Model of Social and Psychological Adaptation of Women Married to Foreigners



The work is devoted to the study of social and psychological adaptation of women who are married to foreigners. As a result of a theoretical study of the problem, a model of social and psychological adaptation of the social group under the study was firstly formulated and proposed. The model consists of four stages (“honeymoon stage”, stage of accumulation of contradictions, stage of depression, stage of integration), four levels (social level, collective level, personal level, level of close relationships), four types (assimilation, separation, marginalization, integration), four corresponding psychological difficulties (prevailing of the compelled contacts in the structure of communication; women’s expectations regarding interaction with society do not coincide with the expectations of society; ideas about oneself as a migrant before moving do not coincide with real ideas about oneself in the new country; the predominance of external motivation when moving to another country (following the husband), as a consequence — loss of work and familiar surroundings) and clinical manifestations (irritability; frustration, deprivation; depression, somatization; intrapersonal conflict). All of them are interconnected and form a single space of consistent changes in accordance with the tasks of adaptation. A distinctive feature of this model is the emphasis on the dynamic changes in the social and mental sphere of the lives of women-migrants in the process of integration into the host society.

General Information

Keywords: migrants adaptation, adaptation of women-migrants, model of social and psychological adaptation of migrants, stages of adaptation of migrants, levels of adaptation of migrants, types of adaptation of migrants

Journal rubric: Interdisciplinary Studies

Article type: scientific article


Received: 20.12.2023


For citation: Mironova O.I., Ruonala L.A. Model of Social and Psychological Adaptation of Women Married to Foreigners [Elektronnyi resurs]. Psikhologiya i pravo = Psychology and Law, 2024. Vol. 14, no. 1, pp. 248–265. DOI: 10.17759/psylaw.2024140116.

Full text


The problem of migration in modern conditions is of great interest to the scientific society. Firstly, it is associated with the large number of migrants to Russia and other attractive regions. Secondly, modern migration has its own distinct characteristics in connection with internet development. Global digitalization of daily life has brought migrant’s adaptation to a completely different plane of development. Thus, due to the internet and the media, a modern migrant has knowledge about the country of arrival.
In addition, the development of the internet and the transition of social life to smartphones (in 2016, internet access from smartphones became more often than from desktop computers) created a special communication situation, when to communicate with people around the world there is no need to buy expensive devices, but a wide usage of communication apps helps to communicate in real time from almost anywhere in the world.
Today the study of the problem of migrants is associated with such topics as labour migration, forced migration from places of hostilities and adaptation of the second generation of migrants. Interest in these groups is caused by, among other things, the social and economical consequences of migration, that have a significant impact on the state (including benefit payments, social tension, the formation of ghettos, the work of migration services, distribution, replenishment and expenditure of state tax assets).
Currently, migration as a phenomenon needs to be rethought and clarified, considering new realities associated with the digitalization of everyday life and post-non-classical scientific rationality. This will allow us to go beyond the instrumental approach to the study of migration and rethink the philosophical and social and psychological foundations of this phenomenon.
There is insufficient research on the adaptation of women who moved to a new country due to marriage. The focus of research on the adaptation of this social group is on reproductive choice, mental states after moving, exploitation and involvement in labour processes.
In addition, the focus of this study can be useful not only because of all migrant groups, the sample of women who moved to a new country due to marriage, is one of the least studied. Since, firstly, adaptation affects intimate relationships, and, secondly, the influence of economic factors (migrant workers) and the mental consequences of traumatic experiences (refugees) are reduced, the identified factors of successful adaptation are associated with the core of social and psychological adaptation of migrants.
State of the research problem
A.A. Endruyshko notes, that the history of the development of the concept of migrants’ adaptation has undergone considerable changes from the ideas of a “melting pot”, where a migrant completely adopts the culture of the host society to the ideas when a person can be included in different culture contexts and have different identities [11].
Development of ideas about adaptation correlates with classical science rationality. R. Park [26], R. Redfield, R. Linton, M. Herskovits [28], R. Teske and B. Nelson [30] studied adaptation within its frames. All migration theories considered at this historical time were associated with the idea of losing the identity of the country of origin, as it was assumed that migrants most often come from less developed culture and they need to “grow” up to the host society. Often people from colonies became migrants who for one reason or another were forced to move to a new country. The theories had a general character and didn’t identify the levels, peculiarities and characteristics of the adaptation process.
The basic models of migrants’ adaption both in the western and domestic psychology correlate with the non-classical stage of the science development. Among the scientists who contributed to the development of ideas about adaptation it should be mentioned J. Berry [12, 13], N. Glaser and D. Moynihan [17], Y. Kim [20], K. Oberg [25], V.V. Konstantinov [3], V.Yu. Ledeneva [4], T.G. Stefanenko [8] and others. According to the dominant paradigm, the scientists paid more attention to the philosophical component of the models, took into account the influence of the researcher and the tools chosen by him on the obtained results. Thanks to the dialectic approach the early ideas of adaptation were complemented by more complex constructions such as identity and two-way orientation of the migrant’s adaptation and the host society.
The evolution of the ideas goes from the classical to the non-classical type of scientific rationality. However, in modern migration theories we consider it important to consider a number of issues related to the features of the digital era and the criteria of the post-non-classical scientific rationality.
The post-non-classical scientific rationality is more adequate to the modern state of affairs. The multivarience and openness to the changes underlying the basis of modern science help to see and describe the complexity of the processes taking place in migrants’ adaptation in the host society. Modern conditions present a few challenges previous generations did not face.
One of these conditions is widespread digitalization. It affects both communication and other social contexts such as daily lifestyle, working processes, social services from the state and even a doctor visit. The features of migration in the digital era have become interesting for modern scientists. For example, in the works of B.Z. Faizullaev [15], N. Foner [16], J. Peters [27], N.G. Schiller [29], M. McAuliffe [21; 22], such important contexts as transnationalism, transmigration, digitalization are highlighted. In accordance with the scientists, currently a migrant is in different social contexts and cannot fully immerse himself in the culture of the host society, a migrant himself chooses in what spheres of life and how much he wants to integrate. It is all about flexibility inherent to modern migration.
Another new condition for social and psychological migrant adaptation is globalization, i.e. process of general economic, political, cultural, and religious integration and unification. The culture of the migrant and the host society are in many ways similar and understandable. As a rule, a modern migrant is at the same cultural context, watches the same movies, listens to the same music, uses the same brands, uses the same products of scientific and technical progress.
It would be logical to assume that culture in this situation should become more universal and relieve the migrant from acculturation shock but in reality, although it is quite blurred, migrants still continue to experience difficulties with adaptation.
Thus, these two phenomena — digitalization and globalization significantly affect social and psychological migrants’ adaptation, and the existing models developed earlier are not sufficient and there is a number of critical questions to them.
Firstly, the influence of global digitalization on migration has not been sufficiently studied. Despite the fact that in the last 20 years separate theories have arisen which reacted to the digitalization of social human life, at present there is no generally recognised model covering the accumulated knowledge in the studied field.
Remote work which has become widespread since the beginning of the pandemic, can completely exclude the migrant from local communication. A person can live in one country but “go to work” in another country and, at the same time, communicate with the family and friends and actively participate in their lives, even if they are in different geographical locations. Thus, a person can exist simultaneously in several cultures.
Culture shock or acculturation stress can, thus, be associated not only and not so much with the culture difference, traditions and habits. Acculturation stress and adaptation problems among modern migrants, even if they move to a fairly close cultural environment, make it possible to assume that there are hidden reasons associated with both the migrant’s personality and the host society.
The second important point related to the insufficiency of existing theories is a large number of uncounted hidden bilateral processes affecting adaptation. The current dyadic discourse associated with influence of two “players”, the migrant and the host society, does not make it possible to identify and measure these hidden processes. Both assimilation, acculturation, multiculturalism and transculturalism distinguish a group of migrants and a group of the host society as objects.
The dyadic approach to social and psychological adaptation leads to difficulties in resolving a number of contradictions without which harmonious coexistence of different cultures within one state is impossible.
The authors of many theories for migration assume the equality of cultures and a personality experience, but practical researches reveal discrimination, social and economical injustice that migrants face and which are inherent in any society. A number of researchers [33] consider it as a point of growth of tolerance and development for the host society. However, this development is impossible if the differences existing between local population and migrants are not taken into consideration. These differences shall be comprehended both by the host society and the migrants themselves.
The process of adaptation is a so-called transient space (D. Winnicott) [32] or a game space (D.B. Elkonin) [10]. In some ways the migrant shall again go through the stages of childhood development but exclusively from the perspective of social experience. He is a “child” from the perspective of the cultural experience of living in a new country, but an “adult” psychologically.
This discourse has philosophical roots and is associated with the development by scientists of such categories as “Self”, “Other”, “Alien”, which reveal ideas about human similarity and differences in different philosophical schools.
Modern models of migrants’ adaptation do not indicate three possible roles, which can be taken on any person. Discrimination occurs in the dichotomy “Self — Alien” and does not arise in the triad “Self — Other — Alien” as “Other” — is an equal as a person from the personality’s perspective but in other respects he can be stronger or weaker, more or less experienced, more or less adaptive. Thus, the process of social and psychological adaptation itself is an acquaintance of the migrant with himself as to “Other” and the gradual transformation from “Alien” to “Self”.
Thus, going beyond the dyadic discourse helps to see the hidden factors affecting the success of the migrant’s adaptation. The development of a philosophical level of understanding of social and psychological migrant’s adaptation allows us to describe the dynamic space of an individual’s transformation and society in mutual adaptation.
There is a third important moment in understanding adaptation. The dichotomy of theories cannot spotlight a number of phenomena, which became noticeable in the digital era. These issues, likely, lie in the plane of a person’s unconscious motives which cannot always be investigated directly in traditions of evidence-based psychology as the answer to this question is not entirely obvious to the migrant himself. In addition, the assessment by actions does not always allow to reveal the level of the respondent’s self-actualization. The same behaviour can be both the result of a mature choice and a way to imitate socially approved norms and motives.
The logic of linearity and dichotomy also considers types of adaptation, where success is determined not by tasks resolved by the migrant’s psyche but on the basis of formal criteria. From our point of view, both assimilation, gettoisation, separation and integration can be considered not as fundamentally different from each other’s final points of the process but possible turning points associated with resolving specific conflicts inherent in migrants and resolving these contradictions can allow the migrant to explore other ways of behaviour in the host society.
The problem with the studied models can be a certain simplification of the description of the adaptation process (there are no elements of personality, values, transcendence, motives are studied separately from a person’s history), that doesn’t fully answer the question what specific instruments can help a migrant to successfully integrate.
Fourthly, modern theories of migration often focus on external reasons of moving (e.g., economic situation in a country, dissatisfaction of gender roles etc), but it is worth to consider the fact that even in the most complicated life situations, not everyone decides to migrate.
Modern concepts of migration mainly look at the migrant as a “product of moving”, i.e. simplified, reducing migration to just a border crossing in connection with cognitively understandable explanations which at the same time do not give the full picture of how a person came to such resolving contradictions which happened in his life or as a social object but not a psychological subject.
We assume that a “migrant’s path” starts not from the moment of moving to a new country but from the moment of the internal agreement with the idea that any contradiction can be resolved by migrating as well as with that picture of the future the migrant focuses on when moving.
Moving triggers specific processes in the migrant’s psyche associated with the need to encounter those internal contents that were not obvious in their home country. These contents may be related to self-image, fantasies about living in another culture, and one’s own limitations and strengths.
In addition, fifthly, at the moment a number of scientists note a crisis associated with the study of adaptation. Migrants influence local culture significantly and this criterion has been underestimated. Unfortunately, due to a false understanding of the phenomenon of political correctness, an open and deep dialogue associated with contradictions in the interaction of different ethnic groups and cultures is very difficult [31]. In addition, some critics of modern approaches to migration, as noted by A. Giddens, can turn to xenophobia [14]. At the moment, there is a danger for scientists to lose objectivity and neutrality by deviating either to the left (ignore ethnic and religious differences) or to the right (demonize migrants or sympathize with nationalists’ ideas).
These issues are associated with modern theories of migration in general. But their consideration also brings up to the question of how much they reflect the processes in the studied group of migrants, namely, the group of women who registered marriage with foreigners and moved to a new country as a result of the marriage.
It should be noted that many theories for migration generally focus on the social and economic difficulties of adaptation. However, the group of people, we are studying, when moving if they encounter these problems, then in a lesser version. In many countries when getting a residence permit upon reunification with the partner, the host party shall confirm his ability to support his wife, provide her adequate living conditions etc.
At the same time a woman finds herself in a specific communication situation. Cross-cultural communication with a spouse touches on a woman’s deepest, real, intimate experiences [23].
Finally, there are unspoken expectations to women in any culture. These requirements concern not only behavioural rules in society but also the roles of a man and a woman, romantic traditions, models of raising kids.
It can be concluded that the mentioned characteristics of the group are expressed in a number of contradictions which a woman has to resolve in the process of adaptation for successful integration into the host society. The model we propose for the social and psychological adaptation of the studied group is built around the determination and resolving these contradictions. The proposed model can be useful not only from the point of view of studying a specific group but can also clarify the idea of migration in general.

Components of the model of social and psychological adaptation
of women married to foreigners

Based on the above, it has become obvious that it is necessary to create a model of social and psychological adaptation of women married to foreigners taking into consideration existing critical issues. For this purpose, based on theoretical research the following generic concepts were identified: types of adaptation (J. Berry), stages of adaptation (A. Harris, H. Triandis, J. Berry, R. Lazarus, S. Folkman etc.), the dynamic component of the adaptation process and an individual approach (Y. Kim), and integration is being considered as the final stage of successful adaptation (V.Yu. Ledeneva).
All three theories consider the adaptation process through the prism of the joint activity of the migrant and the host society and study different elements of this process. Integration, thus, occurs due to transformation of the old identity into the new, mixed one and as a result the migrant’s acceptance by society is possible. It can be correlated with the concept of the aggregate subject introduced by K.A. Abulkhanova-Slavskaya.
In addition, when describing the model based on an analysis of the literature for the topic it was for the first time formulated:
  • levels of social-psychological adaptation of the studied group;
  • psychological difficulties inherent in woman correlating with the identified levels of adaptation;
  • clinical aspects of the identified psychological difficulties.
Figure. 1. Model of social and psychological adaptation of women married foreigners
It should be taken into account that the stages, types, levels and results of adaptation are similar for all migrants but the difficulties and clinical manifestations will differ in dependence of the reasons for moving and for each group of migrants they shall be considered separately.
Resolving key psychological difficulties associated with each stage of social and psychological adaptation, integration into the host society and the formation of a special form of ethnic identity, including components of both the identity of the country of origin and the new place of residence, indicate success of the studied process.
This model is clearly shown in Fig. 1
Our proposed model of successful social and psychological adaptation of women married to foreigners continues the logic of the development of ideas about the adaptation of migrants and takes into account modern problems and challenges.
Let us take a closer look at each component of our presented model.
Component “Stages of social and psychological adaptation of women married to foreigners”
For description of the adaptation process after moving, we use the theory of 4 stages of adaptation in a new country, accepted in the modern. It seems interesting to consider this process not only from the perspective of acculturation stress. For example, the generally accepted four stages of adaptation can be correlated with the stages of grief as a process of adaptation to a new reality in the psychodynamic approach and the loss in this case will be the lost image of the “ideal Self”. Let us compare the stages of psychological migrant’s adaptation in the host society and the stages of grief V. Kast [19].
  1. Stage “honeymoon” — denial phase. At the “honeymoon” phase, the migrant hasn’t fully realized yet how life in a new country differs from the fantasies and plans she made before moving.
At this stage the migrant pays attention to those advantages that she gained from moving focusing on everything she didn’t have in the country of origin that is associated with experiencing pleasant feelings and euphoria. The migrant experiences belonging to the new. The stage of accumulation of disappointment followed after can bring unwillingness to face unpleasant experiences and trigger a number of psychological defenses denying that disappointment. Further transformation is impossible without understanding that you cannot stay constantly in a stage of “falling in love”.
  1. The stage of accumulation of contradictions — the phase of breakthrough of emotions. After a person starts to accept the fact of changes as a given, in psyche the leading emotions typical for oneself actualize and breakthrough. For example, if a person got used to react to stress with aggression, then this emotion will actualize; if he suffered from toxic shame, then namely shame will become the main emotion at this stage of adaptation.
The transition to the stage of accumulation of disappointment is associated with intense experience of loss connected with the lack of the usual valuable elements of daily life which in one’s native country he took for granted. For many migrants the lack of the usual level of service, the work of social and communal services, the traditions of celebrating holidays, the inaccessibility of significant social connections at motherland etc. becomes a real challenge.
In addition, the migrant can be disappointed in himself and his abilities to overcome difficulties that trigger such feeling as helplessness, anger, rage, guilt and shame. It is assumed that the task of this stage is the necessity to contain all these “nuclear” feelings of psyche which also connected with unresolved difficulties at earlier stages of the migrant’s life.
If these feelings are not processed and symbolically experienced, then the migrant can “get stuck” in the feeling of being an “alien” in this country and culture. Unresolved feelings, thus, can be reacted outwardly through discussion of dissatisfaction connected with a new country and its inhabitants.
  1. The stage of depression — a phase of searching and separation. The task of this stage is the realization and appropriation of the important things that were given to the migrant by motherland, culture, values, ways of communication. At the same time, new identity begins to form; the most important things are taken from the past life and new ones are chosen that corresponds more to the ideas of oneself as a migrant — member of the host society.
The stage of depression occurs if a person finds the strength to face the necessity to form new ideas about himself and his place in the world. This stage corresponds with the stage of grief when loss is accepted, the effect is contained and it is necessary to carry out laborious work for “inventory” of all one’s motives, beliefs and ideas.
As noted by J. Hollis [18] there is confusion in definitions connected with using the “depression” in psychoanalysis and medicine. Here we use this term from the perspective of psychoanalytical theory implying a deep experience associated with the forming of a new picture of the world, capable to maintain the contradictions of the environment, putting up with its injustice and imperfection and at the same time to be happy and creatively active.
If to use the language of metaphors, we can say that the dichotomy “Self — Alien” correlates with a two-dimensional space where there are only abscissa and ordinate axes. A person feels himself in a trap, finding himself as a point in a square drawn around. However, integration of the depression stage gives a person the idea of the third — the concept of the “Other”. The Z axis is added to the abscissa and ordinate axes creating volume and helping to see instead of a trap a square drawn on the asphalt you can easily step over.
This task is uncommon and requires from the migrant mental maturity and courage and to abandon infantile beliefs and mechanisms, mental maturity and courage. For realization of this stage, one always needs “Other” — a therapist, a social worker, a friend, a partner. i.e. a person capable to “reflect” respectfully on person’s needs and problems showing blind spots, calling things like they are, offering alternatives.
  1. The integration stage — a phase of a new attitude to oneself and the world. The transition to this stage represents the completion of adaptation to loss which is impossible to be changed and forms an attitude towards adaptation as to a valuable experience that allows to become a complete and self-actualized person who can be integrated into a new society. The “True Self” is formed which in the process of adaptation has been cleared of unrealistic expectations, unprocessed traumas and tragedies, untreated family neuroses that, in our opinion, means successful adaptation of the migrant into the host society.
From the point of view of V.Yu. Ledeneva [4] successful integration as the final stage of adaptation associates with the knowledge of the language of a new country, full participation in social and political life (including obtaining citizenship, the ability to vote), social status (having a job, getting an education), equal access with members of the host society to the public domain. The realization of these needs and strengthening one’s position in society become the tasks of the final stage of adaptation.
Component “Levels of social and psychological adaptation of women married to foreigners”
The analysis of the sources have shown that in science there is currently no consensus on the classification and the content of the levels of social and psychological adaptation of migrants and their study is of a general nature.
The level of adaptation is quite often understood in research as the level of adaptation: low, medium, high. These studies relate to the classical scientific paradigm, which considers adaptation as a linear movement from low to high and correlates with some reference scale in a two-dimensional space.
Another criterion for identifying levels of social and psychological adaptation found in the literature can be called the success of adaptation: false — genuine, full — partial, successful — unsuccessful [1; 6]. Such ideas about adaptation include not only a scale but also correlate with any characteristics of the success of social and psychological adaptation which corresponds to the non-classical paradigm.
From the point of view of post-non-classical rationality, adaptation should be considered as a complex three-dimensional figure in motion and the level is that disposition which can be fixed at a specific moment of time correlated with certain stages, difficulties, clinical manifestations and types of adaptation.
To solve this problem, based on the analysis of the sources the characteristics were identified which modern scientists associate with the success of social and psychological migrants’ adaptation. Then, based on the categorization of these concepts it was revealed that four levels of social and psychological adaptation of women married to foreigners can be distinguished: collective, psychological, social and the level of close relations.
The collective level is associated with the mutual social expectations of the migrant and the host society, as well as with those categories which form these expectations: the image of the host party, the image of oneself as a migrant, prejudices, stereotypes regarding the host culture and the culture of origin, attitude to migrants in the host society as well as relations between these two categories.
The psychological level is associated with the personality of the migrant: his beliefs, values, motives, level of aspiration, coping strategies, active life position.
The social level (or the level of social context) is revealed through features of social status such as: gender, age, financial status, professional status, living in a big, small city or a village, presence of children, nuclear to extended family, access to resources (e.g., to medicine, education, labour market, equality etc.)
The fourth level will vary in different groups of migrants as it is relating to the motive for moving. In the situation of marriage migration, the level of close relations is revealed. This level includes: experience of romantic relations, type of attachment, characteristics of marriage choice, role expectations from husband and wife, marital satisfaction.
All the described levels are united around the anchor concept — identity. Each level relates to a specific aspect of identity of the migrant and consistently reveals its transformation during the entire adaptation process.
  1. Erikson, H. Tajfel, J. Turner, E. Goffman, G. Breakwell separated personal and social identity and described two levels of individual’s functioning: a) as a level of conformity in comparison with others b) as a category defining constancy in changes in the development process.
  2. Turner [9] proposed the concept of self-categorization — correlation of oneself with a certain class of objects (humanity, social group, personal character features). He represented a correlation between social and personal types of identity in the form of bipolar continuum where the levels of self-categorization are in the relations of “functional antagonism”. Being in the position of the group identity, a person does not notice the individuality of the group members; in the position of personal identity the understanding of group similarity is lost.
According to T.G. Stefanenko, ethnic identity can be considered not only as ethnicity but also as an experience arisen within the interaction of individual’s “Self” and surrounding ethnic environment through awareness of belonging and separateness [8]. Migrants face a special situation of increasing rupture with the environment of their native country at the lack of belonging in the new society.
Ethnic identity from G.U. Soldatova’s point of view should be considered as a component of multiple identity, which relates to the structure of group self-actualization. Ethnic identity is a social and psychological result of emotional and cognitive, value processes [7].
 In the understanding of J. Berry [12], successful adaptation is associated with the formation of a new, mixed identity, which contains both elements of the culture of the country of origin and the host country.
In this study, by identity we understand the process and result of identification with groups and their characteristics, which is revealed at all levels of human existence, and the elements of identity are in dynamic relationships with each other (they represent an open system).
The result of successful adaptation in modern research is considered to be integration which is characterized by the following features:
  • both the migrant and his family, children (if any) are successfully integrated into the life of the host society;
  • the migrant and his children (if any) speak the language of the country where they live;
  • - the migrant understands values and cultural needs of the host country but keeps respecting values, history, tradition of migrant’s own culture;
  • the migrant himself seeks and creates s a balance between the values and observance of the traditions of the country of origin and the host society;
  • the migrant forms a new ethnic identity consisting of the elements of the identity of the country of origin and the host country;
  • the migrant acts as a subject of his own life and is ready to resolve the contradictions that arise in his life based on the formed identity.
Each of the levels of social and psychological adaptation plays a role in one way or another in a migrant’s adaptation, however, at each stage a specific level plays a key role. At the first stage, when meeting a new society, elements of the social level of adaptation come to the fore; at the second stage, with the accumulation of contradictions, the content of the collective level is of particular importance; on the third — personal, and on the final level, the level of close relationships becomes especially important.
The work we have done on highlighting the levels of social and phycological adaptation of women who married to foreigners gives an understanding of what “layers” of the migrant’s personal and social life are affected by adaptation and what changes the individual’s identity undergoes.
Component “Types of social and psychological adaptation of women married to foreigners”
  1. Berry [13], based on empirical research, identified four types of adaptation of migrants: assimilation, separation, marginalization and integration. Later, this classification was confirmed by other researchers and it is widely used in modern science.
This classification is based on the idea of adaptation as a process of formation of a special type of the migrant’s identity, including both the identity of the country of origin and the new country which is associated both with the activities of the migrant himself and the attitude of the host society.
If the environment is ready to accept migrants and promote their inclusion, while the migrant loses connection with his identity of the country of origin, then assimilation occurs. i.e. rejection by the migrant of his own culture and history and the attempt to use only traditions of the host society.
In the situation where the migrant rejects his identity and the society is not inclined to accept migrants, then the person is marginalized.
And finally, if the migrant values his culture and traditions but the society does not approve it, then so-called gettos, “a country within a country” may arise and separation takes place.
Integration, according to this model, is possible only in case the migrant accepts himself and his identity, and the external environment (citizens and the government in the host society) respects both its culture but is ready to be flexible when inclusion of migrants into social, economic, and political life of the country.
The topic of adaptation of migrants became especially actual after the migration crisis of 2014 and based on the conducted researches, a number of inconsistencies can be noted. The researches confirm distribution of migrants into these four types. However, despite the fact, that in many European countries great attention is paid to the adaptation of migrants at all levels, there is also marginalization and separation there.
It can be assumed that the conditions identified by J. Berry are not sufficient to explain the formation of adaptation for one type or another, and there are other factors affecting the type of adaptation. We consider these types in conjunction with the stages of adaptation. The inability of resolving these problems at the corresponding stages of adaptation, associated both with the personality of the migrant and with the behaviour of representatives of the host society, leads to “getting stuck” at this stage.
Taking into account the integrity, dynamism and direction of the process of the social and psychological adaptation, it is worth to consider the stages of adaptation proposed by J. Berry and correlate them with the corresponding adaptation stages, their tasks and properties.
At the first stage of adaptation the migrant studies the components of identity of a new country on a superficial level, responding to the new things he would like to appropriate. If the transition to the second stage of adaptation does not happen, then the migrant “gets stuck” in identification with a new country and tries in every possible way to devalue the significance of the country of origin that corresponds to the type of adaptation described by J. Berry — assimilation, i.e. rejection of the culture of his native country and the attempt to immediately become a “Self”, but not an “Alien”.
The second stage involves experiencing the differences between the native and new societies. There is a tendency to reject the new culture and idealize one’s own, lost one, that leads to the behaviour called separation by J. Berry. Here the migrant is very acutely aware of the fact that he is not a “Self”, that means an “Alien”, and tends not to notice the good that there is in a new country and can enrich him, including emotionally and spiritually.
The third stage is a kind of a “melting pot”, where a rethinking of both cultures takes place and the formation of that identity, which will best reveal the migrant as a genuine, self-actualized person. If it does not happen, the migrant can “get stuck” at that transitional stage, losing touch with both the native and the new culture that corresponds to marginalization according to J. Berry. Thus, the migrants cannot decide what group they actually belong to.
If the first three stages have been completed, then the migrant finds himself as “Other”, i.e. similar and different at the same time. He acquires the ability to be relevant in both cultures and moves on to solving the immediate problems of integration.
Considering the types of social and psychological adaptation not as disjoint sets, but as elements of one space in dynamics, allows us to see the process we are studying more fully.
Component “Psychological difficulties in adaptation of women married to foreigners”
At each level of the adaptation a woman can experience specific psychological difficulties in adaptation: women’s expectations regarding interaction with society do not coincide with the society’s expectations; prevailing of external motivation when moving to another country (to follow the husband), as a result — loss of work and familiar surrounding; the predominance of the compelled contacts in the structure of communication; ideas about oneself as a migrant before moving do not coincide with real ideas about oneself in the new country.
We consider in details the theoretical and empirical prerequisites for studying this component in a previous publication [24], and here we will focus on the content of a specific component of the model and its connection with other components.
So, firstly, it should be noted that at each stage of social and psychological adaptation, a specific psychological difficulty is actualized (i.e. “any internal barriers, violations, failures, etc., preventing optimal adaptation”), which shall be resolved within this stage [24, p. 163].
At the first stage, a woman finds herself in a situation where the majority of her contacts is her husband and his environment. The opportunity to fit into everyday reality the social connections familiar to this moment, which a woman has developed over the years: her own family, friends, acquaintances, colleagues, etc., is lost. If previously migrants found themselves in a social vacuum, which forced them to look for new contacts, now messengers and social networks in their lives help to maintain social connections in another country but slows them down in finding their own social life not connected with their husband [2].
At the same time a woman needs to constantly communicate with strangers in a new country in state organizations when obtaining local documents and registering with institutions, validating education, language courses, institutions for children, if any, and if they moved together with their mother etc. Thus, the compelled contacts prevail in a woman’s life [5].
On the one hand, this situation cannot be called simple. On the other hand, the emotions after the moving are still strong: the bureaucratic stage associated with the legalization of the moving and reunification with the partner completed; in the new country positive differences from the country of origin are noticed, there is strength and motivation to change something, integrate and learn the language. Affected by this emotional uplift it can be difficult to pay proper attention to problems and take care of yourself and your condition. Women can try with all their strength to maintain this experience of euphoria and deny any problems and their impact on life and mental state.
If the problem is not ignored and the woman sees reasons why communication that was easy before is not like that now, is capable to see and accept her specific position in the new society and in communication, different from her position in the native country, then there is a transition to the next stage of the adaptation associated with the fact that the expectations of women regarding to interaction with the society do not coincide with the society’s expectations.
At this stage, with the accumulation of contradictions regarding the new country, the woman discovers that she is not fully familiar with the rules, habits and unspoken requirements of society. What was taken for granted in her home country (from the set of the service sector, medicine and education to the way how properly communicate with neighbors and sellers) here can have its own subtle nuances. In fact, all three aspects of communication are affected and in particular the understanding of non-verbal language, the ability to find a common foundation for interaction and the ability to correctly perceive and understand another person.
In such situations for reducing anxiety the mechanism of polarization is activated. The complexity of this stage is in maintaining an ambivalent position where there are no good and bad cultures or traditions but there are familiar and unfamiliar. Keeping a position of respect for both cultures, the woman can move on to the next stage, which is associated with a deep experience of her own identity — the idea of herself as a migrant before moving does not coincide with a real idea of herself in the new country.
Resolving of this problem cannot be called trivial. On the one hand, this is the experience of otherness, dissimilarity, difference from those who surround the woman. We can say that at the stage the woman-migrant experiences existential loneliness and learns to know herself, her humanity and uniqueness. This stage is more difficult and labour-consuming. Often a woman needs the help of a specialist in order to work through those life stories and acquire new personal qualities that will allow to realize and build her identity keeping contacts with her native culture and integrating the culture of the new country.
If this stage is passed, we can talk about the resolving the last difficulty associated with the moving — prevailing of external motivation when moving to another country (to follow the husband), as a result — the loss of job and familiar surroundings. Here, those consequences of moving that cannot be resolved without rethinking her motives, aims and values come to fore. Despite the fact that this difficulty showed up at the very beginning of the moving, resolving its consequences and formation of internal motivation at the previous stages was irrelevant and impossible.
At this stage, external motivation is exchanged into internal motivation, and the tasks of the life path cease to be fundamentally different from the tasks of the local population.
These psychological difficulties can be correlated with the levels of adaptation and represent external or internal barriers that a woman faces after moving.
Social level — the predominance of the compelled contacts in the structure of communication;
Collective level — women’s expectations regarding interaction with society do not coincide with society’s expectations;
Personal level — ideas about herself as a migrant before moving do not coincide with real ideas about herself in the new country;
Relationships in a couple — the predominance of external motivation when moving to another country (to follow the husband), as a result — loss of work and familiar surroundings.
The resolving these psychological difficulties acts as a driver of adaptation. By overcoming the frustration associated with the negative consequences of these difficulties, a woman gains valuable experience of personal transformation, which allows her to reveal her psychological potential and become the true author of her life.
Component “Clinical manifestations of psychological difficulties in the social and psychological adaptation of women married to foreigners”
At each stage of social and psychological adaptation, specific clinical manifestations are indicators of certain difficulties. On the one hand, they can act as markers for passing the corresponding stages. On the other hand, if the symptoms last a long time and their intensity increases, then we should talk about pathological “getting stuck” at the corresponding stages. In this case, the woman needs specialized help to resolve psychological difficulties.
Irritation becomes an indicator that, due to the predominance of the compelled contacts, a woman is not satisfied with everyday communication; she needs to pay the closest attention to this symptom. Both the woman herself and her surrounding can misclassify this condition without taking into account the context and ignore the seriousness of her condition.
More and more immersed in everyday life, a woman faces the fact that she has lost all her social roles, except for the role of wife. Her professional achievements, friendship, family relationships and associated habits and aspirations cannot be exhibited in the new society in the same way as in her native country. Due to contradictions in realizing her social needs, a woman faces frustration and even deprivation. It is frustration that can help a woman to understand and evaluate the level of her aspirations and build a “road map” that helps her to understand how she would like to develop in a new country.
To resolve this issue requires a deep immersion into one’s own mental life. This process is associated with a so-called “internal reassembly”, the natural consequence of which may be a subdepressive state. But if this work does not happen, then depression can become real or turn into somatization.
Only by building a new identity a woman can get the point where problems related to how exactly a woman will realize herself in a new society are solved. This topic is associated with bridging the gap between the “Ideal Self” and the “Real Self” and can lead to intrapersonal conflicts. Their solution becomes the final task, helping to truly integrate into a new society.
The identified clinical manifestations of psychological difficulties in the process of social and psychological adaptation are an integral part of the path that a woman goes through when integrating into a new society.
The model of social and psychological adaptation of women married to foreigners considered in the article, reveals social and psychological adaptation from different sides, highlighting the complexity and multifactorial nature of the studied process, taking into account the non-obvious tasks of this process, which affect not only superficial and easily measurable parameters.
We analyzed the shortcomings of the concepts of migrants’ adaptation available in modern science. It can be noted that there is a certain paradox associated with understanding the social and psychological adaptation of migrants. On the one hand, the existing models indeed describe an important part of reality, but on the other hand, due to 1) the limitations of the tools and research methods offered by non-classical rationality, 2) fundamentally new modern conditions in which the process of social and psychological adaptation of migrants takes place, 3) the hidden processes affecting adaptation, 4) the focus on studying the external side of the migration process, 5) difficulties in keeping research neutrality to the studied process — it is obvious that there is a number of blind spots that significantly influence scientists’ understanding of how exactly both migrants and the host society can be helped in the process of adaptation.
A distinctive feature of this model is the emphasis on dynamic changes in the adaptation process taking place in the social and mental sphere of women-migrants’ lives. The introduction of a dynamic component into the model allows us to combine incomplete knowledge on the topic and discover the relationship between the levels, types and stages of adaptation, psychological difficulties typical for the studied group and their clinical symptoms.
The model consists of four stages (“honeymoon stage”, stage of accumulation of contradictions, stage of depression, stage of integration), four levels (social level, collective level, personal level, level of close relationships), four types (assimilation, separation, marginalization, integration), four corresponding psychological difficulties (the predominance of the compelled contacts in the structure of communication; women’s expectations regarding interaction with society do not coincide with the expectations of society; ideas about themselves as a migrant before moving do not coincide with real ideas about themselves in the new country; the predominance of external motivation when moving to another country (following her husband), as a consequence — loss of work and familiar surroundings) and clinical manifestations (irritability; frustration, deprivation; depression, somatization; intrapersonal conflict). All of them are interconnected and form a single space of consistent changes in accordance with the tasks of adaptation.
It should be noted that three of the four levels of social and psychological adaptation are universal and reveal processes in all groups of migrants, and the level of close relationships is specific to the social group under study and reveals the characteristics inherent specifically in women who married to foreigners. They are revealed in the difficulties and clinical manifestations unique to this group.
With the existing limitations associated with the fact that the obtained model is the result of theoretical research, an important difference is going beyond the primacy of quantitative indicators and the transition to post-classical scientific rationality.
The prospect for further research is an empirical study of the characteristics of social and psychological adaptation of women who are married to foreigners, clarifying the content of specific factors that influence her success.


  1. Barteneva A. K. Sotsial’no-psikhologicheskaya adaptatsiya russkoyazychnykh immigrantov v Finlyandii. Pedagogika, psikhologiya, obshchestvo: ot teorii k praktike: materialy III Vserossiiskoi. nauchno-prakticheskoi konferentsii s mezhdunarodnym uchastiem (Cheboksary, 22 iyulya 2022). Cheboksary: Sreda, 2022, pp. 238–242. (In Russ.)
  2. Brazevich S.S. Sotsial’nye seti migrantov kak novaya kommunikativnaya lokal’nost’, kvaziinstituty etnichnosti i logika virtualizatsii sotsial’nogo kapitala [Social networks of migrants as a new communication locality, quasi-institutions of ethnicity and the logic of virtualization of social capital]. Teleskop = Telescope, 2023, no. 1, pp. 38–47. doi:10.24412/1994-3776-2023-1-38-47 (In Russ., Abstr in Engl.).
  3. Konstantinov V.V. Sotsial’no-psikhologicheskaya adaptatsiya migrantov v prinimayushchem polikul’turnom obshchestve: Diss. dokt. psikhol. nauk. Saratov, 2018, 535 p. (In Russ.).
  4. Ledeneva V.Yu., Kononov L.A. Gosudarstvennoe i munitsipal’noe regulirovanie protsessov adaptatsii i integratsii migrantov v sovremennoi Rossii: Monografiya. Moscow: RUDN Publ., 2021. 296 p. (In Russ.).
  5. Mironova O.I. Vynuzhdennye kontakty v mezhlichnostnom vzaimodeistvii: Uchebnoe posobie. Moscow: Izdatel’skii dom “Belyi veter”, 2020. 113 p. (In Russ.).
  6. Neganov V.V., Vedyakov M.I. Nekotorye aktual’nye aspekty migratsionnoi politiki Rossiiskoi Federatsii [Some actual aspects of the migration policy of the Russian Federation]. Voprosy rossiiskogo i mezhdunarodnogo prava = Matters of Russian and International Law, 2022. Vol. 12, no. 7А, pp. 83–91. doi:10.34670/AR.2022.80.14.013 (In Russ., Abstr. in Engl.).
  7. Soldatova G.U., Panteleev A.B. Mezhkul’turnaya kompetentnost’ i adaptatsiya v inokul’turnoi srede: podkhody i tekhnologii [Intercultural competence and adaptation in foreigncultural environment: approaches and technologies]. Vestnik Moskovskogo gosudarstvennogo oblastnogo universiteta. Seriya: Pedagogika = Bulletin of Moscow Region State University. Series: Pedagogics, 2007, no. 1, pp. 12–22. (In Russ., Abstr. in Engl.)
  8. Stefanenko T.G. Etnopsikhologiya. Moscow: Institut psikhologii RAN Publ., 1999. 320 p. (In Russ.).
  9. Turner J.C. Sotsial’noe vliyanie [Social Influence]. Saint Petersburg: Piter, 2003. 256 p. (In Russ.).
  10. Elkonin D. B. Psikhologiya igry. Moscow: Rugram, 2022. 228 p. (In Russ.).
  11. Endryushko A.A. Teoreticheskie podkhody k izucheniyu adaptatsii migrantov v prinimayushchem obshchestve: zarubezhnyi opyt [Theoretical Approaches Towards Examining the Adaptation of Migrants to the Host Society: Foreign Practices]. Vestnik Instituta sotsiologii = Bulletin of the Institute of Sociology, 2017. Vol. 8, no. 4, pp. 45–70. doi:10.19181/vis.2017.23.4.480 (In Russ., Abstr. in Engl.).
  12. Berry J.W. Migrant acculturation and adaptation. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2021, pp. 311–318.
  13. Berry J.W. Theories and models of acculturation. In S.J. Schwartz, J. Unger (eds.). The Oxford Handbook of Acculturation and Health. 2017, pp. 15–28.
  14. Dennison J., Geddes A. Why COVID-19 does not necessarily mean that attitudes toward immigration will become more negative. IOM Policy Paper. International Organization for Migration, 2020. 8 p.
  15. Fayzullayev B.Z. Khalid S. Navigating the digital divide: analysing the impact of technology and connectivity on modern trends in international labor migration. American Journal of Interdisciplinary Research and Development, 2023. Vol. 20, 80–92.
  16. Foner N. Beyond the Melting Pot Three Decades Later: Recent Immigrants and New York’s New Ethnic Mixture. The International Migration Review, 2000. Vol. 1, no. 34, pp. 255–262. doi:10.1177/019791830003400113
  17. Glazer, N., Moynihan, D. P. Beyond the melting pot: The Negroes, Puerto Ricans, Jews, Italians and Irish of New York City. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press, 360 p.
  18. Hollis J. The Middle Passage: From Misery to Meaning in Mid-Life. Toronto: Inner City Books, 1993. 128 p.
  19. Kast V. Time to Mourn: Growing Through the Grief Process. Einsiedeln: Daimon Verlag, 1993. 156 p.
  20. Kim Y.Y. Beyond cultural categories: Communication, adaptation and transformation // The Routledge handbook of language and intercultural communication. Routledge, 2012б 241–255.
  21. McAuliffe M. International migration and digital technology: An overview. Research Handbook on International Migration and Digital Technology. Edward Elgar Publishing, 2021, pp. 1–13. doi:10.4337/9781839100611.00008
  22. McAuliffe M., Triandafyllidou A. (eds.) World Migration Report. Geneva: International Organization for migrants (IOM), 2022. 540 p.
  23. Mironova O.I., Ruonala L.A Type of attachment as a factor of socio-psychological adaptation of women married to foreigners. Vestnik Moskovskogo gosudarstvennogo oblastnogo universiteta. Seriya: Psihologicheskie nauki = Bulletin of the Moscow Region State University. Series: Psychology, 2022, no. 4, pp. 101–112. doi:10.18384/2310-7235-2022-4-101-112
  24. Mironova O.I., Ruonala L.A., Mironov E.S. Digitalization of Social Contacts – Risks for Women Seeking a Spouse through Dating Sites and Apps. Psikhologiya i pravo = Psychology and Law, 2021. Vol. 11, no. 4, pp. 42–63. doi:10.17759/psylaw.2021110404
  25. Oberg K. Cultural Shock: Adjustment to New Cultural Environments. Practical Anthropology, 1960. Vol. 4, no. 7, pp. 177–182. doi:10.1177/009182966000700405
  26. Park P. Race and Culture. Glencoe: Free Press, 1950. 456 p.
  27. Pieterse J.N. Global Multiculture, Flexible Acculturation. Globalizations, 2007. Vol. 1, no. 4, pp. 65–79. doi:10.1080/14747730701245616
  28. Redfield R., Linton R., Herskovits M.J. Memorandum for the Study of Acculturation. American Anthropologist, 1936. Vol. 1, no. 38, pp. 149–152. doi:10.1525/aa.1936.38.1.02A00330
  29. Schiller N.G., Basch L., Szanton B.C. From immigrant to transmigrant: Theorizing transnational migration. Anthropological Quarterly, 1995, 68, pp. 48–63. doi:10.2307/3317464
  30. Teske R.H., Nelson B.H. Acculturation and assimilation: A clarification. American Ethnologist, 1974, 1, no. 2, pp. 351–367. doi:10.1525/ae.1974.1.2.02a00090
  31. Vertovec S., Wessendorf S. Migration and Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Diversity in Europe: An overview of issues and trends. University of Oxford, 2005.
  32. Winnicott D.W. Transitional Objects and Transitional Phenomena: A Study of the First Not-Me Possession. The Collected Works of D.W. Winnicott: Vol. 4. New York: Oxford Academic, 2016, pp. 159–174.
  33. Wyszynski M.A., Guerra R., Bierwiaczonek K. Good refugees, bad migrants? Intergroup helping orientations toward refugees, migrants, and economic migrants in Germany. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 2020. Vol. 50, no. 5, pp. 607–618. doi:10.1111/jasp.12699

Information About the Authors

Oksana I. Mironova, Doctor of Psychology, Docent, Professor, Department of Psychology Faculty of Social Sciences, HSE University, Professor, Department of Psychology and Human Capital Development Faculty of Social Sciences and mass communications Financial University under the Government of the Russian Federation, Moscow, Russia, ORCID:, e-mail:

Lidiya A. Ruonala, Magister of Psychology, Independent Researcher, Sweden, ORCID:, e-mail:



Total: 51
Previous month: 0
Current month: 51


Total: 19
Previous month: 0
Current month: 19