Academic journal article Australian Journal of Career Development

Connecting Relational Theory and the Systems Theory Framework: Individuals and Their Systems

Academic journal article Australian Journal of Career Development

Connecting Relational Theory and the Systems Theory Framework: Individuals and Their Systems

Article excerpt

The Systems Theory Framework (STF) facilitates the inclusion of relevant aspects of multiple existing theories within an integrated framework, wherein relevance and meaning is decided upon by each individual. Patton and McMahon emphasise that the application of the Systems Theory Framework in integrating theory and practice is located within the crucible of the individual, acknowledging that the individual is an open system recursively interacting with and within multiple systems. The present paper furthers a discussion of the potential for the Systems Theory Framework in theory integration, in particular with respect to relational theories.


One of the key contributions of the Systems Theory Framework (Patton & McMahon, 999, 2006a) is a metatheoretical framework for integrating existing theories, both career theories and theoretical perspectives from other disciplines. The present article will review integrative career theory models which have been presented in recent years, and propose a theoretical connection between emerging relational theoretical approaches and the STF. The STF also affords the potential to strengthen congruence between theory and practice. With the individual as the central focus, constructing his or her own meaning of career, constructs of existing theories are relevant as they apply to each individual. The present article will therefore also describe career counselling processes and interventions which have been developed by the STF developers and by others (McIlveen, Ford, & Dun, 2005; McIlveen, MacGregor-Bayne, Alcock, & Hjertum, 2003; McMahon, Patton & Watson, 2004, 2005a, b; McMahon, Watson & Patton, 2005), and suggest that these interventions exemplify practical integration between constructivist and relational perspectives (Savickas, 2005a).

Theory Integration

Integration of career theories both within the vocational psychology literature and with related disciplines such as developmental psychology has been ongoing (see Patton & McMahon, 2006a for a detailed discussion). A renewed emphasis on convergence, however, emerged with a conference in 992 and subsequent publication (Savickas & Lent, 994). In addition to the Systems Theory Framework, a number of related integrative frameworks and discussions have emerged in recent years in which theorists have continued to provide explanatory propositions that seek to primarily illustrate opportunities for integration rather than for difference. These approaches and frameworks include:

* Lent, Brown and Hackett's (2002) social cognitive career theory, described by a number of authors as having the potential to provide an integrative description of career behaviour.

* Savickas (2001, 2002, 2005b) attempts to further Super's (1992) goal of integrating the segments of Super's theory into one comprehensive theory. Savickas (2001) attempted to integrate Super's lifespan lifespace theory with other major theories of career, development, personality and motivation. Savickas' career construction theory uses social constructionism as a metatheory to further this integrative approach to understanding career behaviour.

* The work of Chen (2003), an example of an attempt to integrate objectivist/positivist and constructivist career theory approaches through three possibilities: career as self-realisation, career as a reflection of growing experiences, and career as context conceptualisation.

* Blustein's (2001a) proposition to chart an integrative and inclusive psychology of working through emphasising that work represents one location within a lifespace, to broaden interconnections between work and other contexts.

SRF as an Integrative Framework

The Systems Theory Framework (Patton & McMahon, 999, 2006a) contributes to the development of theory of career in two key ways. According to the spirit of convergence and transtheoretical integration previously discussed, the STF is presented as a metatheoretical framework of career. …

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