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Ecosystems Theory


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Ecosystems Theory
Chris Smith
Western Kentucky University

SWRK 331 –610: Human Behavior in the Social Environment II
Western Kentucky University – Owensboro
March 19, 2013

Ecosystems Theory Defined
The ecosystems theory as utilized in social work is an adaptation in and of itself. The ecosystems theory is a combination of ecology and general systems theory. According to the American Heritage Dictionary, ecology is “The science of the relationship between organisms and their environments [ (Bantam Dell, 2007, p. 272) ]. An ecological systems approach only tells us organisms will adapt to environmental changes and does not tell us specifically what steps the organism takes in order to adapt to change, this is where general systems theory, the second contributor to ecosystems theory, comes to play a part [ (Greif, 1986) ]. General systems theory shows how an organism’s interaction with another cannot only instigate change within itself but can also instigate change in others as well.
According to Wakefield (1996),
Systems are sets of interacting elements; systems can be open or closed to interaction with the outside world; systems are linked hierarchically; systems can possess states of homeostasis and equilibrium or can be in disequilibrium; systems are regulated through positive and negative feedback; and, again, causal influences are circular, in that changes in one system have consequences for other linked systems that, in turn, through feedback, have consequences for the first system (p. 4). Systems can be referred to as schools, neighborhoods, communities, government, and biological environment. The ecosystems perspective, when applied to humans, studies the interactions between the systems surrounding the person and how these systems have an effect upon the person. While the person in the environment is still central to the social worker

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