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Family And Ecological Systems Theory


Task: Analyze the Family systems theory and review the Ecological systems theory propounded by Urie Bronfenbrenner.


Defining family has been one of the complex and controversial tasks since past few decades. The concept of family is different to everybody due to the difference in the structure and its functioning and due to different beliefs and attitudes of the parents. In general family can be referred to a set of people who are biologically connected to each other through blood relations or by legal means after solemnization of marriage. Ecological systems theory states that behavior of an individual may be influenced as per the change in the environment. The present paper will help to understand about family, its structure and other related facts along with answering the question, what is Ecological systems theory?

Ecological systems theory

Definition of family and its structure
The definition of family has evolved over the time and the change has been caused due to many reasons. Family was considered as a nuclear component but now the definition has changed and the feature of family being nuclear no more exists. Today the concept of nuclear family has been superseded with divorced families, step family, extended family, rich and poor family. There are different definitions of family and every person has their own definitions and viewpoints about family. There are different factors giving different definitions to a family and making them apart from each other. Factors such as ethnicity, economy and religion are some of the factors giving a different color to a family. It has been stated that family has three goals to meet for their children and they are self-actualization, survival and economic self-sufficient (Austin, Evans and Chen, 2018).

The structure and functioning of a family has a great impact on the development of a child. It can be stated that functioning of a family plays a significant role in the development of a child as compared to the structure of the family. The term family structure denotes about the type of the family like single parent family, extended family and nuclear family. The term functioning of a family denotes emotional attachment between the members of the family. It helps to showcase their communications related to emotions and information’s shared as well as how they respond back when faced with a problem (Pratt and Skelton, 2018).

Every person has their own views about family and its structure and the views are different from one another. It is assumed by some people that children born in a nuclear family can be successfully brought up when both the parents provide a heterosexual environment. Some people assume that children can be successfully brought up irrespective of the family structure when all the necessary conditions are fulfilled.

Family can be considered as a social system approved by law and custom to meet and care the needs of its members. A family is bonded basis the emotions and responsibilities towards each other. The relationships they share with each other help them to overcome challenges and the transitions within the unit.

Family systems theory and its development
Family systems theory was developed by Murray Bowen in early 1950’s. As per him, it is the behavior of the human to consider family as an emotional unit and the system thinking is used to describe the complicated interactions made within the unit. The family systems theory was a result of general systems theory as considered by different scholars who speculated that it resembled family and other social systems (Pratt and Skelton, 2018).

Family systems theory considers family as a unit in which the members cannot be isolated from each other due to the roles, responsibilities and behavior shared by other family members. Family is considered as a dynamic unit as per the family systems theory. The family is under regular change and each family member has to adopt the changes within their old roles and responsibilities or accept new roles and responsibilities. The changes made internally are to be accepted. With the change in the roles and responsibilities, relationship between the members of the family also changes on mutual understanding.

Family has a unique feature apart from being a social system which is self-regulated and continuous. The structure based upon gender and generations provides a unique character. The unique character sets it apart from all other social systems. Every family has its own structure depending upon the psychological characteristic of all the members of the family, their socio cultural and historical position within the society (Austin, Evans and Chen, 2018).

Family connects different individuals and the individuals connected with the particular family member may also get influenced due to their continuous association like people at workplace. The family systems theory identifies that a family can be impacted due to small things like losing a parent can affect the relationship of the child with the other parent and also impact his or her relationship with other siblings (Pratt and Skelton, 2018).

As per Murray Bowen, every member of the family has a definite role and responsibilities which are bounded by certain terms and conditions. Individuals in every family system are connected with each other basis some roles and responsibilities along with engaging one another. Every member of the family has a particular pattern based upon their behavior they influence the other members of the family. There is predictable relationship between behavior and its effects on the other family members. When a family maintains the same behavior within the system, it may either lead to establishing a balance or it may lead to creating a disruption. Disruption can be caused when the other family member is unable to accept the behavior of the other member (Austin, Evans and Chen, 2018).

The family systems theory is built upon four principles which are integrity of sub-systems, wholeness, circularity of influence and stability along with change. Wholeness in the family refers to the unit of the family as a whole and every member of the family have some personal characteristics. The relationship shared between the members of a family form a subsystem known as integrity of subsystems like the relationship of father and mother, mother and daughter, etc. Circularity of influence refers to the relationship being shared by each member of the family. All the members depend upon each other and in case a change occurs in one of relationship or the subsystem then it may cause an impact on the other subsystems as well. External influences may also effect the functioning of the subsystems which falls under stability and change for e.g. change of workplace, etc. Therefore, a child’s wellbeing depends upon the functioning of all the subsystems present in a family (Austin, Evans and Chen, 2018).

Every family has its own family systems. The attitude of the parents plays an important role in the development of the environment where their children can grow. The sense of self-respect and self-disciple is developed within a child when he is made to live in a loving and stable environment. The children are able to understand about the expectations they are required to meet. But if in a family the parents act in an immature manner then it will affect the development of the child. In such cases the child would not be in a position to understand the expectations from them and this will affect their competency.

It is seen that roles played by each member of the family has a great influence on the children. If a child becomes disobedient under a given family system, he may reflect the disobedience at his school as well. In the same manner if a child is obedient then his obedience will be reflected in his behavior at his school.

What is Ecological Systems Theory?
The ecological systems theory was propounded by Bronfenbrenner in the year 1979. Bronfenbrenner stated that environment plays an important role in the development of all individuals. Interactions made with people within an environment leads to development. Ecological systems theory may apply on all individuals irrespective of the development stage (Ettekal and Mahoney, 2017).

The ecological systems theory states that there are five types of environmental systems interrelated with each other which are micro, meso, exo, macro and chrono. The micro system refers to all the settings in which the individual participates like family, friends, school and community. Micro system is one of the immediate influencer on the children. There is a two directional relationship working under the micro system which means that the behavior of the child nay be influenced by his family or by his friends or it may be vice versa. Meso system states that there exists a relationship among the settings mentioned in the micro system and the individuals like the relationship existing between home and school. The exo system refers to the happening of an event by which the development of the individual gets affected. Children do no actively participate in this system. The structure present in the exo system can affect the child’s development when he or she interacts with the other structures present in the micro system like the time invested by a working mother in her workplace may affect the time spend with her child. The children do not come in direct contact with the structure present in the exo system but they do have negative and positive impact upon them due to the other structures present in the system. The macro system deals with legislations made by the government along with the various economic factors prevailing in the country (Ettekal and Mahoney, 2017). The factors affect the child’s development in an indirect format. If family is poor then the child may not be in a position to go to school. The chrono system is referred to changing things over the time in an environment to which the student belongs. The system consists of different internal and external elements. Internal influences are the physiological changes which occur within the child as he grows old. If the child’s parent is getting divorced then it can have an external influence. Reaction to the environmental changes may depend upon the age of the person and his or her ability to get influenced by the changes.

External Influences
Ecological systems theory sates that there are different external factors related to the environment which can affect the child as well his or her family. These factors can impact the child’s emotional, physical and social development. As per the World Health Organization, the experiences gained by a child in his childhood may remain with him throughout his lifetime time and can be reflected in health, education and status (Cumming and Allen, 2017).

Media has been creating a lot of controversial issues recently which has been affecting the child and his family. It has been found that children today are investing their time more into searching


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