Effects of the Environment on Client System Behavior
The impact of client behavior can be partly understood via the examination of the environment in which the client exists. This is often referred to as the ‘person-in-environment’ or PIE concept. In this model, the individual is considered to be in constant interaction with any number of systems within their environment at any given time. Systems include family, friends, religion, politics, educational systems, workplace, marketplace, internet/social networking, social services, the legal system and more. The person is conceived as having dynamic involvement with each system. With this framework, addressing the various systems in which a client interacts can then impact the person’s behavior.
Eco-systemic Theory, also referred to as Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Theory, puts forth the belief that human development is reflective of environmental systems. Five of such systems are defined, including the micro-system, meso-system, exo-system, macro-system and chrono-system.
The micro-system is the setting where the person lives. This context includes the family, school, friends, peers and the neighborhood. In this setting, the individual has the most direct forms of social interactions, such as with parents, partners or teachers. The person is not a passive element in the environment but rather, an active participant, shaping the events and the reality.
The meso-system is the relationship between micro-systems or link between contexts. This is played out in the relationship between the family experiences to school experiences, school experiences to sports experiences, sports experiences to church experiences, and church experiences to peer experiences. In this context, a child who has been rejected by his father may have trouble developing a positive relationship with the teacher in the classroom or difficulty with a teacher may disrupt development of trust with a coach.
The exo-system involves connections between the person’s immediate context and someone in a setting where the person does not have an active role. An example is when a spouse is impacted by his/her partner’s experiences in the workplace. In such a case, a departmental expansion may require more travel or longer work hours leading to greater stress, which in turn, may increase conflict in the home or alter patterns of communication or cherished routines.
The macro-system is the context of the person’s culture where they live. This includes such things as relative poverty or wealth, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, religion, political system and developing and industrialized countries.
The chrono-system involves the pattern of environmental transitions and events over the individual’s life, including socio-historical events and circumstances. An example of an environmental transition is divorce. The impact of divorce disrupts the environment, usually detrimentally for children when considering emotional and economic issues. This impact lessens over time with a decrease in chaos and an increase in stability. A socio-historical circumstance is the recent opportunity for homosexual individuals to marry in some states, and another example is how over the past 30-40 years there have been increased opportunities for women and minorities in the workplace.
Much of the impact on the client system is determined by the client’s ability to adapt to their surrounding environmental conditions, specifically how they adapt or change to new conditions and circumstances in order to continue functioning and surviving at a desired level. Additionally, people are not just affected by their environments; they impact and change their environments, often to increase their ability to cope more effectively. Coping is a part of adaptation involving the ability to identify and then alter behavior, attitude or circumstances to overcome a problem.
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