, it is much better to
place a child who has lost his parents in a boarding home than to commit him to an institution for child care. IIi many crucial situations involving frustrations, some kind of substitution is possible, and good mental
hygiene requires' that we avail ourselves of this possibility in order to
offset the damaging effects of frustration.
We must emphasize, however, a point mentioned earlier in this discussion-substitution itself can be detrimental to wholesome adjustment.
This paradox arises because the concept of substitution can mean several
things. First of all, there is the kind of substitution described above, one
in which the alternative is related to the motivation. in a manner essentially
similar to the original. A child normally derives affection from the parents;
but it is quite possible to gratify this need 3;lso through the affection of
foster parents, in which case there may be no impairment of adjustment.
When, however, the gratification of needs and motives is achieved through
the medium of substitutes that have only a symbolic relation to the motivation, the ~ubstitution can be very damaging. Fail{ll.ein-..,a.mievement
may lead to rationalization or egocentrism, lack of recogniti_on to delinquency, insecurity to excessive daydreaming, the blocking of affection
to aggression and hostility. One can see that there is a great difference
between these two kinds of substitution, the on!! promoting adjustment,
and the other leading to maladjustment and mental disturbance.
OUTCOMES- OF FRUSTRATION: VARIED RESPONSE AND SOLUTION

I
The Principle of Varied Response
_;~When we outlined the basic pattern of adjustment earlier, we pointed
out that varied response is one way of trying to achieve gratification of
43

See' ,the section on adjustment by substitution in Chap. Ten.

258

The Process of Adjustment


needs or reduction of the tension produced by frustration. As we said,
varied response is nothing more than the exploration of different response
possibilities that may serve to reduce tension. These responses may be
overt or symbolic, depending on such factors as degree of learning,
tendencies toward symbolic functions, character of frustration, and so on.
Overt responses are objective and behavioral in character and are usually
the product of learning. For this reason, learning is basic to the process of
adjustment, since it supplies various possibilities for util~zing the principles of varied response. An infant frustrated by hunger can only cry
or writhe, whereas an adult has at his command a number of .behavioral
possibilities for the reduction or control of the frustration. Thus varied
response bears a direct relation to the efficiency of adjustment and is the
mechanism by which effective substitution is often made. In many frustrating situations, the organism, by the simple expedient of trial and
error, hits upon a solution that is satisfying and efficient' and thereby
effects an adjustment that otherwise would have been impossible. 44 This
process is analagous to experimental research, where various hypotheses
are subjected to experimental tryout until the problem is solved.
In frustrating situations where expressive behavior is precluded or
unavailable because of deficiency in learning, the organism turns to
symbolic responses for the reduction of tension. Thus the child deprived
of a playmate falls back on daydreaming and fantasy thinking and creates
a dreamworld of his own, peopled with the playmates he needs to gratify
his wishes. Symbolic functioning is often expressed in overt behavior,
too, but the behavior is only indirectly related to the motivation. The
normal person with soiled hands "adjusts" to the situation by washing
them, whereas the hand-washing compulsion of some neurotics is a
symbolic expression of unconscious guilt. Symbolic functioning, then,
may express itself in various mental symptoms like obsessions, delusions,
and fantasy thinking; or it may take the form of overt responses exemplified in compulsive behavior, mannerisms, and the like.
The theory has been developed that frustration invariably leads to
one form of response-aggression;45 but since this theory was originally
put forth, numerolis other investigators have found that the response to
frustration assumes many different forms, ranging from subjective feelings
of inferiority, guilt, and shame, to regression, personality disorganization,
and overt aggression. In some instances it. has been found that frustration
even leads to increased effort an9-to an increase of efficiency in cognitive
functions. 46 Some of the moore important findings have been brought
See the section on adjustment by trial and error in Chap. Ten.
Dollard, J. et al. Frustration and aggression. New Haven: Yale Univer. Press,
1939. See also the discussion of aggression in Chap. Twelve.
46 Barker, R. The effect of frustration upon cognitive ability. Charact. & Pers.,
44

45

19)8, 7, 145-150.

2$9

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


together in Table IV.41 Important to note is that frustration of itself does
not necessarily lead to undesirable or maladaptive response. The outcome, as we have already noted, will vary with th~ different determinants
that influence frustration.
,

The Solution: Adjustive versus Unadjustive Reactions to Frustration


The process of adjustment, which begins with niotivation and involves
conflict, stress, and frustration, is terminated by some response that serves
to reduce the frustration and the motivation that underlies it. This response constitutes the solution. In perhaps the majority of instances of
human behavior, the solution hit upon is adequate for the purposes of
adjustment. Frustration is satisfactorily reduced, tension disappears, the
response is efficient and socially and morally acceptable, and there is no
damage to personality or to mental and emotional stability. In, many other
instances, far too numerous for the welfare of society, the response to
frustration is not adjustive in the good sense of the term, as some of the
entries in Table IV clearly indicate. In place of efficient, wholesome, and
satisfying responses, there occur such 'reactions as rage, withdrawal,
worry, anxiety, delinquency, lying, nail-biting, enuresis, psychosomatic
disorders, and a host of other symptomatic reactions that are detrimental
to personality, mental health, and emotional stability. These are the nonadjustive and maladjustive reactions to frustration to which Chapters
Eleven through Fourteen are devoted.

Criteria of Adequate Solution


What are the qualities by which a response to frustration can be judged
as adequate or adjustive? The answer to this question should take us still
further toward an understanding of the adjustment process. 48 First of all,
responses should produce adequate gratification; that is, they should make
possible the expression of needs and motives, and thus reduce frustration,
in a manner that is personally, socially, and morally acceptable. Secondly,
they should be economical, which means they shoura-not....Q~~rtax the
resources of the organism to the point where there is damage to personality, behavior, integration, or mental health. Thirdly, these responses
should lead to increase of maturity, and a higher degree of personality
integration. And, finally, the adequacy of response can be judged by the
extent to which it brings the person into adequate relation with himself
../
__ ....

J-~

'

-_.--'"':":.':.......-/.
47 Other statements of reaction to-frustration will be found in Sears, R. R. Ef.
fects of frustration and anxiety on fantasy aggression. Amer. J. Orthopsychiat., 1951,
21,498-505; Sargent, S. S. Reaction to frustration-a critiq_ue and hypothesis. Psychol.
Rev., 1948, 55, 108-114; Frederiksen, N. The effects~f. frustration on negativistic
behavior <;If. young children. }. gen. Psychol., 1942, 61, 203-226.
48 On the difficulties of evaluating adjustment, see Snygg & Combs. Op. cit., pp.
114-115. See also Page. Op. cit., p. 37; Symonds. Op. cit., pp. 6~7.
/'

260

The Process of Adjustment


TABLE IV

Outcomes of and Reactions to Frustration


INVESTIGATOR

OUTCOMES OF FRUSTRATION

Dollard, et al.*

Aggression-later modified to include other responses

(1939)
Britt and Janust

(1940)
Rosenzweigt

(1944)
Page

(1947)

Korner II

(1949)
Symonds #

( 1949)

Thorpe u

(1950)
Segeltt
(1951 )

Aggression-withdrawal- regression-resistance-anger
-guilt and remorse-shame and embarrassment
Need-persistive and ego-defensive reactions, the latter sub'divided into extrapunitive, intropunitive,
and imp unitive responses
Direct approach (increased effort, variation in attack,
change of goals )-feelings of inferiority-aggressive behavior-mental mechanisms-mental symptoms
Hostility-compliance-evasion-withdrawal-inhibition-regression-rationalization-acceptance
Aggression and rage-Iearning-withdrawing-resignation-fantasy-repeating behavior-abandoning
of goal-regression-personality disorganization
-"social outcomes"
Ego-defensive (autocorrective) reactions-hostile reactions-symbolic (neurotic) reactions-insulation-aggressive behavior
Aggression-regression-fixation

.. Dollard, J. et al. Frustration '(Ind aggression. New Haven: Yale Univer. Press,
1939.

t Britt, S. H.,

& Janus, S. Q. Criteria of frustration. Psychol. Rev., 1940, 47, 451-

459.
:j: Rosenzweig, S. An outline of frustration theory. In Hunt, J. MeV. (Ed.) Personality and the behavior disorders. New York: Ronald, 1944, I, 379-388.
Page, J. D. Abnormal psychology. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1947, pp. 33-37.
II Korner, A. F: Some aspects of hostility in children. New York: Grune & Stratton, 1949, p. 93.
.
# Symonds, P. M. Dynamic psychology. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts,
1949, pp. 58-66.
U
Thorpe, L. P. The psychology of mental health. New York: Ronald, 1950,
pp. 43--44, 50-60, 108-110.
tt Segel, D. Frustration in adolescent youth. Bull. 1951, No. 1. Washington:
U.S. Office of Education, 1951, pp. 25-28.

251

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


and with reality.49 These criteria of adequate response should be compared with the criteria of adjustment and mental health described in
Chapter Four and with the characteristics of nornral adjustment outlined
in the following chapter.
,

A Psychological Criterion of Adjustment

'I

There are, of course, several standards by which to judge human responses, but, in formulating a basic psychological criterion, we wish to
restrict ourselves to those that are strictly psychological. For example, the
ethical criterion determines the goodness or badness of actions in terms
of their conformity with moral stanqards; and, although morality is
important to wholesome adjustment, it is not the business of the psychologist to evaluate behavior from a moral standpoint. What we can do is
point out that immorality is detrimental to good adjustment, for exactly
the same psychological reasons that other forms of conduct are detrimental. This means, therefore, that human responses can be evaluated
from a psychological as well as an ethical !viewpoint. Bad conduct, from
the moral point of view, is sinful; from the psychological point of view,
it is maladjustive. Quite often the sinful and the maladjustive are identical,
as in lying or extramarital sexual intercourse. But this 'is not always true,
'since there are many responses, such as bed-wetting, nail-biting, anxiety,
obsessions, and functional paralysis, that have no moral tail1t, yet are
clearly maladjustive. It is this fact that makes it necessary to define a
psychological criterion of adjustment.
The essential psychological feature of wholesome adjustment may be
identified as integrated response at both the mental and behavioral level;
therefore, adjustment can be evaluated psychologically in terms of tbe
degree to which integrated responses are d~veloped and utilized in the
interest "of resolving the demands of self and reality for tbe achievement
of mental health and the more complete expression of personality.
SUMMARY

Having defined the nature, conditions, and dynamics of adjustment,


we undertook in this chapter the analysis Qf the process of adjustment
itself. We began by showing h9w motivations cause tension and disequilibrium in the organism and how the demands of reality impose the
necessity of adjustive response, whi~h we defined succinctly as a process
by which tbe internal demands of motivation are brought into harmonious
relation with the external demands of reality. Unsuccesstul efforts in this

Bar~m

Accordi/g~-these ~uthors,

49 See Kaplan &


.. Op. cit., p. 373.
"in psychological terms, adjustmen(involves a realistic orientation toward five major spheres of
living. These are the ....philosophical, intellectual, emotional, social, and dynamic
aspects of life."

262

The PTocess of Adjustment

direction cause maladjustment. In terms of these relations, we described


the basic pattern of adjustment, which includes motivation, frustration,
varied response, and solution; and, since motivation had already been
studied, we undertook to analyze the three remaining elements.
Under the heading of frustration, we discussed its nature, definition,
types, conditions, characteristics, and outcomes. We defined frustration
as the subjective reaction to the blocking or hindrance of significant behavior or motivation that leads to interference with adequate and effective
adjus~ment. The quality of frustration varies with different types, internal
and I?ersonal frustrations being generally more significant than those that
are impersonal, a point illustrated by a careful analysis of different kinds"
of frustration and of the factors that determine the essential quality of
frustration. At this point, we noted that frustration often functions as a
threat to the gratification of vital needs or to concepts and values regarding the self. Either way, it is a serious impediment to adjustment. The
study ,?f typical frustrations in childhood, adolescence, and adulthood
helped to clarify the nature and types of frustration.
The characteristics and signs of frustration include tenseness, rigidity,
strong affective quality, unpleasantness, a tendency toward projection,
stereotypy, meaningless responses, emotional disruption, unusual energy!
acceptance of failure, and reluctance to assume responsibility. These
characteristics indicate that frustration, when not adequately resolved,
may lead to maladjustment. We also indicated, however, the possibility
and the necessity of frustration tolerance, especially where frustration is
unavoidable or cannot be reduced. This ability to defer or relinquish
gratifications, which is important to adequate adjustment and is a definite
sign of maturity, is conditioned by several factors, particularly lack of
frustration experience and excessive 'frustration, both of which are detrimental to good adjustment. Similarly, we noted that tolerance, carried to
an extreme, is detrimental because it leads to acceptance of failure.
We next considered factors that influence response to frustration. Of
major importance are strength of motivation, quality and strength of the
barrier causing frustration, psychological context in which it occurs, and
availability of sribs-titute responses. Each one of these factors was analyzed
for its effects on the outcomes of frustration.
In our study of the outcomes of frustration, we analyzed the concept
of varied response, which was interpreted is the exploration of different
response possibilities that may _serve to reduce frustration. Some of these
responses are overt and result mostly from learning, and others are symbolic, in which case the behavior is only indirectly related to motivation. We noted that many of the outcomes of frustration are symbolic
responses. The election or adoption of an overt or symbolic response
constitutes the solution, which may be adjustive or nonadjustive. For
determining the quality of the solution, we ittified several criteria of

,tJ

263

Nature and Conditions of Adjustment


adequate solution, which include adequacy of gratification, economy of
response, increase of maturity, personality integration, and adequacy of
relation with self and reality. On the basis of tI\is analysis and of the
criteria for adjustment described in Chapter Four, we formulated a
general psychological criterion, which emphasii~d integrated response
as the essential feature of wholesome adjustment. I

QUESTIONS, EXERCISES, AND PROJECTS

1. Discuss and evaluate three different meanings of frustration. In terms

of this evaluation, criticize the definition of frustration in the text.


2. What is the frustration-aggression hypothesis? Explain and criticize.
3. Compare and evaluate Maier's and Dollard's books on frustration.
4. Define the relation between the phenomenon of frustration and the
reality principle.
S. What is meant by "varied response?? Explain its implications for
adjustment.
6. What is the difference between subjective and objective frustration?
Between personal and impersonal frustration? How do they differ
regarding their effects on adjustment?
7. What are some of the factors that condition frustration? Exemplify.
8. Discuss the characteristics and signs of frustration with particular
reference to their significance for adjustment.
9. Explain the concept of frustration tolerance. What are its values and
limitations?
10. Compare the effect of external barriers ~nd psychological context on
the responses resulting from frustration.
11. In what manner are substitute responses important to adjustment?
Are all ~ubstitute responses beneficial to adjusrmentFWhy..?_
12. What are the criteria of adequate solution to frustration? How do
they compare with the criteria of adjustment outlined in Chapter.
Four?
'
13. Compare and evaluate the ethical and psychological criteria' of human
conduct.

SELECTED READINGS

Frustration and regression: an experiment with young children. Iowa City, Iowa: Univer. of ,Iowa Press,

BARKER, R., DEMBO, T., & LEWIN, K.

1941.
264

The Process of Adjustment


& MAGARET, A. Behavior pathology. Boston: Houghton
Mifflin, 1951. Chap. II.
DOLLARD, ]., et al. Frustration and aggression. New Haven: Yale Univer.
Press, 1939.
K.APLAN, L., & BARON, D. Mental hygiene and life. New York: Harper, 1952.
Chap. X.
MAlER, N. R. F. Frustration: the study of behavior without a goal. New
York: McGraw-Hill, 1949.
MIKESELL, W. H., & HANSON, G. Psychology of adjustment. New York: Van
Nostrand, 1952. Chap. l.
SAPPENFIELD, B. R. Personality dynamics. New York: Knopf, 1954.
Chap. IV.
SEGEL, D. Frustration in adolescent youth. Bull. 1951, No. 1. Washington:
u.s. Office of Education, 1951.
SHAFFER, L. F. The psychology of adjustment. Boston: Houghton Mifflin,
1936. Chap. V.
SHERMAN, M. Basic problems of behavior. New York: Longmans, Green,
1941. Chap. II.
SYMONDS, P. M. Dynamic psychology. New York: Appleton-CenturyCrofts, 1949. Chap. III.

CAMERON, N.,

265

PART

THREE

Patterns of .Adjustment

~ TEN

NORMAL ADJUSTMENT 'PATTERNS


Variety of adjustments to individual problems. Continuum of adjustment
processes. Characteristics of normal adjustments. Types of adjustment: by
direct, frontal attack; by exploration; by trial and error; by substitution; by
exploitation of personal capabilities; by learning; by inhibition and selfcontrol; by intelligent planning. Nature of psychological mechanisms. Characteristics of adjustment mechanisms. Determinants of psychological mechanisms. Varieties of adjustment mechanisms.

THE QUALITY OF ADJUSTMENT

Variety of Adjustments to Individual Problems


The concept of varied response described in the preceding chapter suggests that for any single problem arising in the course of human experience, there may be several or even many possibilities for solution. The
issue depends on experience in the handling of problems, availability of
substitute responses, adaptability, level of maturity, and so on. Some of
these responses are normal and adequate and thus fulfill the criteria of
good adjustment; others are abnormal or maladjustive and contribute to
the breakdown of personality and mental health and to the disruption of
the relations between the individual and reality. Suppose, for example,
that a boy's father is offered a position in another city, which would involve a change of residence for the entire family. This means breaking
up old and cherished friendships, changing schools, learning to live in a
new and strange environment, relinquishing family ties, finding new
playmates, and so on. A situation like this can be very frustrating and
may lead to a number of adjustment problems. Whether or not it does
will depend, of course, on the -reactions it provokes, and it is these reactions that determine the quality of adjustment. The boy could, for
example,
Accept the change in a spirit of adventure.
Plead with his father not to accept the position.

Become

,,~gned to ,

,itu,uon om which ~h" no control.


269

Patterns of Adjustment
Accept the situation in a mature and realistic' fashion.
Elect to remain in his home town and live with relatives.
~efuse to make the change.
'I
Fail in school subjects as a protest against the change.
pevelop resentment, hostility: and aggression. \
Become moody and depressed.
Exploit his mother's reluctance to make the ch~nge.
Rejoice over his father's good fortune in getting a better position.
Develop hysterical symptoms in an effort to prevent the change.
Threaten self-destruction if forced to change residence.
Accuse his father of ruining his life.
Develop symptomatic disorders that would preclude the change of
residence.

The possibilities are numerous, and no one can tell beforehand what the
outcome is going to be. But it is clear that some of these reactions will
promote good adjustment, and others will just as surely lead to difficulties .in adjustment. The question then arises ~hether the quality of adjustment
varies in a straight line or whether it is discontinuous. In other words, is
all adjustment (good and bad) essentially the same, varying only in degree
or in accidental characteristics? Or are adjustment processes discrete, so
that we can draw a sharp line of demarcation between those that are normal and wholesome and those that are abnormal or maladjustive 10
character?

Continuum of Adjustment Processes


The question of the essential nature of adjustment is more than academic
in its implications and not easy to answer ,conclusively. Its significance
lies in the fact that the precise quality of adjustl,nent has a lot to do wi~h
the essential nature of adjustment. The mbre fully we understand the
difference between good and bad adjustment, the more certainly will we
understand ,the basic nature of the adjustment process .1Ee answer to our
question depends upon the point of view we assume. In t~~sense that all
adjustment processes, regardless of their individual peculiarities and characteristics, represent attempts on the part of the' organism to obtain tl:w
gratification of basic needs and desires and to'reduce conflicts, frustrations,
and tensions associated with or derived from these motivations, we may
say that they are essentially alike. From this viewpoint, the dif!erence
between adjustment and maladjustment is a matter of ci'egree, which
could be determined in any single instance by applying some criterion
like that of integrated response outlined in the_preceaing chapter. 1 In
other words, the more that any response "7{iiffills this criterion, the
1 "The pathological individual does hot differ from the normal in some quality
or essence which he possesses but the normal person does not. Nor does the normal

270

Nonnal Adjustment Patterns


greater the degree of adjustment. Completely disintegrated responses,
therefore, would represent the extreme of maladjustment. Using the
example described earlier we could say that acceptance of the father's
change in position in a realistic and mature fashion is an instance of very
good adjustment, whereas the development of symptomatic disorders
or of resentment, hostility, and depression exemplifies gross maladjustment to the situation. Somewhere in between, in the range of fair and

Adjustment
100

Maladjustment
0

Very good
Good
Fair
Poor
Very poor Severe
adjustment adjustment adjustment adjustment adjustment maladjustment

100

Fig. 19-Continuum of adjustment processes.

poor judgment, would be placed the reaction of pleading with the


father not to accept the position and the reaction of refusing to make
the change at all. Figure 19 is a simple diagrammatic representation of
this continuum of human adjustment; which extends from the extreme
of unusually good adjustment to that of severe maladjustment. Human
nature being what it is, the majority of responses will tend to cluster
in the middle range.
From another point of view, maladjustive responses may be said to
differ fundamentally from those that are adjustive. Between the normal
person's rational, wholesome acceptance of reality and the complete
rejection or distortion. of reality by the psychotic patient, there is a gap
that cannot be readily bridged by the concept of quantitative variation.
There seems to be, in other words, a qualitative difference between responses that are essentially normal and those that are essentially abnormal.
This distinction was anticipated in our discussion of psychological normality in Chapter Three. The viewpoint here is based not on the amount
or degree of adjustment that characterizes individual responses but on the
character or quality of the response itself. There is, for example, a real
qualitative difference between the acceptance of reality and its distortion
or rejection. Thus, complete maladjustment, from the quantitative point
possess certain qualities that the poorly adjusted person does not. The difference is
merely one of degree . . . . the only difference between the normal person and the
abnormal is a quantitative one."-Symonds, P. M. Dynll'mic psychology. New York:
Appl,<on~mzy-C<of", 1949, p. 384. R'p"""d by p~;~;6n.
271

Patterns of Adjustment

of view, would mean maximum failure in attempting to meet the demands


of self or of reality; whereas, qualitatively, it \~ould signify pathological
distortion of one's relation to self and reality. Expressed more concretely,
the paranoid patient is severely maladjusted bebuse of the pathological
quality of his delusions, which distorts his relatidn to reality; whereas the
person who consistently fails to meet the requir~ments of daily living, in
academic, social, vocational, or marital situations, is also very poorly
adjusted even though no pathology is involved. In the latter case, it is the
degree of failure rather than the nature of the response that determines
the quality of adjustment. 2
Between the extremes of good adjustment, which contributes materially to the psychological welfare of the organism, and the type of maladjustment that is detrimental to this welfare, there is the nonadjustive
kind of response which also varies qualitatively from the other two. The
majority of responses, as we have stated repeatedly, whether psychologically good or bad, are adjustive in the sense that they reduce tension and
stress or overcome frustration and conflict; but there are some responses
that seem to have no adjustive significance, that is, they are nonadjustive.
To this class belong many mannerislVs, eccentricities, and peculiarities of
conduct and expression, such as continuous humming, wearing oddlooking clothes, speaking with an affected accent, habitually squinting,
or pursing one's lips. Since these responses ha,ve little to do with the
adjustment process as such, we shall give them no further consideration. 3
CLASSIFICATION OF ADJUSTMENTS

IS

Because of the wide range and complexity of adjustive responses, it


not an easy matter to set up a coherent and satisfactory system of

2 Page recognizes qualitative differences between normality and abnormality.


Pointing to the fundamental difference berween physical health.J!nd disease, he says,
"This viewpoint, which is known as the pathological criterion of ~bnormality, is also
applicable to certain forms of mental disorders. For example, nqrmaLindividuals do
not appear to have the same kind of emotional and thQught disturbances that are
observed in some mental patients . . . . The pathological criterion does not differentiate the normal from the superior group, but it is not improbable that .qualitative
differences also exist between these two groups."-By permission from Abnormal
psychology, by J. D. Page. Copyright, 1947. McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., pp.
14-15. Evidently, in view of the discrepancies in viewpoint regarding this problem,
there is room for both the quantitative and the qualitative interpretation of abnormality.
I
3 Shaffer gives a thorough account of nonadjustiveJeactiop.~, but broadens the
concept to include many responses that other writers ~gard as forms of adjustment,
and which we describe in Chap. XIV under the heading of "flight into illness."
Shaffer himself recognizes the adjustive value of some nonadjustive reactions, a
situation that he refers to as "paradoxical." See Shaffer, L. F. The psychology of
adjus~ment. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1936, Chap. x, especially p. 257.

'2'72
1,)

Normal Adjustment Patterns


classification that will serve our purposes most effectively. There are
several possibilities open to us, and we shall have to decide which one is
best suited to our interpretation.

Classification by Symptoms and Causes


First .of all, adjustments can be classified in terms of symptoms, or the
type of person involved. Here the well-known categories of neurotic,
psychotic, psychopathic, perverted, eccentric, and epileptic are used.
Such a classification is on the whole more suited to the aims of abnormal
psychology and psychiatry than to those of adjustment psychology, since
our primary purpose is to examine the process of adjustment rather than
symptoms or personality types. For much the same reason, a classification
of adjustments in terms of their causes, like organic and psychogenic,
would not suit our purposes well.

Classification by Kinds of Response


Adjustments can also be grouped in terms of the kinds of response, or the
quality of reactions, involved in coping with demands, problems, conflicts, and frustrations. This classification is particularly useful to the study
of adjustment because it centers attention on the mental and behavioral
processes that occur in an adjustment situation. Within this classification
may be distinguished (1) normal adjustments, (2) adjustments by means
of defense reactions, (3) adjustments by escape and withdrawing, (4)
adjustments by illness, and (5) adjustments by aggression. For these
different forms of adjustment, we have adopted the general term "patterns of adjustment," and it is these patterns that constitute the subject
matter of the present section of our investigation (Part Three). 4

Classification by Problems
Finally, adjustments can be classified in terms of the problems, or situations, involved in meeting the demands of self and environment. Thus,
adjustments can be grouped as (1) personal, (2) social, (3) home and
family, (4) academic, (5) vocational, and (6) marital. This grouping,
too, is consonant with the aims of adjustment psychology, namely, to
describe the process of adjustment in all its phases; therefore, under the
general heading of varieties of adjustment, we shall attempt in the following section (Part Four) to study these special aspects of the adjustment
process. Needless to point out, we can expect to discover a great many
4 This grouping does not pretend to include all adjustments of any degree or
kind; there are many minor difficulties and maladjustments not included here, such
as boorishness, bad manners, superficial or fleeting symptoms, and so forth, because
of limitations of space. See Dunlap, K. Personal adjUstm~ New York: McGrawHill, 1946, Chap. XIV, and Thorpe, L. P. The psycholo. of mental health. New
York: Ronald, 1950, Chap. IX.
I

273

Patterns of Adjustment
interrelations between these two approaches to the problem of adjustment.
We shall find, in fact, that the differenr-patterns o~ adjustment run through
and condition the varieties of adjustment in a complex and intricate manner. Defense, escape, withdrawal, illness, and the like, are the different patterns of response by which personal, social, mari~il, and vocational adjustments are often effected. Thus, by studying such relations, we shall be
able to bridge the gap between the abstract study of adjustment processes
and their utilization in everyday, concrete situations.

NORMAL ADJUSTMENTS

Characteristics of Normal Adjustments


The term "normal adjustment" is used here to denote those ways of behaving and reacting that are commonplace and do not involve to any
great extent the difficulties and negative, characteristics associated with
maladjustive and abnormal responses. EVrryone recognizes the difference,
for example, between a calm, deliberate attack on a problem and one that
is disorganized, lacking in direction, and highly emotionalized. The
worker who calmly accepts criticism" and sets about correcting whatever
deficiencies exist is responding normally; the student who redoubles his
efforts in order to overcome low grades, instead of rationalizing, blaming'
his teachers, or indulging in sour grapes, is making a normal adjustment;
the father who is patient with his children, understanding of their faults
and weaknesses, and sincerely interested in their welfare is adjusting
normally to his role as a father. Examples like these could be multiplied
endlessly, and it is probable that the majority of responses of average
human beings belong in this category.
Without repeating what we have already said regarding the criteria
of adjustment and normality in earlier discussions, we can discern in these
normal adjustments certain characteristics that help us--!o identify them.
1. ABSENCE OF EXCESSIVE EMOTIONALITY. First of all~ormal adjustments can be identified by the relative absence of excessive-or damaging
emotionality. In persons who respond more or kss normally to situations
and problems as they arise, there is always certain degree of emotional
tranquillity and control, which enables them, to size up the situation
intelligently and to set about resolving whate'ver difficulty exists, This
does not imply the absence of emotion, which might indicate abnormality,
but rather- the positive control of emotion in the interest of meeting
successfully the demands that the situation imposes. /
2. ABSENCE OF PSYCHOLOGICAL MECHANlsMi'::--Normal adjustments are
characterized, too, by the absence of psychological mechanisms. A
straightforward approach to a problem or conflict is more clearly indicative of normal response than the d!!vious route followed by such

274

Normal Adjustment Patterns


mechanisms as rationalization, projection, sour grapes, or compensation
(Chapter Eleven). When, for example, an effort fails, it is more on the
side of normality to admit the failure and possibly to try again than to
adopt the position that the goal wasn't worth the effort anyway (sourgrapes mechanism). Similarly, falling back on the specious reasoning of
rationalization is less of a normal adjustment than the frank admission of
persory.al weaknesses or lack of adequate effort'. It may be difficult for the
vanquished political candidate to admit to himself that he is not the
people's choice, but it is more normal than seeking or manufacturing
excuses for his failure.
3. ABSENCE OF THE SENSE OF PERSONAL FRUSTRATION. For the basic
reasons outlined in earlier discussions, normal adjustments are largely free
of the sense of personal frustration. This is to be expected because the
feeling of frustration, as interpreted in the preceding chapter, makes it
difficult, and sometimes impossible, to react normally to situations or
problems. If, for example, a student feels deeply and hopelessly frustrated in his academic efforts or social aspirations, it becomes increasingly
difficult for him to organize his thinking, feelings, motives, or behavior
efficiently in those situations in which he feels frustrated. Therefore, instead of reacting normally, he is _likely to utilize outmoded responses,
psychological mechanisms, or other reactions that are not adjustive in the
qualitative sense of the term.
4. RATIONAL DELIBERATION AND SELF-DIRECTION. The most outstanding characteristics of normal adjustments are rational deliberation and
self-direction. In fact, between these characteristics and such reactions as
emotionality and the development of psychological mechanisms, there is
a fundamental inverse relation, so that the presence of one is usually
indicative of the absence of its contrary. Rational deliberation and excessive emotionality cannot go hand in 'hand; nor are psychological mechanisms compatible with self-direction. The basic and important human
ability to think through our problems, conflicts, and frustrations and to
deliberately organize our thinking and behavior in the interest of resolving whatever difficulties arise is the surest guarantee of normal adjustment.
This characteristic is illustrated in numerous instances of everyday behavior. In the efficient handling of economic problems, marital difficulties,
school achievements, social relations, sex conflicts,- vocational frustrations,
traumatic experiences, disappointments, tragedies, and so on, the use of
rational deliberation and self-control is an indispensable and invariable
concomitant 9f normal ildjustment. Conversely, therefore, the absence
of this characteristic is a sure sign of adjustment difficulties.
5. ABILITY TO LEARN. The process of normal adjustment can be
identified always by the amount of growth or development that takes
place in the resolution of situations fraught with~.onflict, frustration, or
stress. This point is perhaps most clearly exempl" e in marital situations,
l

275

Patterns of Adjustment
because the requirements of marriage are such that without growth (that
is, change) there is no possibility of normal marital adjustment (Chapter
Sixteen). For example, personal, selfish aims muh be relinquished in the
interest of conjugal harmony and of securing the welfare of the various
members of the family, particularly the child~~n. To the extent that
selfish aims are relinquished, marital adjustments Iwill tend to be normal.
Similarly, the demands of marriage make necessary the development of
habits, skills, attitudes, and interests without which adjustment is impossible. Normal adjustment, then, is characterized by continuous learning, which ensures the development of personal qualities necessary to
meet the demands of everyday living.
6. UTILIZATION OF PAST EXPERIENCE. In the process of growth and
change the utilization of past experience stands out prominently. This, of
course, is one of the ways in which the organism learns; but it is a
quality of particular significance for the achievement of normal adjustment because in many situations there is no substitute for profitable experience. It is often remarked that the psychopathic personality, in whom
maladjustment reaches a high peak, is consistently characterized by the
inability to profit from past experience; and certainly this inability lies
at the basis of the adjustment difficulties encountered by the psychopath.
Conversely, then, normal adjustment requires, and can be identified by,
the uses made of past experience. The worker who finds that he cannot
meet the responsibilities of his job with less than seven hours' sleep and
consequently arranges his schedule of activities to ensure adequate rest
is certainly responding normally to the demands. of the situation. Inadequate personalities, such as neurotics and delinquents, are notoriously
lacking in this ability to profit from and to utilize past experience.
7. REALISTIC, OBJECTIVE ATTITUDE. Finally, it is important to note
that normal adjustments are consistently associated with a realistic, objec':
tive attitude. This characteristic fits in well with our statements earlier
regarding a person's orientation to reality. But to be .realistic and objective
is not the same thing as a proper orientation to realrty.---A._r.ealistic and
objective attitude is one that, based on learning, past experience, and
rational thought, enables us to appraise a situation, problem, or personal
limitation as it actually is and for what it is really worth. One can ~ee how
important this quality is in crucial situations. If, for example, the loss of
a job, a serious injury, or the death of one's parents is regarded as an
irreversible catastrophe, from which recovery is impossible, the chances
of adjusting normally to the occurrence are pretty slim. Similarly, the
failure to appraise personal qualities independently of feelings, prejudices,
or motivations will stand in the way of reactingJiormally to the demands
of a situation. To be able to stand apart and view oneself realistically and
objectively is one of the clearest signs of the normally adjusted personality.
It stands as a protection against distortions of the self-concept and the
/'

276

Normal Adjustment Patterns


damaging influences such distortions can have on the adjustments of
individuals to themselves and to their environment.

Adjustment by Direct, Frontal Attack


Under the heading of normallldjustments would first come those responses
that involve a direct, decisive approach to everyday demands and problems. 5 This sort of response is illustrated daily in many different situations,
and, if you search your own experience carefully, you will have little
difficulty in finding some good examples of it. Suppose, for example, that
because of transportation difficulties you are going to be late for .an
important engagement. The situation is not helped any by your becoming
angry, cursing the transportation system, or feeling sorry for yourself.
A much better way to reduce the frustration is to get a taxicab and
arrive at your destination as soon as possible, explaining the cause for
delay to whoever is involved, or to telephone the person and let him
know that you have been delayed. This is a direct, frontal attack on a
frustrating situation. It is intelligent and it meets the demands of the situation efficiently. The same kind of approach can be used effectively with
more serious adjustment problems. It is much better for a yourgster
having school difficulties to go directly to his teacher for help and advice
and then to apply the information in a decisive manner than to become
emotionally upset, quit school, or rationalize his failure. Similarly, the
young housewife is better off when she brings her budget problems
directly to her husband for help in solving them than when she blames
herself for inefficiency, secretly blames her husband for not allowing her
enough money, becomes angry or sullen whenever there is mention of
the household budget, or, in sheer desperation, "goes home to mother."
The following case illustrates the direct mode of adjustment.
Mary Jane was married to a young doctor whose growing professional
responsibilities kept him away from home a great deal. At first, Mary Jane was
busily occupied with household duties, social affairs, etc. But before long time
began to hang heavy on her hands. She resented her husband's intense preoccupation with his work and his enjoyment of it; and she began to resent the
fact that there were no children to give more meaning and purpose to her life.
When Mary Jane became aware of these danger signals, she decided to do
something about the situation. Having already completed an undergraduate
major in psychology, she enrolled in a graduate school for a Master of Arts
degree, and after several years secured a position in a child-guidance center.
She made a good adjustment by partly matching her husband's professional
5 Tyson expresses it succinctly in summarizing the opinions of other writers:
"Most important: always attempt to meet a difficult situation in a frank, straightforward manner, no matter how disagreeable, without evasion." -Tyson, R. Current
mental hygiene practice. J. clin. Psychol. Monogr. Suppl. ~~:o. 8, Jan., 1951, p. 27.
Reprinted by permission.
1; ~

277

Patterns of Adjustment
interest and by creating the opportunity to work with children, thus effectively
reducing several sources of frustration with one decisive: stroke.
One can see, of course, that the direct, frontal Jpproach to problems
is effective because it embodies the characteristics of normal adjustment.
It is realistic, intelligent, unemotional, self-directed, and escapes the sense
of personal frustration by effecting a solution to the' problem. Anywhere
along the line, frustration may again occur-the same problems have a
way of recurring-but if the same objective attitude is maintained consistently, and the direct approach is given a chance to function, there is
small likelihood of poor adjustment. This relatively simple lesson in
effective adjustment is seldom learned to any appreciable degree by inadequate personalities, and this is one of the most potent reasons why their
responses to conflict and frustration are indirect and symptomatic. The
direct approach to the solution of human problems tends to exclude the
development of symptomatic responses.

Adjustment by Exploration
Lack of experience, insufficient learning, inadequate development, and
the like, may preclude the direct approach to some problems of adjustment. Then adjustment may often be effected by the expedient of behavioral exploration. This sort of response is most likely to occur in small
children or in persons lacking the experience or development necessary
to meet the demands of adjustment by other means. If a child cannot
obtain the gratification of basic needs, such as affection and security, in
the usual manner, he is likely to explore or sample other modes of response
until, by chance, he hits upon one that is satisfying. Similarly, many older
persons explore the field of work or of social relations until they find
something that conforms to their abilities, strivings, and special interests.
Adjustment by exploration, then, is a special instance of the principle of
varied response described in the preceding chapter. It is possible, of
course, that saplpling will lead to inadequate as well as normaL~djustments.
The youngster craving experience may, by the technique of expforation,
hit upon daydreaming, delinquent behavior of one. kind or another, or
vicarious gratifications through inferior books, movies, and television
programs. While such outcomes are always possible, the important point
here is that adjustments can be effected through the medium of exploration, which is one of the most common ways of reaching normal adjustment.

Adjustment by Trial and Error

../-

Closely allied to exploration is the technique of' tria] ~nd error, often used
in normal adjustment situations. The only difference between these two
approaches is that exploration is more random, trial and error more select.

278

Normal Adjustment Patterns


A student may discover that the curriculum he has chosen does not fit
either his abilities or his interests, and therefore its selection was an error.
If recognition of this mistake is followed quickly by the choice of a more
suitable curriculum, we have the situation of trial-error-new trial, and the
student has effected a good adjustment. Similarly, the motorist who tries
out various possibilities when his car will not start by the usual method
is following the path of effective adjustment. One can readily see how
much better these responses are than giving up, blaming others, rationalizing, giving vent to angry outbursts, self-pity, and a host of similar
responses that only serve to aggravate the tensions aroused by the situation. Here again we may note that trial-and-error behavior may ,lead to
further and even more serious frustrations or to the selection of responses
that are ineffective and damaging to the process of adjustment, a possibility that always lurks in the background of any efforts to meet the
demands of daily living. In most instances, however, it is better to chance
the uncertainties of an untried response than to succumb to the frustrations of an inadequate adjustment. This procedure offers at least the
possibility of a normal adjustment. s
Adjust11lent by Substitution
Closely similar to, and sometimes -identical with, these three modes of
normal adjustment is the achievement of adjustment by substitution. 7
The case of Mary Jane partly illustrates this technique, as does the case
of the student who chose a new curriculum. Substitution, like exploration,
is a special instance of varied response. Here, however, there is a deliberate
effort to ward off or reduce frustration by the expedient of changing
one's direction. There are countless instances in which the expression of a
need, desire, or interest is blocked by some personal defect or limitation
or by some extraneous impediment. A young man with extremely poor
eyesight will find it impossible to enlist in the air force and must of necessity relinq'uish his ambitions along such lines. Similarly, there are persons
who fail to attract a mate; others who cannot have children; and still
others who, because of physical handicap, financial difficulties, or some
other obstacle cannot hope to achieve their most cherished desires. Such
persons often effect a good adjustment by substituting another ambition
or goal for the one that is permanently blocked (Figure 20). In almost
6 Adjustment by exploration and trial and error is similar to the concept of
reality testing used by some writers. In their attempts at adjustment, children will
often pit their resources against the demands and restrictions of reality in an effort,
seemingly, to find out what will work, that is, bring about adequate or maximum
satisfaction.
7 See Lindgren, H. C. Tbe psychology of personal and social adjustment. New
York: American Book, 1953, pp. 89-102; Hepner, H. W. Psycbology applied to life
and work. (2nd Ed.) New York: Prentice-Hall, 1950, <1lB'ps. III and IV.

279

Patterns of Adjustment

every life situation such alternatives are available. One can substitute a
career for marriage, dentistry for medicine, a lucrative job for an education, teaching children for raising a family of one'sl own, or mechanical
skill for intellectual achievement. s In the interest o~ normal adjustment,

MOTIVATION

FRUSTRATION

- .....

AMBITION

PHYSICAL HANDICAP,
LACK OF FUNDS,
ETC. I

PRIMARY
GOAL

SUBSTITUTE
GOAL

Fig. 20-Adjustment by

s~bstitution.

one should always be prepared to make 'substitutions of this kind, which


is why availability of substitutes was emphasized in the foregoing chapter
as an important determinant of response to frustration.
Adjustment by Exploitation of Personal Capabilities

The use of the principle of substitution will depend to an important


degree on the potentialities of the person. Obviously, where there is a
decided lack of mechanical aptitude the development of mechanical skill
does not offer itself as a possible substitute for some other ambition.
Where there is intellectual deficiency, educational achievement <?ffers
little promise as a substitute measure. However, what potentialities do
exist can be exploited in the interest of achieving normal.<!_djustment. 9 In
the areas of social, marital, academic, and vocational adjustment, there
are numerous possibilities for maximizing personal resources in the
interest of achieving good adjustment. The student, for example, who
doubles his academic efforts in order to gain admission to a professional
8 See the section on sublimation and compensation in Chap. XI. Both of
these me ;hanisms may be used for purposes of substitution. Some authors interpret
substitution as a psychological mechanism. See Kaplan, L., & Baron, D. Mental
hygiene and life. New York: Harper, 1952, pp. 315-317, 319-320./Steckle, L. C.
Problems of human adjustm~~ . .New York: Harper, 19~.~P. 46--47.
.
9 See the chapter "MaxlmlzIng Intellectual Resources' In Tyson. Op. Cit., pp.
25-30. As Tyson remarks in his Introduction (p. 25), "most normal people are
capable of learning to behave more efficiently by maximizing intellectual resources."
See the section Adjustment by Intelligent Planning in the present chapter.

280

Normal Adjustment Patterns


school, and the housewife who exploits natural talents to become a good
wife and mother are achieving adjustment by making maximum use of
their potentialities. Similarly, in the area of work, many difficulties and
frustrations could be avoided or overcome by the intelligent and energetic exploitation of personal capabilities.

Adjustment by Learning
Normal adjustment can be effectively achieved and maintained through
the medium of learning. Indeed, exploration and trial and error are merely
special techniques by which the organism becomes acquainted with
(learns) responses that are beneficial to adequate adjustment. Learning,
of course, reaches far beyond these two approaches and constitutes one
of the most effective means of coping with the demands of daily living.
The soldier who fails to acquire the knowledge, techniques, and skills
that his role demands will not achieve adjustment to military life; the
social worker who remains prejudiced against minority groups cannot
expect to meet the requirements of her position; the adolescent who fails
to learn the responsibilities of adult living cannot be expected to adjust
normally to adult situations. In every instance, normal adjustment is
furthered by the acquisition and development of responses that are
required to meet the demands of various situations. Only when a person
already possesses equipment that is wholly adequate to such demands is
learning not necessary. When adequate equipment is lacking, normal
adjustment ordinarily proceeds by means of acquisition or development.

Adjustment by Inhibition and Self-control


There are times when the ends of normal adjustment are better served
by the blocking or inhibition of responses than by the acquisition or
development of new ones. We have already noted that the right amount
of inhibition and an effective, wholesome degree of self-control are
fundamental to normal adjustment. 1o In the matter of sexual adjustment,
for example, particularly before marriage, exploration, trial and error,
and learning are for the most part precluded by social and moral restrictions. Hence effective adjustment can only be secured by means of
intelligent control of responses involved in sexual behavior. Here we see
the close relation between inhibition and self-control, the one serving to
block the expression of a drive or motive, the other making possible the
direction of mental processes ancl behavior into acceptable channels of
expression. However, sexual adjustment is not the only situation requiring
10 See Low, A. A. Mental health through will-training. Boston: Christopher,
1952; Mailloux, N. Psychic determinism, freedom, and personality development. In
Arnold, M. B., & Gasson, J. A. (Eds.) The human person: an integral approacb to '
'h, ,h",y 'I pm..oJI,y. N,w Y"k, R,n']d, 1954,
281

Pl64-280.

Patterns of Adjustment
inhibition and control. Normal adjustment requires control of all appetites at one time or another, as well as control of thought, imagination,
emotions, and behavior. The normally adjusted pedon sets limits to such
needs as hunger, thirst, and rest, directs thinking along logical lines, excludes excessive daydreaming, and prohibits violent I~xpression of feelings
and emotions. Thus, whenever these controls are manifested in a person's
response to a situation, we can say that he is adjusting normally.

Adjustment by Intelligent Planning


Normal adjustment is reflected also in the consistent application of intelligence to problem situations. Nowhere is this more evident than in the
process of intelligent planning, whether this planning be directed toward
future economic security, health, the education of one's children, marital
happiness, or the responsibilities of a jobY Persons who are chronically
beset with adjustment difficulties are notoriously lacking in the ability
to organize their thinking and behavior systematically in the interest of
realizing some plan of action. Many students, for example, get into
academic difficulties because they fail td plan their course of studies
intelligently, to budget their time efficiently, or to organize their study
habits. 12 Many teachers court maladjustment by their failure to organize
their daily activities in terms of a carefully devised plan that would enable
them to complete their work with a minimum of fatigue and frustration.
Intelligent planning, directed toward the meeting of present demands
and the anticipation of future problems and contingencies, is one of the
clearest examples of normal adjustment. It is particularly important because it is oriented toward the future and thus helps to ensure continuous
adjustment by anticipation of difficulties that are likely to arise. This
anticipation gives the individual an opportunity to organize his resources
for meeting dema