Orphans: Search For Social Adaptation Methods


The article discusses theoretical and methodological issues of adaptation of boarding schoolchildren (orphans) in the unfamiliar and unusual social environment. The need for corrective measures is due to the deprivations generated by the isolation of children. The authors have developed models of social adaptation, revealed the potential of psychodrama as a method for adapting children in a closed environment. In a small and closed boarding school community, social theater can expand social experience and improve skills of social adaptation in children. The atricalization teaches a child to act in a playful way and change roles. The child with a limited social repertoire can enrich the palette of his experience, establish dialogical relations with society. Melodrama is viewed as an effective theatrical form for the playful modeling of social situations and social correction. Values, cognitive abilities, ideals and beliefs can be adjusted. The authors draw attention to complex social discourse in the era of global communication, which, under the influence of the global intercultural environment, acquires a liminal character. Social communication becomes so dynamic and fluid that identities become temporary and unstable, ambiguous and mosaic. Therefore, the psychodrama should take into account features of modern discourse and difficulties of identity development.



The article discusses a solution of social and pedagogical problems: based on the concepts and methods of pedagogy, psychology, semiotics, and philosophy, it aims to construct a model of social and educational correctional practices for orphans and children without guardianship. The main concepts of this model are “existential phenomenological approach”, “meaning”, “reflection”, “intentional dialogue”, “beliefs”, and “worldview correction”.

Classical European philosophy made attempts to solve the problem of identity of being and thinking, but did not admit the idea that this is a deeply personal process of getting used to the life world through the reflexive-intuitive ability of consciousness. Being is not a lifeless "objective reality", but a web of existent consciousness woven from the communicative relations (job, play, fashion, gastronomic addictions) as a field of acquiring and implementing semantic intentions of an individual. For young people, this is a sea of intentions, ideals and values. However, in the boarding school, children are subjected to artificial deprivations. They are deprived of flexible, adaptive behaviors. The productive tool is the semantic approach, deployed in the network of children's social relations as the practice of semantic hermeneutics. It can be implemented in a theatrical and playful form, in order to carry out socio-psychological therapy and adjustments of consciousness and beliefs using the methods of “soft” didactics. Game dialogue is implemented as a form of practical hermeneutics – the practice of joint immersion in new aspects of being, transcending beyond the semantic boundaries and stereotypes, enriching children with a new social repertoire and experience of overcoming deprivations.

Problem Statement

According to the theory and methodology of social community (Toennis, 1971) and social correction based on the classical concepts of deprivation (Kremnieva et al., 2017), the joint experience of being and common values of children are outlined by the boundaries of organization's consciousness. Going beyond the usual statuses into a "large community" means the loss of a familiar picture of the world. The reason for the unsuccessful socialization was considered to be the unsuccessful adaptation of the orphans to the values of society as a whole. However, the interaction of the individual, the community and the macrosociium is thought of mechanically.

The overall picture of the results of socialization of orphans in Russia looks negative. According to statistics, 90 % of orphans cannot cope with the adaptation to normal conditions, abusing alcohol and (Gusarova, 2018). All this suggests that material or other incentives are not enough for the successful socialization. The classical materialistic object attitude and methodology have exhausted themselves, a new humanistic approach is required to accompany orphans. The educator or parent should have a high degree of reflexivity and be able to establish and maintain a semantic (intentional) dialogue.

In contrast to the object attitude, the subject “understanding” methodology proceeds from the fact that the personality is an autonomous self-existent I (Personality) (Langle, 2000). The educator cannot force a child, compel, “teach” to understand. The ego develops own beliefs as an autopoietic (self-building) system, makes independent assessments and decisions both in playful and real situations. The educator must understand the self-sufficiency and autonomy of the individual being educated at the level of practical hermeneutics (the hermeneutics of the deed).

The educator must abandon the authoritarian discourse and use an intentional (semantic) dialogue. The new methodology should be more sophisticated and humanistic. Socialization of children should be engaged the intentional dialogue.

The educational practice and its theoretical equipment are inadequate to the current situation. Situations. On the one hand, at the level of public consciousness, it is obvious that orphanages have exhausted themselves. On the other hand, the modern family is often ineffective as a positive environment for socialization.

The authors have developed a method of psychodrama for boarding schoolchildren to master values ​​and statuses of society. However, modern psychodrama must absorb a number of practices and features of communication in the era of media consciousness. The era of media consciousness is characterized by the global nature of communication and new reflexivity. A technique that develops an intentional, reflexive ability corresponding to the era of modern media discourses and mentalities is required. The task of the educator is to develop a reflexive ability in a playful way (Penner & Rezvushkin, 2020). Consciousness and behavior of orphans can’t be adjusted in a playful theatrical form (psychodrama) by the method of an intentional dialogue.

Research Questions

Materials were derived from open sources – articles and monographs. In addition, empirical data were used – observations on inmates of the Shelter for Children and Adolescents – were used. Children and adolescents from socially disadvantaged families or those who have lost family ties live in this shelter. Faced with powerful psycho-traumatic factors, the inmates of the social shelter experience various psychological problems. To overcome these difficulties, they need professional psychological and pedagogical help and support. The task was to analyze the post-traumatic stress disorders of the inmates of the social shelter and factors that cause them. Based on the results obtained, recommendations and measures for the development of programs of psychological and pedagogical correction have been proposed.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of the article is to substantiate that the methods of existential phenomenology can be productive for psychodramatic correction of the worldview of children in the context of an intentional dialogue.

Research Methods

A number of researchers, using traditional methods in the pre-industrial society (Bowlby, 1940). Spitz and Wolf (1946) experimentally established that an isolated and closed environment contributed to the development of social, cognitive, emotional and somatic deprivations.

The authors believe that psychodrama can be used to adjust the consciousness and behavior of children (Cruz, 2018). Role-playing interactions in a psychological theater can enrich the social repertoire of children: by choosing and changing roles, it is possible to adjust their consciousness (Chang-sun, 2019).

The main emphasis is on the use of methods of non-classical existential and phenomenological methodology rather than on the methods of classical humanitarian science. Modern philosophy is practical, which is confirmed by the close integration of phenomenological-existential methods and medical practices (Gullick et al., 2020). The growing popularity of non-classical methods is due to the development trend of global communication

An integrating role in the interaction between classical and non-classical methods belongs to semiotics integrating with psychology and phenomenology (Danilchenko, 2009). In this regard, in practical hermeneutics, the leading role belongs to the method of an intentional dialogue (Aleksandrov & Gricenko, 2019).

Thus, the main methods are:

  • phenomenological-existential approach in philosophy, psychology, pedagogy,
  • interdisciplinary integration of pedagogy, psychology and philosophy based on the semiotics of communications,
  • methods for studying social deprivations,
  • intentional dialogue


10-year studies in the social shelter have identified the following types of PTSD in children and adolescents:

  • impairment in learning abilities (difficulties experienced in developing speech skills, reading, writing, coordinating movements, interacting);
  • dissociation of the emotional and mental spheres resulting from the prolonged exposure to psycho-traumatic factors, which children cannot cope without support from adults. There are disorders of personal identity and personality integrity, cognitive disorders;
  • alexithymia (impairment in the ability to experience empathy, sympathy for Others, transmit emotions through second-signal systems);
  • somatization (translation of negative emotional states into uncomfortable bodily sensations, and real dysfunctions of internal organs);
  • an increased level of anxiety, i.e., a set of negative emotional experiences, expectations, premonitions of unfavorable outcomes that deteriorate the quality of life and cause diseases;
  • depressive worldview based on the experience of own inferiority, meaninglessness of existence, powerlessness;
  • aggressive behavior in its verbal, physical, passive, active, direct and indirect forms;
  • social maladjustment as a result of deharmonization of relations with the social environment, social communities or one's own I, manifested in the psychological discomfort, behavioral disturbances and relationships.

Most of the orphans can be classified as “difficult”, requiring the obligatory help of teachers or psychologists. The communication with these children shows that they experience problems. They do not have pronounced anomalies of psychophysical and mental development, but exhibit various forms of auto- and social maladjustment under the influence of unfavorable life circumstances. “Inconvenient”, behavioral reactions signal dysfunctions in the emotional and cognitive spheres, distorted perception of their ego.

The difficulties are influenced by objective and subjective factors, between which there is a certain relationship. External circumstances inevitably reflect in the semantic system. However, the same life circumstances create ambiguous consequences: some children socially and morally degrade, while the others strengthen their volitional qualities.

Objective negative factors include the loss of family ties, forced immersion in the environment of educational institutions, which differs from the usual values, attitudes, and stereotypes of approved behaviors. This environment is characterized by constant, repetitive, standardized contacts that are not initiated by the inner motives of orphans. The limited social experience causes the limited vital volume of impressions. Isolated from society, the educational environment of boarding schools causes impairment in the mental, emotional, intellectual and social abilities of schoolchildren, contributing to the development of a “suppressed type” of the deprivation personality (Langmeier & MatSjcek, 1970). An additional factor of psychological tension is the constant presence of the Others, since the orphans cannot go somewhere private. The unsatisfied need for their own, isolated living space often stimulates "invention" of such a place and children "settle down" attics, basements, closets.

In the conditions of the institution planned, imposed and strictly observed by adults, the children are forced to live in accordance with the instructions and rules which can weaken their volitional sphere, skills of self-regulation of behavior and self-control. They live in the present, since their past life experience is preserved in a fragmentary and often idealized form, and the perspective, that is, the “self deployed into the future,” is characterized by diffuseness, detachment from real practices (dreams) and, therefore, cannot become an incentive to be active.

The subjective factors include temperament, character, combination of abilities, a set of goals. Finding themselves in an unusual social environment, a significant part of children and adolescents experience maladjustment, that is, a stable mental state that provokes expressive experiences of negative coloration – anxiety, fears, uncertainty, disappointment.

Our experience shows that among the reasons for the maladjustment of the individual to the social environment of the educational institution, formed adaptation to a different social environment plays a crucial role. In this case, various types of aggression and demonstrative behavior contrary are often ways to defend their social identities. Children often give preferences to various types of aggression in resolving even simple life situations, considering this kind of actions most effective, show cruelty, stubbornness, confrontation, challenge, unwillingness to compromise, refuse to admit that they are wrong. In addition, in the “closed” social environment, they may develop a consumer-dependent attitude: “we owe”, “give me”. At the same time, there is an underestimated level of responsibility, underestimation of the work and performance of other people, a reluctance to solve problems by their own efforts.

The results obtained are based on the traditional criteria and do not take into account that the mental and ontological structures of modern society are the product of communicative interactions of an informational globalized society (Adamyants, 2019; Grishaeva, 2019). In this case, the role of a priori assessments changes, the role of autonomous personality and momentary assessments increases. The mechanism of identification has a local character, which is not taken into account by the traditionalists.

We see that psychodrama retains its corrective potential in the post-industrial, media society. However, the discursive features of modern society must be taken into account.


The worldview is based on stereotypes of perceptions and assessments that have developed within certain social and cultural paradigms. Everything that is cognized and created by an individual is cognized and created within cultural systems, in the bosom of dialogical interactions. Experience shows that assessments of success / failure of the socialization are still evaluated in relation to the values ​​of the "large" society. However, the information society has deconstructed many of the foundations of traditional assessments. The post-epoch society has become more atomized, the personality has become more autonomous, and the desire to have a family has ceased to be an intrinsic value. In the dynamic social and informational environment, the role technology of psychodrama can play a significant role in the development of adaptive capabilities of children. Acting on behalf of a theatrical character with certain social and psychological characteristics, building value relationships with him, comprehending causal relationships in his behavior, as well as changing roles, the child enriches the palette of his experience and develops adaptation skills through dialogical relationships. Successful actions in a communicative environment mean the harmonization of self-awareness (a successful dialogue with oneself). The development of mass communication was not reduced by increasing the role of psychodrama. The foresight made by Moreno and Enneis (1950) confirmed that role-playing games simulate life situations, expand the adaptive repertoire of the personality. Psychodrama develops children morally, aesthetically, cognitively, develops their associative thinking and imagination. Theatrical role-playing games enrich the inner world of children, their emotional palette, and form their sense of social cohesion.

Self-identification, self-knowledge, and self-assertion are based on the intentional processes; in different societies and at different stages of ontogenesis, they bear features of unique originality. The structure of modern society is such that all types of interactions, in particular, pedagogical interactions and pedagogical technologies, function productively only through the intentional dialogue, mediated by personal motivation and target experiences of the subjects.


The article was financially supported by the Russian Foundation for Fundamental Research (project 19-013-00860 A).


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29 November 2021

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Cultural development, technological development, socio-political transformations, globalization

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Aleksandrov, E. P., Danilchenko, T. Y., Novikova, V. Y., Oposhnyansky, A. V., & Agarkov, D. V. (2021). Orphans: Search For Social Adaptation Methods. In D. K. Bataev, S. A. Gapurov, A. D. Osmaev, V. K. Akaev, L. M. Idigova, M. R. Ovhadov, A. R. Salgiriev, & M. M. Betilmerzaeva (Eds.), Social and Cultural Transformations in The Context of Modern Globalism, vol 117. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 426-432). European Publisher. https://doi.org/10.15405/epsbs.2021.11.57