Child psychology goes through constant flux. New theories arise almost yearly of how to work with troubled children. One of the most recently touted approaches to dealing with the psychological needs of children is also one of the oldest. Eco-systemic child psychology is apparent in thousand-year-old writings from both China and India.
We can see the foundation of this branch of child psychology by looking at the application of the word ecosystem. In nature, an ecosystem is the relationship between different aspects of the environment. During the dry days of the Dustbowl in America, predators that would have kept the rabbit population in check died off, leading to an explosion of the rodents that further decimated crops. Eco-systemic child psychology looks at child development and disorder in the context of all aspects of his life, integrating biological, social and cultural aspects.
How Does Eco-systemic Child Psychology Differ from Other Thought?
Other kinds of child psychology tend to be symptomatic reactions. That is, they are focused on a particular issue and the attempt to deal with it. Don David Lusterman said that troubled children affect their families and that their families affect them. Eco-systemic psychology is therapy that recognizes what is insane in one culture is applicable in another context. A traffic light in the wilderness is ill-advised, but one at an urban intersection makes perfect sense.
How Does it Work?
There are five systems involved in this theory:
• The microsystem is the circle of things that directly affect the child, like his family, school and religion.
• The mesosystem is how these things relate to one another.
• The exosystem is the outside influences that indirectly affect the child. If a parent loses his job, for instance, it can affect a child’s home life.
• The macrosystem is the culture in which the child lives: poverty and ethnicity are examples of these factors.
• The chronosystem involves the transitions and patterns that develop over time in things like divorces and deaths, as well as biology and aging.
Eco-systemic child psychology considers all of these factors when it focuses on a problematic child issue.
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How Is Eco-systemic Child Psychology Applied?
Of course, treatment of children referred for counseling because of behavioral problems is a major application. Instead of reacting to the problem (or symptom) for which the child is referred, therapists look at the behavior in context of his strengths and weaknesses and in the light of his family’s reactions to the issue as well as how his teachers react to the disturbance. In special education, Eco-systemic psychology considers the teacher’s and parents’ emotional needs as well as the child’s support. In the school setting, this theory of therapy can help sustain accommodations for at-risk children to give them a chance at being successful.
What Kind of Education Must Eco-systemic Psychology Therapists Have?
While higher degrees with specialization in Eco-systemic Therapy are available, the norm seems to be an integration of this field into a psychology degree. Many universities require courses in their eco-systemic approach as part of their curriculum.
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There is strong evidence that more children are being identified as troubled youth. In our complex society, successful treatment may depend upon an eco-systemic approach.