The next three chapters explore the process of decision making in more detail from three perspectives: the young person's, their parents or carers and the professionals who support them. Before looking at each of these in more detail, I want to set the discussion in the ideas of Bronfenbrenner's ecosystemic theory. Norwich (2000) locates Bronfenbrenner's ecosystemic theory in the broad school of organismic psychology (as opposed to mechanistic or individualistic approaches) in which the individual cannot be separated from their context, so that the whole is greater than and different from the sum of the individual parts. Bronfenbrenner (1979) and Bronfenbrenner and Morris (1998), envisage society as a series of 'nested systems' rather like a Russian doll, beginning at the micro level of, for example, the person in the family and moving through to school or college and community to the macro levels of the wider society and culture. Individuals can be members of different microsystems such as their youth group, their residential home or their teaching group. Each system has its own dynamic, which in turn relates to and is influenced by the others. These relationships are described as mesosystems. The usefulness of Bronfenbrenner's framework for looking at what happens during the decision-making process lies partly in his focus on the roles that individuals adopt and the relationships between individuals, systems and organizations. In this study I have referred to the decision-making unit as consisting of the young person, their family, and teachers and other professionals. However, using ecosystemic theory, this unit could be said to constitute a mesosystem since in Bronfenbrenner's terms the so-called unit spanned two microsystems: the family and the school.
Building on an earlier model developed by Christenson and Sheridan (2001) their different, and sometimes conflicting, perspectives are summarized in Figure 4.1. The relationships between the parents and their child within the family microsystem were dominated by the parents' perception of their role as carer and their anxieties about the future and their desires for their children to be safe and happy. This in turn limited the freedoms that some parents felt able to ascribe to their children, for example to go out with friends, to travel independently, to go to a youth club, to prepare for change. Most parents struggled with the need to give their child more autonomy