Hostname: page-component-6b989bf9dc-md2j5 Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-04-14T02:33:16.444Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Adaptability: Conceptual and Empirical Perspectives on Responses to Change, Novelty and Uncertainty

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 June 2012

Andrew J. Martin*
Faculty of Education and Social Work, University of Sydney, Australia
Harry Nejad
Faculty of Education and Social Work, University of Sydney, Australia
Susan Colmar
Faculty of Education and Social Work, University of Sydney, Australia
Gregory Arief D. Liem
Faculty of Education and Social Work, University of Sydney, Australia
address for correspondence: Professor Andrew J. Martin, Faculty of Education and Social Work, A35 – Education Building, University of Sydney NSW 2006, Australia. Email:
Get access


Adaptability is proposed as individuals’ capacity to constructively regulate psycho-behavioral functions in response to new, changing, and/or uncertain circumstances, conditions and situations. The present investigation explored the internal and external validity of an hypothesised adaptability scale. The sample comprised 2,731 high school students. In terms of internal validity, exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis (EFA and CFA) suggested a reliable higher order adaptability factor subsumed by a reliable first order cognitive-behavioural factor and a reliable first order affective factor. Multi-group CFA indicated invariance in factor structure as a function of gender, age, and language background. Further, age (younger adolescents), language background (non-English speaking), and parents’ education (higher levels) predicted higher order adaptability, while gender (males) predicted first order affective adaptability. In terms of external validity, consistent with hypotheses, higher and first order adaptability was differentially associated with cognate/aligned factors (personality, implicit theories of ability, buoyancy) and also with psycho-educational wellbeing ‘outcome’ factors (achievement, enjoyment of school, meaning and purpose, life satisfaction). Findings hold theoretical and empirical implications for researchers and practitioners seeking to better understand the constructive regulation of individuals confronted with situations involving novelty, change, and uncertainty.

Copyright © The Authors 2012

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Ackerman, P.L. (1996). A theory of adult intellectual development: Process, personality, interests, and knowledge. Intelligence, 22, 227257.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ackerman, P.L. (1997). Personality, self-concept, interest, and intelligence: Which construct doesn't fit? Journal of Personality, 65, 171204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bandura, A. (2001). Social cognitive theory: An agentic perspective. Annual Review of Psychology, 52, 126.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Baumeister, R.F., Gailliot, M., DeWall, C.N., & Oaten, M. (2006). Self-regulation and personality: How interventions increase regulatory success, and how depletion moderates the effects of traits on behavior. Journal of Personality, 74 (6), 17731802.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Benight, C.C., & Bandura, A. (2004). Social cognitive theory of posttraumatic recovery: The role of perceived self-efficacy. Behavior Research and Therapy, 42, 11291148.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Bowles, T. (2010). Readiness to adaptively change under three conditions: Clinical, careers, and natural change situations. Australian Journal of Psychology, 62, 216226.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Brandtstädter, J. (2010). Life management in developmental settings of modernity: Challenges to the adaptive self. In Silbereisen, R.K. & Chen, X. (Eds.), Social change and human development: Concept and results (pp. 5072). London: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bronfenbrenner, U. (1992). Ecological systems theory. In Vasta, R. (Ed.), Six theories of child development: Revised reformulations and current issues (pp. 187249). London: Jessica Kingsley.Google Scholar
Bronfenbrenner, U. (2001). The bioecological theory of human development. In Smelser, N.J. & Baltes, P.B. (Eds.), International encyclopedia of the social and behavioral sciences (Vol. 10, pp. 69636970). New York: Elsevier.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Busato, V.V., Prins, F.J., Elshout, J.J., & Hamaker, C. (1999). The relation between learning styles, the Big Five personality traits and achievement motivation in higher education. Personality and Individual Differences, 26, 129140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Chen, F.F. (2007). Sensitivity of goodness of fit indices to lack of measurement invariance. Structural Equation Modeling, 14, 464504.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cheung, G.W., & Rensvold, R.B. (2002). Evaluating goodness-of-fit indexes for testing measurement invariance. Structural Equation Modeling, 9, 233255.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
de Raad, B., & Schouwenburg, H.C. (1996). Personality in learning and education: A review. European Journal of Personality, 10, 303336.3.0.CO;2-2>CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Diener, E., Emmons, R.A., Larsen, R.J., & Griffin, S. (1985). The Satisfaction with Life Scale. Journal of Personality Assessment, 49, 7175.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Diener, E., Kesebir, P., & Tov, W. (2009). Happiness. In Leary, M.R. & Hoyle, R.H., (Eds.), (Handbook of individual differences in social behavior (pp. 147160). New York: The Guilford Press.Google Scholar
Ekman, P. (1992). An argument for basic emotions. Cognition and Emotion, 6, 169200.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Erikson, E.H. (1968). Identity: Youth and crisis. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
Ferrer, E., & McArdle, J.J. (2004). An experimental analysis of dynamic hypotheses about cognitive abilities and achievement from childhood to early adulthood. Developmental Psychology, 40, 935952.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Folkman, S., Lazarus, R.S., Dunkel-Schetter, C., DeLongis, A., & Gruen, R.J. (1986). Dynamics of a stressful encounter: Cognitive appraisal, coping, and encounter outcomes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 50, 9921003.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Frank, A.W. (2004). Trajectories of physical aggression from toddlerhood to middle childhood: Predictors, correlates, and outcomes. Monographs of the Society of Research in Child Development, 69, 120128.Google Scholar
Fredricks, J.A., Blumenfeld, P.C., & Paris, A.H. (2004). School engagement: potential of the concept, state of the evidence. Review of Educational Research, 74, 59109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Fredrickson, B.L. (2001). The role of positive emotions in positive psychology. American Psychologist, 56, 218226.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Frydenberg, E. (2008). Adolescent coping: Advances in theory, research and applications. London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Garcia-Coll, C., Lamberty, G., Jenkins, R., McAdoo, H.P., Crnic, K., Wasik, B.H., & Vasquez-Garcia, H. (1996). An interactive model for the study of developmental competencies in minority children. Child Development, 67, 18911914.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Garmezy, N. (1981). Children under stress: Perspectives on antecedents and correlates of vulnerability and resistance to psychopathology. In Rabin, A.I., Aronoff, J., Barclay, A., & Zucker, R.A. (Eds.), Further explorations in personality (pp. 196269). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
Graham, J.W., & Hoffer, S.M. (2000). Multiple imputation in multivariate research. In Little, T.D., Schnable, K.U., & Baumert, J. (Eds.), Modeling longitudinal and multilevel data: Practical issues, applied approaches, and specific examples (pp. 201218). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
Grant, A.M. (2001). Coaching for enhanced performance: Comparing cognitive and behavioral approaches to coaching. Paper presented at the 3rd International Spearman seminar: Extending Intelligence: Enhancement and New Constructs, Sydney, Australia.Google Scholar
Gross, J.J. (1998). The emerging field of emotion regulation: An integrative review. Review of General Psychology, 2, 271299.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gross, J.J., & John, O.P. (2003). Individual differences in two emotion regulation processes: Implications for affect, relationships, and well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85, 348362.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Hair, J.F., Anderson, R.E., Tatham, R.L., & Black, W.C. (1995). Multivariate data analysis with readings (4th ed.). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
Heckhausen, J. (1999). Developmental regulation in adulthood: Age-normative and socio-structural constraints as adaptive challenges. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Heckhausen, J., & Schulz, R. (1993). Optimization by selection and compensation: Balancing primary and secondary control in life-span development. International Journal of Behavior Development, 16, 287303.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Heckhausen, J., & Schulz, R. (1995). A life-span theory of control. Psychological Review, 102, 284304.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Heckhausen, J., Wrosch, C., & Schulz, R. (2010). A motivational theory of life-span development. Psychological Review, 117, 3260.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Higgins, E.T. (1996). The ‘self digest’: Self-knowledge serving self-regulatory functions. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 71, 10621083.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Hofäcker, D., Buchholz, S., & Blossfeld, H.-P. (2010). Globalization, institutional filters and changing life course patterns in modern societies. A summary of the results from the GLOBALIFE-project. In Silbereisen, R.K. & Chen, X. (Eds.), Social change and human development: Concept and results (pp. 101124). London: Sage Publications.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Howard, S., & Johnson, B. (2000). Resilient and non-resilient behavior in adolescents. In Graycar, A. (Ed.), Trends and issues in crime and criminal justice series (pp. 16). Canberra, Australia: Australian Institute of Criminology.Google Scholar
Jackson, C. (2006). Lads and ladettes: Gender and a fear of failure. Berkshire, UK: Open University Press.Google Scholar
Jöreskog, K.G., & Sörbom, D. (1993). LISREL 8: Structural equation modeling with SIMPLIS command language. Chicago: Scientific Software International.Google Scholar
Jöreskog, K.G. & Sörbom, D. (2006). LISREL 8.80 for Windows. Lincolnwood, IL: Scientific Software International.Google Scholar
Kaplan, D. (2000). Structural equation modeling: Foundations and extensions. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
Kohn, P.M., Lafreniere, K., & Gurevich, M. (1991). Hassles, health, and personality. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 61, 478482.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Lazarus, R.S., & Folkman, S. (1984). Stress, appraisal, and coping. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
Lindstroem, B. (2001). The meaning of resilience. International Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health, 13, 712.Google Scholar
Locke, E.A. (1996). Motivation through conscious goal setting. Applied & Preventive Psychology, 5, 117124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Luthar, S.S., & Cicchetti, D. (2000). The construct of resilience: Implications for interventions and social policies. Development and Psychopathology, 12, 857885.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
McArdle, J.J. (2009). Latent variable modeling of differences and changes with longitudinal data. Annual Review of Psychology, 60, 577605.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
McCrae, R.R., & Costa, P.T. (1985). Updating Norman's ‘adequate taxonomy’: Intelligence and personality dimensions in natural language and in questionnaires. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 49, 710721.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
McCrae, R.R., & Costa, P.T. (1997). Conception and correlates of Openness to Experience. In Hogan, R., Johnson, J.A. & Briggs, S.R. (Eds.), Handbook of personality psychology (pp. 825847). San Diego: Academic Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
McDonald, R.P., & Marsh, H.W. (1990). Choosing a multivariate model: Noncentrality and goodness of fit. Psychological Bulletin, 107, 247255.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mansour, M., & Martin, A. (2009). Home, parents, and achievement motivation: A study of key home and parental factors that predict student motivation and engagement. Australian Educational and Developmental Psychologist, 26, 111126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Marsh, H.W. (1993). The multidimensional structure of academic self-concept: Invariance over gender and age. American Educational Research Journal, 30, 841860.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Marsh, H.W. (1997). The measurement of physical self-concept: A construct validation approach. In Fox, K. (Ed.), The physical self-concept: From motivation to well-being (pp. 2758). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.Google Scholar
Marsh, H.W. (2002). A multidimensional physical self-concept: A construct validity approach to theory, measurement, and research. Psychology: The Journal of the Hellenic Psychological Society, 9, 459493.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Marsh, H.W. (2007). Self-concept theory, measurement and research into practice: The role of self-concept in educational psychology. Leicester, UK: British Psychological Society.Google Scholar
Marsh, H.W., Balla, J.R., & Hau, K.T. (1996). An evaluation of incremental fit indices: A clarification of mathematical and empirical processes. In Marcoulides, G.A. & Schumacker, R.E. (Eds.), Advanced structural equation modeling techniques (pp. 315353). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
Martin, A.J. (2004). School motivation of boys and girls: Differences of degree, differences of kind, or both? Australian Journal of Psychology, 56, 133146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Martin, A.J. (2007). Examining a multidimensional model of student motivation and engagement using a construct validation approach. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 77, 413440.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Martin, A.J. (2011). Prescriptive statements and educational practice: What can Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) offer? Educational Psychology Review, 23, 235244.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Martin, A.J. (2012). Adaptability and learning. In Seel, N.M. (Ed.), Encyclopedia of the Sciences of Learning (pp. 9092). Heidelberg: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Martin, A.J., Colmar, S., Davey, L., & Marsh, H. (2010). Longitudinal modeling of academic buoyancy and motivation: Do the ‘5Cs’ hold up over time? British Journal of Educational Psychology, 80, 473496.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Martin, A.J., & Marsh, H.W. (2006). Academic resilience and its psychological and educational correlates: A construct validity approach. Psychology in the School, 43, 267280.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Martin, A.J., & Marsh, H.W. (2008a). Academic buoyancy: Towards an understanding of students’ everyday academic resilience. Journal of School Psychology, 46, 5383.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Martin, A., & Marsh, H. (2008b). Workplace and academic buoyancy: Psychometric assessment and construct validity amongst school personnel and students. Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment, 26, 168184.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Martin, A.J., & Marsh, H.W. (2009). Academic resilience and academic buoyancy: Multidimensional and hierarchical conceptual framing of causes, correlates and cognate constructs. Oxford Review of Education, 35, 353370.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Martin, J. (2006). The meaning of the 21st century. London: Transworld.Google Scholar
Masten, A.S. (2001). Ordinary magic: Resilience processes in development. American Psychologist, 56, 227238.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Middleton, C., Marsh, H.W., Martin, A.J., Richards, G., Savis, J., Perry, C., & Brown, R. (2004). The Psychological Performance Inventory: Is the mental toughness test tough enough? International Journal of Sport Psychology, 35, 91108.Google Scholar
Moffitt, T.E., Caspi, A., Rutter, M., & Silva, P.A. (2001). Sex differences in antisocial behavior: Conduct disorder, delinquency, and violence in the Dunedin Longitudinal Study. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). (2006). Where immigrant students succeed. Paris: Author.Google Scholar
Parker, P.D., Martin, A.J., Martinez, C., Marsh, H.W., & Jackson, S. (2010a). Longitudinal approaches to Stages of Change measurement: Effects on cognitive and behavioral physical activity factors. Measurement and Evaluation in Counseling and Development, 43, 108120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Parker, P.D., Martin, A.J., Martinez, C., Marsh, H.W., & Jackson, S.A. (2010b). Stages of change in physical activity: A validation study in late adolescence. Health Education and Behavior, 37, 318329.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Pavot, W., & Diener, E. (1993). Review of the Satisfaction With Life Scale. Psychological Assessment, 5, 164172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Pavot, W., & Diener, E. (2008). The Satisfaction with Life Scale and the emerging construct of life satisfaction. Journal of Positive Psychology, 3, 137152.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Pinquart, M., & Silbereisen, R.K. (2004). Human development in times of social change: Theoretical considerations and research needs. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 28, 289298.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Portes, A., & MacLeod, D. (1996). Educational progress of children of immigrants: The roles of class, ethnicity, and school context. Sociology of Education, 69, 255275.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Prochaska, J.O., & Velicer, W.F. (1997). The Transtheoretical Model of Health Behavior Change. American Journal of Health Promotion, 12, 3848.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Raffaelli, M., Crockett, L.J., & Shen, Y-L. (2005). Developmental stability and change in self-regulation from childhood to adolescence. Journal of Genetic Psychology, 166, 5475.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Ryff, C.D., & Keyes, C.L.M. (1995). The structure of psychological well-being revisited. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69, 719727.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Schulz, R., & Heckhausen, J. (1996). A life span model of successful aging. American Psychologist, 51, 702714.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Schumacker, R.E., & Lomax, R G. (1996). A beginner's guide to structural equation modeling. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
Seligman, M.E.P. (2002). Authentic happiness: Using the new positive psychology to realize your potential for lasting fulfilment. New York: The Free Press.Google Scholar
Smith, B.P. (2005). Goal orientation, implicit theory of ability, and collegiate instrumental music practice. Society for Education, Music and Psychology Research, 33, 3657.Google Scholar
Steger, M.F., Kashdan, T.B., Sullivan, B.A., & Lorentz, D. (2008). Understanding the search for meaning in life: Personality, cognitive style, and the dynamic between seeking and experiencing meaning. Journal of Personality, 76, 199228.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Stipek, D., & Gralinski, H.J. (1996). Children's beliefs about intelligence and school performance. Journal of Educational Psychology, 88, 397407.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tabachnick, B.G., & Fidell, L.S. (2007). Using multivariate statistics (5th ed.). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.Google Scholar
Thompson, E.R. (2008). Development and validation of an international English Big-Five Mini-Markers. Personality and Individual Differences, 45, 542548.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tomasik, M.J., & Silbereisen, R.K. (2009). Demands of social change as a function of the political context, institutional filters, and psychosocial resources. Social Indicators Research, 94, 1328.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tomasik, M.J., Silbereisen, R.K., & Heckhausen, J. (2010). Is it adaptive to disengage from demands of social change? Adjustment to developmental barriers in opportunity-deprived regions. Motivation and Emotion, 34, 384398.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Werner, E. (2000). Protective factors and individual resilience. In Shonkoff, J.P. & Meisels, S.J. (Eds.), Handbook of early childhood intervention (2nd ed., pp. 115132). New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
WHOQOL Group. (1998). The World Health Organization Quality of Life Assessment (WHOQOL): Development and general psychometric properties. Social Science and Medicine, 46, 15691585.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wrosch, C., & Scheier, M.F. (2003). Personality and quality of life: The importance of optimism and goal adjustment. Quality of Life Research, 12, 5972.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Wrosch, C., Scheier, M.F., Carver, C.S., & Schulz, R. (2003). The importance of goal disengagement in adaptive self-regulation: When giving up is beneficial. Self and Identity, 2, 120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wrosch, C., Scheier, M.F., Miller, G.E., Schulz, R., & Carver, C.S. (2003). Adaptive self-regulation of unattainable goals: Goal disengagement, goal reengagement, and subjective well-being. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 29, 14941508.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Wrosch, C., Schulz, R., & Heckhausen, J. (2002). Health stresses and depressive symptomatology in the elderly: The importance of health engagement control strategies. Health Psychology, 21, 340349.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Zimmerman, B.J. (2002). Achieving self-regulation: The trial and triumph of adolescence. In Pajares, F. & Urdan, T. (Eds.), Academic motivation of adolescents. Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishing.Google Scholar