The Person in the Environment - Human Behavior and the Social Environment I (2023)

Learning goals:

  • Explore the approach of the person to the environment.
  • Describe the micro, mezzo and macro approach.
  • Describe the bio-psycho-social-spiritual approach
  • describe system theory
  • Describe ecological theory.
  • Describe the theory of ecosystems.
  • Present the strengths perspective.


The Person in the Environment - Human Behavior and the Social Environment I (1)

The school social worker called Jason's parents to discuss issues related to peer disputes and poor grades. His parents also report concerns at home about bad sibling relationships, anger issues and "a bad attitude that always contradicts itself, never listens or does what we ask." They report a long family history of substance abuse and mental health problems (anxiety and depression). They report growing concern about this, having recently found marijuana in Jason's room. Jason (14 years old) relates: β€œMy parents don't know what they're talking about. My little brother and sister only give me trouble because I don't let them touch my stuff, my parents don't care either, they don't listen to me, they just want me to do what they say. And I don't see what the problem is if I smoke a little weed, it makes me feel better and not so angry all the time."

What do you think when you hear Person-In-Environment?

This approach is the concept that people can be greatly influenced by their environment. It stresses the importance of understanding an individual and her behavior through her environment. A person's environment, along with their experiences, will help shape how they see the world, how they think, and why they react the way they do. In social service, collecting information from our clients is a fundamental part of our job, and knowing what information to look for and how to organize it is like putting the pieces of a puzzle together and working to put them together to create that big picture (or as many as we can). This lesson begins by presenting some specific approaches, perspectives, and theories that help form the lens and foundation of the social work profession.

Micro, medium and macro

let's start with the firstMicro, mezzo and macro focusπŸ‡§πŸ‡· This is simply a look at the levels within a person's system, which will help guide you to what supports may be needed.

it isMikroebeneit represents individual needs and involves direct interactions with clients, which is the most common form of social work. This level explores issues related to biology, psychological needs, social (peer) and interpersonal (family) relationships or support, and spiritual beliefs.

Jason Mikroebene- No physical health problems have been reported biologically, but some concerns may be related to how marijuana use might affect your physical health. He is a teenager, which means his body is still going through hormonal and physical changes. Family reports of substance abuse problems, as well as mental health problems, may indicate possible genetic links that need to be investigated. This could also be related to psychological needs, as he suffers from anxiety or depressive symptoms or when he reports that he uses marijuana as a coping mechanism. He is also angry, fighting with his siblings and struggling with strained family relationships. He connects us with social aspects and explores how he identifies his relationships and supports. No spiritual beliefs were mentioned in the vignette, but these should be explored when he meets Jason.

it ismedium levelrepresents connections or interactions with small groups such as family, schools, churches, neighborhoods, community organizations, and peers/co-workers.

Jasons Mezzo-Nivel– Here, we would further explore how your relationships and interactions with various groups affect you: family, peers, school staff/faculty, possible spiritual/church affiliation, and any community groups or organizations you are associated with.

it ispaper macrosprovides links to systemic issues within larger systems, such as laws/legislation, policy, health systems, and international associations. Ethical frameworks, historical implications of group experiences, and the impact of discrimination and prejudice on marginalized populations are also examined at this level.

jason macroebene– There is a need to examine educational/school policies, mental health policies, health systems, the cultural and historical implications of group experiences, drug laws and policies, and the potential impacts of discrimination and bias.

It is important to remember to examine the connections and interactions between the information presented to the person at each level and how this might affect their functioning and development in their environment.


it isBio-psycho-social-spiritual approachassesses the level of functioning within the biological, psychological, social, and spiritual dimensions (and how they are interconnected) to understand human behavior. This approach involves much of the same information that you'll find at the micro level, but we want to dig deeper into how the individual functions in each dimension and how they can affect each other.

it isbiological componentincludes aspects related to general health, physical ability, weight, diet, lifestyle, drug/substance use, gender, and genetic connections/vulnerabilities.

Biological aspects of Jason– No concerns about general physical health, aspects of adolescent development to consider, concerns and effects of drug use, male identification, and possible genetic links/vulnerabilities (drug abuse, anxiety, depression, or other worrisome family history).

it ispsychological componentincludes aspects related to mental health, self-esteem, attitudes/beliefs, temperament, coping skills, emotions, learning, memory, cognitions, and personality.

Jason's psychological aspects- Anger, concerns and effects of drug use, potential esteem issues, poor coping skills and emotional regulation, cognitive development and any related concerns, personality and temperament traits, and explorations of how you perceive your world.

it issocial componentincludes aspects related to peer and family relationships, social support, cultural traditions, education, employment/job security, socioeconomic status, and social messages.

Jason's Social Aspects– Strained family relationships, school relationships/educational support, research on socioeconomic impacts, research on cultural traditions, and identification/research on peer relationships and support.

it isspiritual componentincludes aspects related to spiritual or religious beliefs or belief in a "higher being" or power with which one feels connected or supported.

Jason's Spiritual Aspects- No spiritual aspects have been reported, but we'd like to explore what that means for Jason. Does he identify with a church, religion, or higher power/being? What does that mean to him? Does this provide support and comfort, or add stress as he works to "figure out what it all means"?

Looking at each dimension of the Bio-Psycho-Social-Spiritual Approach allows you to engage in a more holistic exploration and assessment of a person as you examine and connect four important areas of their lives.

systems theory

systems theoryThe behavior of states is influenced by the result of factors that work together and interconnect as a system: each part plays an important role in the functioning of the whole and the whole, in turn, supports and sustains the parts. A person's family, friends, school, work, business class, home environment and other factors influence how a person thinks and acts. A social worker must observe and evaluate all the systems a person experiences as they contribute to their behavior and well-being, and work to strengthen these systems as they are interconnected and influence each other. This is used to develop a holistic view of the people around you, which is used to guide the most appropriate practical intervention.

Within systems theory, we will also examine roles (routine tasks and behaviors of people within a system). We all have roles and are involved in them whether we realize it or not. Some examples of roles are leader, caretaker, parent, child, sibling, facilitator, scapegoat, citizen, spouse, and worker. Many people feel identified by their roles. This can reinforce behaviors when positive feelings or experiences are associated with roles, or perhaps be a motivator for change when roles are associated with more negative feelings or experiences. Knowing what roles a person takes on and how they perceive each role will help your job understand their experiences and needs.

ecological theory

ecological theoryIt focuses on the interaction between the individual and his environment. It addresses the active commitment of the human being with the environment and its development, as well as both (environment / development) in constant change.

β€œThoughts become perception, perception becomes reality. Change your thoughts, change your reality.~ William James

An important reminder of this theory is to remember the importance of perception: how people perceive or interpret their environment and experiences affect their functioning or general well-being. This is also true regardless of how the problems or concerns appear to the social worker. You should examine how the client views her situation before assuming that certain situations are problematic. We have to try to see through their eyes and understand how they felt. It is your story and your reality. In social work practice, this is best understood by looking at individuals, families, politics, communities and cultures and identifying strengths and weaknesses in transactional processes between systems.

Bronfenbrenner ecological systems model used for research ecosystem theory:

Bronfenbrenner believed that an individual's development is influenced by everything in their environment and divided the environment into five different levels: the microsystem, the mesosystem, the exosystem, the macrosystem, and the chronosystem.

it ismicro systemIt is the system closest to the individual and in which there are direct interactions. Some examples are home, school, or work. A microsystem typically includes family members, peers, or caregivers. Relationships in a microsystem are two-way, which means that how you react and respond to people will affect their response and their response to you. This is the most influential level within the theory.

it ismesosystemHere, the individual microsystems of a person are connected and influence each other. These interactions have indirect effects on the individual that can be positive or negative depending on which elements of the system work together (positive) or against each other (negative).

it isexosystemicrefers to an environment in which the person is not an active participant, but still influences them. This includes decisions that affect a person, but that person does not have decision-making capacity. An example of this would be a child affected by an unemployed parent.

it ismacro systemit is the cultural environment in which the person lives and all the other systems that affect it, such as the economy, cultural values ​​and political systems.

it ischronosystemincludes transitions and changes throughout a person's life. Look at the timing of the event in relation to the development of a person, e.g. B. How death affects children of different ages. Historical events in a person's life are also examined, such as the impact of the 9/11 attacks.

jason's story– Using systems theory, we want to see the micro, mezzo and macro level aspects, as well as the bio-psycho-socio-spiritual dimensions mentioned above and how they interact and influence each other. Here we will also explore what roles you think Jason plays (son, brother, student, friend), as well as roles you may not recognize or identify with (leader, caretaker (when asked to help care for younger siblings), or role model). ) . We'll also want to examine how Jason perceives each role (positive or negative) to gain a better understanding of his experience and work to meet his needs. Using Ecological Theory, we add that we examine how development and the environment continue to grow and change and how this continues to impact our clients as they engage with their systems. Ecosystem Theory builds on Systems Theory and Ecological Theory, combining the key principles of both and offering us the opportunity to delve into the complexities of any network a customer experiences and gain a better understanding of how they interact and influence each other. Yes.

strengths perspective

A fundamental perspective of social work is thatstrengths perspectiveπŸ‡§πŸ‡· All people have strengths and abilities that allow them to grow and adapt. This perspective takes the focus off the problem and allows us to find ways in which clients can use their strengths to achieve their goals. Customers are seen as experts in their experiences. We use their insights to explore times of resilience and work with them to identify supports and solutions to support their ability to grow. It is also important to remember to assess the environment for potential obstacles and impacts when assessing needs and strengths.

Jason's Strengths–Family support, both birth parents in the home and still together, knowledge of family history, school support, physical fitness, unreported developmental delays (but should be investigated if concerns), found coping ability (even if It is not the most important). proper route). , is involved in self-regulation work) and was able to interact with the school social worker during the meeting, instead of remaining withdrawn and refusing to talk.

What other strengths can you identify?

How would you work to discover and identify Jason's strengths?

Exploring Strengths: The following link discusses strengths-based practice values ​​and explores the 5 types of questions that Dennis Saleebey (University of Kansas, a pioneer in developing and promoting strengths-based practices) suggests using to assess our clients' strengths. The sample questions focus on parent interactions, but the examples and ideas can be expanded to work with any client population.

Continue to Chapter 1: How We Use Our Expectations to learn more about our expectations, judgments, reactions, and biases.

The central theses:

  • Think of the entire experience of one person. What includes? Childhood? Family? Friends? What else can you think of?
  • We need to look at their experiences at each level and across different systems and their interactions to get a big picture (person in environment).
  • The strength perspective is a fundamental perspective in the field of social work. It states that all people have strengths and those strengths are often found in their struggles.


The Audiopedia. (2017, May 1). What is FORCES-BASED PRACTICE? What does STRENGTH BASED PRACTICE mean? [video file]. Youtube.

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