Applied Ecological Psychology for Schools within Communities: Assessment and Intervention

Applied Ecological Psychology for Schools within Communities: Assessment and Intervention

Applied Ecological Psychology for Schools within Communities: Assessment and Intervention

Applied Ecological Psychology for Schools within Communities: Assessment and Intervention


This volume provides a thorough examination of the interplay between individuals and their environment in the development and maintenance of problem behaviors, and delineates procedures for conducting assessment, intervention, and prevention within the child's ecosystem. As individuals structure, change, and organize their environments, their environments work to do the same. Environmental or contextual and individual variables act reciprocally to shape an individual's behavior. For school-aged youth, this reality necessitates an ecological approach to assessment, intervention, and prevention. Specifically, problem behaviors are partly developed and maintained by a combination of factors present in the child's psychosocial ecosystem -- home, school, and community. Although there is an abundance of theoretical applications and research supporting this concept, the predominant trend has been to emphasize the properties of the person. As a result, one is left to assume that the genesis of difficulties in adaptation lies in internal or personal states and traits of the individual. In contrast to traditional psychology theories which focus primarily on the individual, incorporation of ecological psychology concepts allows for a more comprehensive and in-depth analysis of sources contributing to the individual's ability to adapt to their psychosocial environment. Ecological theories which drive assessment, intervention, and prevention efforts provide the necessary framework for assisting school-aged youth and their associated ecological networks to cope with and overcome the multidetermined, multifaceted concerns that arise during the school years. However, this is an often difficult and cumbersome task for educators, parents, and school systems to undertake. To this end, this volume focuses on the functional application of ecological psychology for schools within communities. Each of the 10 chapters -- written by key figures in school, family, counseling, and community psychology -- explores the use of ecological theory from a different perspective, ranging from focus on the child, the child within the classroom, the classroom teacher, and the community to considerations in working with special populations such as juvenile delinquents and in planning for developmental issues such as school-to-work-transition. The final chapter summarizes and integrates the previous chapters and provides suggestions for future directions in the field.


Edison J. Trickett

University of Maryland, College Park

Thomas Kuhn, in the Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1970) discusses the difference in the evolution of new paradigms between persuasion and conversion, the former referring to a translation of a theory or worldview into one's own language and the latter to the incorporation of its tenets into a lived worldview which permeates one's scientific endeavors. Through living and breathing the new paradigm, one's world is literally changed, a process well articulated by Roger Barker (1978) in describing the evolution of his eco-behavioral perspective:

The towns I observed from the Illinois Central train in 1940 are still there and easily recognized despite some changes. . . . But the changes in the towns are less dramatic than the changes in my comprehension of them. In 1940 I only asked "what do people do in these towns?" In 1977 I ask in addition "what do these towns do to people?" (p. 285). In 1940 I looked on the towns as collections of people, each person a dynamic entity freely carrying out his plans within the environment the town provided, . . . an environment that, although frustrating and constraining to some extent, was a relatively stable, reliable ground for action. In 1977, I see the towns as assemblies of dynamic, homeostatic entities where people are components. These are behavior settings, and within them people do not act in relation to a relatively fixed, dependable environment of benefits, deficiencies, and constraints because stores, meetings, classes, and all other behavior settings have plans for their human components and armories of alternative ways of reinforcing their plans (p. 286). In 1940, I looked on the towns as a psychologist; in 1977 I also see them as an eco-behavioral scientist. (p. 285)

The chapters in this book provide an important step in the conversation among applied social scientists relating to the persuasiveness of an ecological perspective and the conversion of adherents to living, thinking, and acting ecologically. To do so means the dismissal of the idea that behavior can be interpreted and understood without reference to context and how context affects the meaning of behavior to individuals; that the oft-heard phrase "it all depends on the individual" be taken to include an appreciation of the individual's sociocultural history and perception of current contextual constraints and options for achieving goals; that intervention no longer be . . .

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