It seems useful to differentiate between “static” and “dynamic” adaption. By static adaption we mean such an adaption to patterns as leaves the whole character structure unchanged and implies only the adaption of a new habit.
An example of this kind of adaptation is the change from the Chinese habit of eating to the Western habit of using fork and knife. A Chinese coming to America will adapt himself to this new pattern, but this adaption in itself has little effect on his personality; it does not arouse new drives or character traits.
By dynamic adaption we refer to the kind of adaptation that occurs, for example, when a boy submits to commands of his strict father – being too much afraid of him to do otherwise – and becomes a “good” boy. While he adapts himself to the necessities of the situation, something happens in him. He may develop an intense hostility against his father, which he represses, since it would be too dangerous to express or even to be aware of it. This repressed hostility, however though not manifest, is a dynamic factor in his character structure.
Understanding the above will help in recognising how the social environment, political policies and other such measures may affect the development of the human character.