Social maladjustment as one of the most pressing problems of our time

A person’s health, well-being and success are largely determined by his ability to adapt to environmental conditions and establish connections with people. Some people succeed very easily, others learn throughout their lives, and for some it turns into a real problem. Psychological maladaptation not only worsens a person’s quality of life, but can also cause the development of many psychological and social problems - from a lack of social circle to the inability to work and support oneself.

What it is

The concept of social maladjustment is interpreted in psychology differently depending on the approach. Some experts consider it as one of the many borderline neuropsychiatric disorders, when a person, due to his mental characteristics, cannot build relationships with other people in society (due to autism, phobias, personality and behavior disorders). For others, this is a temporary phenomenon that occurs at a moment of crisis as a defensive reaction of the subconscious and passes after it is overcome.

So in psychology there is no consensus on the concept of social maladjustment, its types and methods of correction due to an ambiguous approach to the nature of its occurrence. To avoid confusion, it was customary for academic textbooks to give a general definition of this term, reflecting the essence of the phenomenon, but avoiding controversial issues. It sounds like this.

Social maladaptation is the inability to live in society, comply with its norms, and communicate with other people. It means the inability of a person, due to some circumstances, to fulfill his social function, to interact with the microsocial environment in which he finds himself. It manifests itself most clearly at work, at school, at a party, on the street, in stores - wherever you need to communicate with others. As for home, relationships with loved ones suffer when the form is advanced, but in the early stages it may not affect them in any way.

Despite the existence of different approaches to the problem, in psychology this is not considered a pathology, although in some situations it may be a consequence of some serious neuropsychic disorder. But she herself is not one.

Social maladjustment of adolescents

The process of socialization is the introduction of a child into society. This process is characterized by complexity, multifactoriality, multidirectionality and poor forecasting in the end. The socialization process can last a lifetime. One should not deny the impact of the innate qualities of the body on personal properties. After all, the formation of personality occurs only as a person is included in the surrounding society.

One of the prerequisites for the formation of personality is interaction with other subjects who transfer accumulated knowledge and life experience. This is accomplished not through simple mastery of social relations, but as a result of the complex interaction of social (external) and psychophysical (internal) developmental inclinations. And it represents the cohesion of socially typical traits and individually significant qualities. It follows from this that personality is socially conditioned and develops only in the process of life, in a change in the child’s attitude to the surrounding reality. From this we can conclude that the degree of socialization of an individual is determined by many components, which, when combined, form the overall structure of the influence of society on an individual. And the presence of certain defects in each of these components leads to the formation in the individual of social and psychological qualities that can lead the individual in specific circumstances to conflict situations with society.

Under the influence of socio-psychological conditions of the external environment and in the presence of internal factors, the child develops maladjustment, manifested in the form of abnormal - deviant behavior. Social maladaptation of adolescents arises from violations of normal socialization and is characterized by deformation of the referent and value orientations of adolescents, a decrease in the significance of the referent character and alienation, first of all, from the influence of teachers at school.

Depending on the degree of alienation and the depth of the resulting deformations of value and reference orientations, two phases of social maladjustment are distinguished. The first phase consists of pedagogical neglect and is characterized by alienation from school and loss of referent significance at school while maintaining a fairly high reference significance in the family. The second phase is more dangerous and is characterized by alienation from both school and family. The connection with the main institutions of socialization is lost. The assimilation of distorted value-normative ideas occurs and the first criminal experience appears in youth groups. The result of this will be not only a lag in learning, poor performance, but also increasing psychological discomfort that adolescents experience at school. This pushes adolescents to search for a new, non-school communication environment, another reference group of peers, which subsequently begins to play a leading role in the process of socialization of adolescents.

Factors of social maladaptation of adolescents: exclusion from the situation of personal growth and development, neglect of the personal desire for self-realization, self-affirmation in a socially acceptable way. The consequence of maladaptation will be psychological isolation in the communicative sphere with a loss of the sense of belonging to its inherent culture, a transition to attitudes and values ​​that dominate the microenvironment.

Unmet needs can lead to increased social activity. And it, in turn, can result in social creativity and this will be a positive deviation, or it will manifest itself in antisocial activity. If she does not find a way out, she may seek a way out by becoming addicted to alcohol or drugs. The most unfavorable development is a suicide attempt.

The current social and economic instability, the critical state of the health care and education systems not only does not contribute to the comfortable socialization of the individual, but also aggravates the processes of maladaptation of adolescents associated with problems in family upbringing, which lead to even greater anomalies in the behavioral reactions of adolescents. Therefore, the process of socialization of adolescents is increasingly becoming negative. The situation is aggravated by the spiritual pressure of the criminal world and their values, rather than civil institutions. The destruction of the main institutions of socialization leads to an increase in crime among minors.

Also, the sharp increase in the number of maladjusted adolescents is influenced by the following social contradictions: indifference to smoking in secondary schools, the lack of an effective method of combating truancy, which today has practically become the norm of school behavior, along with the ongoing reduction in educational and preventive work in government organizations and institutions that deal with leisure and raising children; replenishment of juvenile gangs of criminals due to teenagers who have dropped out of school and are lagging behind in their studies, along with a decrease in social relationships between families and teachers. This makes it easier for teenagers to establish contacts with juvenile criminal groups, where illegal and deviant behavior develops freely and is welcomed; crisis phenomena in society that contribute to the growth of anomalies in the socialization of adolescents, along with a weakening of the educational influence on adolescents of public groups that should exercise education and public control over the actions of minors.

Consequently, the increase in maladjustment, deviant behavior, and teenage crime is the result of the global social alienation of children and youth from society. And this is a consequence of a violation of the immediate processes of socialization, which have become uncontrollable and spontaneous in nature.

Signs of social maladaptation of adolescents associated with such an institution of socialization as school:

The first sign is poor academic performance in the school curriculum, which includes: chronic underachievement, repeating a year, insufficient and fragmentary acquired general educational information, i.e. lack of a system of knowledge and skills in studies.

The next sign is systematic violations of an emotionally charged personal attitude towards learning in general and some subjects in particular, towards teachers, and life prospects related to learning. Behavior can be indifferent-indifferent, passive-negative, demonstrative-dismissive, etc.

The third sign is regularly recurring anomalies of behavior during school learning and in the school environment. For example, passive-refusal behavior, lack of contact, complete refusal of school, persistent behavior with violation of discipline, characterized by oppositional defiant actions and including active and demonstrative opposition of one’s personality to other students and teachers, disregard for the rules adopted at school, vandalism at school .

Theory and practice

The problem of social maladaptation is gaining momentum and is more relevant in modern society than ever. This is due to the interests of children and adolescents in social networks and games. The virtual world and Internet communication replace reality and connections with real people. Recently, this has often been observed in adults. In addition, the too sharp division of society into rich and poor has given rise to such a phenomenon as bullying. It also becomes one of the factors because of which a person breaks off all relations with society.

In this regard, numerous studies are being conducted. Psychologists, psychotherapists, sociologists, doctors, and scientists are trying to cover as wide a range of factors as possible that lead to such a disorder of personality and behavior. After all, without eliminating the main cause, its correction is impossible.

Until recently, psychology had a dozen names for a socially maladjusted child: neglected, difficult, dysfunctional, at risk, with behavioral deviations, with a traumatized psyche, with deformed behavior. Today, all these concepts continue to exist, but in most research works they are replaced by the term “maladaptive”. The most interesting thing is that it has also begun to be used in relation to adults who are experiencing problems trying to adapt to the conditions of society, but failing in this.

As researchers of this problem note, the age limit for social maladaptation has become older. If previously it was diagnosed mainly in children and adolescents, today company psychologists say that about 25% of their employees experience serious difficulties in establishing contacts with their colleagues and superiors. These are disappointing figures, forcing specialist scientists to look for new ways to correct this disorder, because not all tools that successfully work on the child’s psyche are just as strong when affecting adults.

Specialists dealing with issues of social maladaptation: Mamaichuk I. I., Belicheva S. A., Grigorenko E. L., Sobkin V. S., Gindikin V. Ya., Kazanskaya V. G., Lichko A. E., Lebedinskaya K. S., Lubovsky V. I., Feldshtein D. I. They have fundamental works on this topic, which include both theoretical calculations and practical methods for correcting the disorder.


Prevention also includes actions aimed at children who have shown the first signs of social maladaptation

  1. Primary. Aimed at preventing the development of possible problems and unfavorable conditions that may influence the formation of maladjustment.
  2. Secondary. Aimed at recognizing early manifestations of maladjustment, reducing the impact of bad factors, and working with children who are at risk.
  3. Tertiary. Carrying out special events in the presence of signs of maladjustment that have already appeared. Aimed at preventing the formation of new manifestations.

Now you know what the causes of social maladjustment are. Knowing them, a person is able to prevent the development of such a condition. If you notice characteristic manifestations in yourself, then it is better not to remain idle, but to immediately begin making adjustments in order to prevent the consequences from developing.



The most famous concept is the crisis one. Its author is V.V. Kozlov, a Russian psychologist working in the field of social psychology, the founder of “integrative psychology.” In his opinion, this type of maladjustment develops according to the following scheme:

  1. A person has a tendency to auto-aggressive reactions to difficult (crisis) life situations.
  2. Each such crisis creates personal negative disintegration.
  3. It, in turn, becomes overgrown with destructive changes in relationships with others.
  4. Every time there is an increasing increase in social autism.

According to V.V. Kozlov, auto-aggressive individuals who are not resistant to crisis conditions and ultimately close themselves off from society are susceptible to chronic self-destruction. It most often manifests itself as suicidal tendencies, alcoholism and drug addiction.


There are a number of psychologists who consider social maladjustment to be a consequence of various mental illnesses. They do not consider it as an independent pathology. Only after a person is diagnosed with behavioral disorders and personality disorders does it manifest itself.

Indeed, with schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder and other pathologies, it is difficult to establish connections with others. Such people cannot learn the basic rules of behavior in society, the simplest social attitudes. This leads to maladjustment. Accordingly, to eliminate such consequences, psychiatric (most often) treatment is required.

However, this concept does not consider as a separate phenomenon the same adolescent social maladaptation, which usually has nothing to do with physiology. This is the downside of the approach.


It is closely related to Kozlov’s crisis concept, as it reflects the processes occurring with the individual. However, with this approach, a person can “fall out” of society without experiencing any crisis. This happens at the moment of realizing that one’s own values ​​do not coexist with the rules of existence in society.

For example, a person by nature does not like submission and total outside control. It is quite natural that with such accentuations it will be difficult for him to get along with his boss at work and constant deadlines. He will do his best to limit his communication with colleagues and his boss. Often such people open their own business and delegate authority to a deputy, enjoying complete freedom.

From the point of view of this approach, it is possible to explain the mechanism of development of any social maladjustment, and this is its undoubted advantage.


The causes of social maladaptation can be various factors.


Social maladjustment is a consequence of various mental disorders:

  • psychosis;
  • severe neurotic disorders;
  • personality and behavior disorders;
  • congenital autism.

In this case, correction without treatment of the underlying disease is impossible.

It is also often diagnosed in patients who are undergoing long-term treatment in a psychiatric hospital. This phenomenon is called hospitalism.

Sometimes the cause of maladaptation is a lack of appearance. These could be severe burns on the face, a sloppily sutured cleft lip, protruding ears, obesity, etc. In childhood, isolation is caused by peers who reject a child who is not like them. They refuse to play with him, sit at the same desk, be friends, or invite him somewhere. In such a situation, adults’ internal complexes are triggered, and they themselves, quite consciously, try to avoid communication.


  • The presence of psychological trauma in childhood: familgeny, sociogeny, didactogeny;
  • pedagogical neglect;
  • loss of familiar surroundings (when moving, moving to a new school or another place of work);
  • conflict of character (impossibility of getting along with someone due to accentuations);
  • addictions of various kinds: alcohol, drugs, social networks, computer games;
  • replacing the real world with a virtual one.

If social maladaptation is suspected, specialists first of all try to get to the bottom of it, to find out the main reason why it could arise. Sometimes a whole complex of provoking factors is triggered. Typical methods of detection are conversations with psychologists, medical examinations, testing, and sometimes hypnosis.

Disadaptation in children

Today there is a critical situation that has developed in society associated with the social maladjustment of children. Increasingly, manifestations such as:

  • reluctance to learn;
  • pedagogical neglect;
  • increased fatigue;
  • severe exhaustion;
  • lack of focus;
  • problems with concentration;
  • alcoholism at an early age.

The formation of such manifestations is influenced by social and biological circumstances. The adaptation of a young person in the social environment is influenced by the conditions of his socialization in the children's environment.

The reasons for the appearance of problems in childhood include:

  • inadequacy of self-evaluation at the time of communication;
  • lack of communication skills, even basic ones;
  • excessive demands on one’s environment, especially when the child is superior to his peers in certain parameters;
  • emotional instability;
  • anxiety and fear of communication;
  • isolation;
  • predominance of one's own self, a feeling of superiority over others.

Depending on what factors influenced the development of social maladaptation, the child may either submit to being pushed out of the circle of peers or independently leave them, while being embittered, wanting revenge.

When a child lacks communication skills, it is a significant barrier to interpersonal relationships.

Disadaptation in the social sphere can manifest itself:

  • excessive aggression of the child;
  • low self-esteem;
  • lack of desire to communicate;
  • imbalance, which can manifest itself as mood swings;
  • isolation;
  • showing your emotions in public.

This condition is very dangerous for children, as it can lead to serious consequences, namely:

  • personal deformations;
  • delayed mental and physical development;
  • brain dysfunction;
  • loneliness;
  • disorders of the nervous system, in particular aggressiveness, suppression of the instinct of self-preservation, problems in relationships with other people and peers, and suicide.


What may be the signs of socio-psychological maladaptation and problem behavior:

  • non-recognition of the rules of cultural behavior, saturation (disgust) of activities that everyone performs;
  • imbalance;
  • withdrawal, a form of autism;
  • excessive excitability to the point of aggression or the opposite pole - inhibition, sometimes they can alternate;
  • defiant behavior and actions;
  • participation in informal groups;
  • deliberate opposition of oneself to others;
  • weak strategic forecasting (lateness, broken promises);
  • solving problems with pressure, rudeness, fights or tears, hysterics, attempts to run away and hide;
  • social phobia.

Social maladjustment of the individual is expressed differently depending on the levels of its development.

Correction of social maladjustment

In childhood, the main directions for correcting social maladjustment of the individual should be: development of communication skills, harmonization of interpersonal communication in the family and in peer groups, adjustment of certain personality traits that impede communication, or transformation of the manifestations of traits in such a way that in the future they cannot negatively affect communication. sphere, adjusting children’s self-esteem to bring it closer to normal.

Currently, trainings that are especially popular in the correction of social maladaptation are: psychotechnical games aimed at developing various mental functions that are associated with transformations in consciousness, and role-playing socio-psychological training.

This training is aimed at resolving the internal contradictions of the subject in the conditions of developing certain skills in performing specific social functions (formation and consolidation of the necessary social and cultural norms). The training takes place in the form of a game.

Main functions of the training:

  • training, which consists in the development of skills and abilities necessary for learning, such as: attention, memory, reproduction of received information, foreign speech skills;
  • entertaining, serves to create a more favorable atmosphere during the training, which transforms training into an exciting and entertaining adventure;
  • communicative, which consists in establishing emotional contacts;
  • relaxation – aimed at relieving emotional stress;
  • psychotechnical, characterized by the formation of skills to prepare one’s own physiological state in order to obtain more information;
  • preventive, aimed at preventing unwanted behavior;
  • developmental, characterized by the development of personality from different sides, the development of character traits through playing out all possible situations.

Social-psychological training consists of a specific psychological impact, which is based on active methods of working in groups. It is characterized by the intensity of the individual’s preparation for a more fulfilling and active life. The essence of the training is specially organized training for the purpose of self-improvement of the individual’s personality. It is aimed at solving such problems as: mastering social and pedagogical knowledge, developing the ability to know oneself and others, increasing ideas about one’s importance, and developing a variety of abilities, skills, and abilities.

Training is a whole complex of sequential classes with one group. Tasks and exercises are selected individually for each group.



Names: initial stage, hidden, lower, latent.

Signs: not detected, since everything happens inside a person. He begins to think that he is afraid or does not want to build relationships with others. At this level, the reason why ties with others will subsequently be severed is clearly identified.

How the initial stage of social maladaptation is interpreted in psychology: it is compared with the latent, incubation stage of the disease, when the virus has already entered the body, but is still only preparing the ground for its activation.

Correction: social maladaptation has not yet been diagnosed, but the cause that served as the impetus can be identified and eliminated (if possible). If this happens, a person will be able to continue to easily establish contacts and build relationships in society, living safely according to its rules.


Name: “half” level.

Signs: maladaptive perturbations make themselves felt, but are temporary in nature. A person can lock himself in his room and not leave there for several days, refusing to communicate in person, by phone, or on social networks. But then he behaves as usual: smiles, talks, jokes, meets with friends.

How it is interpreted: as the prodromal period of the disease, when its “harbingers” manifest themselves. But the diagnosis itself is still difficult to make, because the symptoms are too nonspecific and typical of many other ailments. After all, every person at some point may feel bad and will not want to communicate with anyone. This does not mean that he is socially maladjusted.

Correction: if a socially maladjusted person at this stage visits a psychologist or shares his experiences with someone, the specialist and loved ones can see the beginning of a developing problem. You just need to connect the provoking factor and these very “harbingers”. In this case, with the help of conversations and support from friends, the development of deviation can be stopped.


Name: Steadily Incoming.

Signs: social maladaptation manifests itself and becomes noticeable to everyone around. Its characteristic features allow you to clearly see the problem. A person breaks off previous contacts, does not make new ones, and avoids people. From a mental point of view, all those adaptive mechanisms that have been formed over the years up to this point are destroyed.

How it is interpreted: as a period of full development of the disease, when the signs are clearly expressed and allow a correct diagnosis to be made.

Correction: will take a long time, but will lead to successful results. It is impossible without a psychologist and the support of loved ones. The main task is to prevent violations from moving to the next level of development and becoming an established pattern of behavior.


Title: entrenched social maladjustment.

Signs: a person’s closedness from others extends to most areas of his life. He may refuse to communicate even with the closest people (parents, children, spouse). Often he stops going to work, school, or the store - just to avoid a collision with society.

How it is interpreted: as the transition of the disease to a chronic form.

Correction: long-term (from six months or more), complicated by stable patterns of behavior. This work must be carried out by a psychologist. In the most advanced cases, a psychotherapist. To get to the bottom of the true reason that led to this, hypnosis is often used.


Depending on the reasons:

  • physiological/pathogenic;
  • socio-psychological.

Depending on the nature of the manifestation:

  • behavioral/overt;
  • deep / hidden.

Depending on the area of ​​manifestation:

  • worldview / socio-ideological;
  • communicative;
  • subjective-personal.

By depth of coverage:

  • general / complete;
  • private/partial.

By nature of occurrence:

  • primary;
  • secondary.

Currently, all of the above classifications are used for diagnosis and correction in children and adults. Such diversity makes it possible not to miss a single aspect in the description of the disorder, and this, in turn, helps to select the most successful correction tools.


In kindergarten

Social maladjustment can occur even in a child who seems very young. Many believe that such a serious psychological phenomenon manifests itself much later, but already at 2-3 years old a child can come into conflict with society. The leading provoking factor is spoilage and improper upbringing.

If dust particles are blown off him at home and every whim is fulfilled on demand, he definitely will not want to share a dustpan and bucket with other children on the playground. He will be hysterical in the store so that they buy him a toy. It will become problematic for nannies and teachers, as it will refuse to sleep during the day, eat porridge, go for a walk with everyone, etc. If correction is not carried out at this stage, such a child will definitely begin to put himself above the rest and will not be able to accept the rules of the microsociety .

At school

The most striking manifestations of social maladjustment are observed at school. Almost every class has an outcast child. Sometimes he puts himself in such a way that others do not want to communicate with him. The reasons may be different: again, spoiled behavior and high self-esteem, replacement of the real world with a virtual one, autism.

But most often he fails to get along with his peers, because they are the ones who do not accept him because of his bad character, poverty, some disgusting habit, and even simply because he is not like everyone else (with some external defects ). The child cannot establish relationships at first only with peers, but then this problem spreads to adults. He becomes angry with the whole world due to constant bullying, and withdraws into himself.

In teenagers

In adolescence, this problem is especially acute. If a child in elementary school was unable to get used to the micro-society of the class, he continues to carry this baggage until graduation. Growing up, every year he perceives his own isolation more and more sensitively. Disadaptation deepens and becomes a stable pattern. This leads to problems such as truancy, deviant behavior, inability to communicate and compromise. The worst consequence is suicide.

Because of all this, the situation at home is heating up, and quarrels with parents occur. If in such a situation a teenager does not receive specialist help and support from family, this leads to serious psychological disorders of personality and behavior.

According to statistics, more than 60% of children and adolescents experienced maladjustment in school society at some point in their lives. However, 40% of them overcame crises and personal accentuations and found a way out with the help of psychologists, parents, and friends. The remaining 20% ​​had to live with it.

In adults

Still, age has a certain influence on social maladjustment. According to statistics, after 30 years it practically disappears from the radars of psychologists. That is, in the older generation it is diagnosed extremely rarely and only due to emergency circumstances (due to a discovered disease or severe psychological trauma). This is explained by the fact that an adult, due to his age and experience, assimilates the norms of society and has already established contacts that have been tested by time.

But among young people, social adaptation is clearly expressed during studenthood (18-19 years old) and employment (at about 25 years old). The first crisis is associated with the fact that you have to go to study in another city, fly away from your familiar and so cozy parental nest. The school system and college/institute education are very different. Often those who were stars in the class become nobody in the new team. This leads to disappointment, changes in personal guidelines and, as a result, social maladjustment.

When applying for a job, the leading accentuation is the discrepancy between expectations and reality. Most students immediately after receiving their diploma expect a high salary, career growth, a dust-free office position and many other amenities. But the reality turns out to be more cruel. Some squeeze themselves into the framework of the demands of a new microsociety, others have to look for other ways to cope with their maladjustment.

Character accentuations

Separately, it is worth revealing the features of social maladaptation with character disorders, when a person is prevented from adapting to social norms by his own accentuations.

  • Hyperthymic / demonstrative personality type

A person needs to constantly be in the spotlight. If it is absent and in some group he is perceived as nothing more than a gray mouse, this can lead to maladjustment.

  • Dysthymic/introverted

Tendency to live a lonely lifestyle. Disadaptation in society does not bother such people at all. They are even glad of their isolation.

  • Affectively labile

Constant mood swings make such a person impossible to communicate, as he changes too abruptly and for no reason. Therefore, his circle of friends gradually dwindles to nothing.

  • Emotive / excitable / stuck

Too emotional, sensitive, easily wounded, taking everything to heart. Such a person is capable of refusing to communicate because of one sidelong glance, a careless word, or a comment on the work done.

  • Anxious

Cannot make decisions in difficult situations. Any crisis can disable him socially.

  • Exalted

Bright, shocking personalities, oddly enough, most often turn out to be socially maladapted, although they themselves do not suspect it and live with it all their lives. They cannot fit their behavior into the framework of norms established by society. And everyone ends up meeting “for an hour.”

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