The Ecological Perspective 33 3. Adaptation Is Ongoing Individuals, families, groups, and communities continually engage in action- oriented, cognitive, sensory-perceptual, and behavioral processes to sustain or raise the level of fit between them and their environment. 4. External Life Stressors and Internal Stress External life stressors reflect a maladaptive person:environment relationship. The life stressor represents an external harm, loss, or threat of a future harm or loss. Internal stress is the consequence of the appraisal by individuals, families, groups, and communities that the life stressor exceeds their personal and environmental resources for coping with it. This leads to a secondary appraisal, in which these same entities consider how to deal with the stressor and associated stress by initiating coping measures. Coping measures include emotional, cognitive and behavioral actions that address the stressful situation by changing the self, the environment, exchanges between them, or all three. Personal resources include motivation and problem-solving and relation- ship skills and depend, in part, on past learning and experiences with the environment. Accessing environmental resources like formal organizational services, informal support from relatives, friends, and neighbors, and physical settings of space and time depends upon their availability and responsiveness, as well as the ability of individuals, groups, families, and communities to seek and use them. 5. Relatedness This concept refers to the innate need of humans for attachment, first to caregivers and later to others in varying degrees of intimacy. The need for connections to others is strong, and even temporary separation can be painful, while actual loss can be devastating. Connection to others fosters self-efficacy, positive self-concept, and self-direction. An aspect of self-concept is self-esteem, the extent to which one feels capable, significant, and worthy of respect and love. Self-direction refers to a sense of having some measure of control over one’s life and the ability to assume responsibility for one’s decisions and actions, while respecting the rights and needs of others.
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