The meaning of home
The meaning of home

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The meaning of home

1.3.7 Models of adjustment

Here we have talked about changes of place as having a particular impact on an individual's sense of well-being or self-esteem. Relocation and separation from familiar places just like separation from loved ones can be experienced as a form of loss which can have devastating effects for some people. Some authors have seen changes in self-esteem as the key to understanding how people cope with change. For example, Hopson and Adams (1976) suggest that any transition, whatever triggers it, sets off a cycle of changes in self-esteem. They provide a model which suggests that individuals may experience similar patterns of feelings and emotions within the process of adjustment.

Figure 1
Figure 1 A model of changes in self-esteem during transitions (Hopson and Adams, 1975, p. 13)

Here the key to successful adjustment to change is to work through this cycle of reactions. But not everyone will experience all these stages and some people may become stuck along the way, for example experiencing on-going depression. Here are some of the key features of each stage.

Immobilisation. You get a sense of being overwhelmed, unable to act. Unfamiliar transitions, and those of which we have negative expectations, tend to intensify this stage.

Minimisation. As a way of coping with the change it is common to deny that it is happening. This is a frequent reaction to a crisis which is too difficult to face.

Depression. People often get depressed when they face up to the implications of change.

Accepting reality. At this point the person begins to let go of their old state of being, accepting the reality of what is happening to them.

Testing. Having begun to accept the situation, then it becomes possible to test out new behaviours to cope with the new situation.

Seeking meanings. This is a reflective stage where people try to work out how and why things are different.

Internalisation. Finally, understandings of the situation and new meanings become internalised and accepted. They then become part of the person's behaviour.

(Adapted from Hopson and Adams, 1975, pp. 9–12)

You can see that some aspects of this model have already been touched upon in Alison Norman's article and the discussion of Mr and Mrs Smith. For older people ‘accepting the reality’ of residential living and constructing a new sense of self late in life is particularly important but there are obvious parallels for people of all ages who face major life transitions.

There are other models of coping and adjustment which are based on stages. Some consider how people work through losses in their lives, perhaps one of the most well-known being the stages model of grief developed by Parkes (1986) in his work on bereavement. Such models are useful in allowing recognition of the process of adjustment although not everyone conforms rigidly to set patterns (Sidell, 1993).

Key points

  • Changes of place can involve people in coping with changes in role and status.

  • All change demands some personal or psychological adjustment. Coping with changes of place can relate to attachment and losing your home can be equated with bereavement.

  • Personal control over changes of place is important in relation to how people cope and adjust.

  • Models have been developed to help us to understand the process of change and the effects on self-esteem. However, models can seem prescriptive.


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