Psychology of Adjustment
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Psychology of Adjustment

The Search for Meaningful Balance

John N. Moritsugu, Elizabeth M. Vera, Jane K. Harmon Jacobs, Melissa J. Kennedy

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eBook - ePub

Psychology of Adjustment

The Search for Meaningful Balance

John N. Moritsugu, Elizabeth M. Vera, Jane K. Harmon Jacobs, Melissa J. Kennedy

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About This Book

Psychology of Adjustment: The Search for Meaningful Balance combines a student focus with state-of-the-art theory and research to help readers understand and adjust to life in a context of continuous change, challenge, and opportunity. Incorporating existential and third wave behavioral psychology perspectives, the authors emphasize the importance of meaning, mindfulness, and psychologically-informed awareness and skill. An inviting writing style, examples from broad ethnic, cultural, gender, and geographic areas, ample pedagogical support, and cutting-edge topical coverage make this a psychological adjustment text for the 21st century.

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Part 1 Perspectives and Processes

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©iStock/Aldo Murillo

Chapter 1 Adjustment A Life Process

Learning Objectives

  1. Explain what adjustment means in psychology and how it is determined in individuals.
  2. Identify the different types of internal and external change that humans experience.
  3. Describe various ways that individuals perceive change.
  4. Discuss the two traditions in psychology that influence the study of adjustment.
  5. Summarize the approach of each of the two parts of this text.
Mark had been looking forward to college for a long time. He remembered sitting in elementary school classes and hearing of the great things that awaited him in college. This was reinforced in high school. While most of his friends were not interested in more education, more time away from making money, more reading and writing and studying, Mark had that desire for more. He was not the traditional college student from the right neighborhood, the right high school, the right family. He worked his way into the opportunity, saving his money and living at home until one day he had enough. There were a few years of work between high school and college, but with loans, scholarships, his savings, and his steady job earnings, he went to college.
The college halls did not look like those in high school. The lawns and buildings were more manicured. Mark found course expectations to be different. In high school, attendance was important. In college, many of his professors did not take attendance. He was expected to be there. If he did not come to class, it was his responsibility to master the materials covered. When he asked the teacher for notes, he received a friendly but adamant no. It was up to him to generate the notes. While the professors were happy to help in many ways, the subtle shift in responsibility from teacher to student was clear. And in response, he found that he liked the responsibility. He was an active partner in his education. No more hiding in the back. No more sneaking out of class. It was his education to seek and to gain.

Martha assumed she would go to college for as long as she could remember. Her parents were college educated, and their friends were college graduates. She started to collect college banners early in high school (University of Michigan, Yale University, UCLA, University of Hawaii, University of Washington, Arizona State University). She spoke with her parents about what to consider in school selection: size of the student body, geographic location, private or public, and liberal arts-oriented or a research university. By her junior year, she had a list of 20 possibilities and brochures for each school. She visited several campuses at the end of her junior year and into the summer. By the beginning of her senior year, she knew her preferred choices and her second choices. She applied for “early decision” but did not get accepted. When she did get into a university, she did not receive a large financial aid package. And given shifts in her parents’ employment, this meant that she would have to work to help pay for her expenses. While possible, this meant that she would have to struggle to include some of the college extracurricular activities on which she had planned or to forgo them if the time did not allow.
Martha went to college but found the experience to be different from what she expected. There were new friends to make. Classes were held at different times. The professor did not always teach the class session. So Martha found herself having to manage her time, balancing studies, work, and social activities. Because she lived on campus, her parents did not oversee her life. Instead, she had roommates her age with whom to relate. Some were neat and some were not. Differences in lifestyle became apparent very quickly. These things made for more changes in her life, and they were not easy.
Throughout life, change and adjusting to change go hand in hand. Mark and Martha both experienced a period of adjustment to their new college surroundings. The transition from high school to college represents a normal activity within the range of lifetime events. While this change involves moving from one school setting to another, the differences in physical site characteristics, time schedules, expectations, and behavioral requirements (self-monitoring, appropriate pacing, focus, verbal and mathematical fluency, attention to deadlines) can be challenging. Students are able to adjust to these new settings, while others are not. Success or failure is related to a variety of factors, including skills (interpersonal, self-regulatory, task completion, study, social collaboration), motivation (vocational interests), and resources (general knowledge, technology-related knowledge, access to information helpful to career and educational decisions; American Institutes for Research, 2013; Camara, O’Connor, Mattern, & Hanson, 2015).
This chapter defines adjustment and examines the variety of ways adjustment can be achieved through a psychological lens. Adjustment assumes that the world is dynamic and ever changing. These changes may occur within ourselves or in the world around us. Therefore, we will explore how change comes to us throughout our lives and how we perceive these changes. The chapter briefly examines the traditions that have influenced considerations of adjustment. Finally, the book’s outline and organization are explained, providing a mental map of what is to follow.


The individual is in a continuous relationship with his or her ever-changing environment. This is a process of seeking balance between internal and external demands, between the needs for continuity and for adaptability to the new, and between the self and others in the larger community. Successful balancing leads to success in adjustment, finding meaning and purpose, learning the necessary skills, and being open to the benefits of compassion and emotion. You will know more about yourself and about others by the end of this book. This information should prove useful in finding balance.

Defining Adjustment

Adjustment is defined as coping with the problems of normal, everyday life (Halonen & Santrock, 1997; Weiten, Dunn, & Yost Hammer, 2015). The Latin roots to the term are ad jure or “to bring or make right.” Our lives are in continuous change, so our adjusting or making it right is a constant process.
“How are you?” “Do you want the long answer or the short answer?”
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Adjustment is like answering the question, how are you? The answer could be a simple “fine,” but it could be a lot more complex. The complete answer depends on the depth and breadth of what is meant. For example, a more complete answer could be this: “I am physically fine for now, but I have not slept well for the past few days, my relationship with my significant other is in a delicate position, my job seems overly demanding, I am wondering about the purpose of my life, and my financial position has just taken a very positive advance in the last few days.” All of these responses are legitimate and cover different areas of our life. Table 1.1 lists some of the questions addressed in studying adjustment. The questions have a consistent theme: how well we are doing with living a normal life, experiencing everyday challenges, and doing what most people do.
Table 1.1
Table 1
Many students study psychology with the expectation that they can find answers to their questions about themselves and their lives. How do humans function? How do relationships work? What in life really matters? These questions are typical to students of psychology. Adjustment attempts to address some of these questions. We will explore some of these questions in this text.

Determining Adjustment in Individuals

Given that adjustment has to do with coping with everyday life, how might an adjusted person look? There are a number of ways we might determine an individual is adjusted. Psychology has provided several models for examining this determination.

Goodness of Fit

The dictionary definition of adjust is to “arrange, compose or harmonize; adapt oneself or get used to changed circumstances” (“Adjust,” 1993, p. 27). A given situation dictates appropriate and expected behavior. An example using a physical environment is wearing a warm set of clothing in Alaska in the winter. In contrast, a setting like Hawaii or Tahiti would not call for such clothing.
Studying adjustment provides an opportunity to reflect on life.
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Our behaviors must adapt to our setting or, more...

Table of contents

Citation styles for Psychology of Adjustment
APA 6 Citation
Moritsugu, J., Vera, E., Jacobs, J. H., & Kennedy, M. (2016). Psychology of Adjustment (1st ed.). SAGE Publications. Retrieved from (Original work published 2016)
Chicago Citation
Moritsugu, John, Elizabeth Vera, Jane Harmon Jacobs, and Melissa Kennedy. (2016) 2016. Psychology of Adjustment. 1st ed. SAGE Publications.
Harvard Citation
Moritsugu, J. et al. (2016) Psychology of Adjustment. 1st edn. SAGE Publications. Available at: (Accessed: 15 October 2022).
MLA 7 Citation
Moritsugu, John et al. Psychology of Adjustment. 1st ed. SAGE Publications, 2016. Web. 15 Oct. 2022.