People are micro systems in their own right, meaning an individual person is a complex biological system that influences its development, physical ability and limitations, cognition, gender, awareness of the environment and so on.
That system is also influenced by environmental factors that can include the physical environment, other individuals, groups, communities, society, and government…lots of different interacting systems.
We can conceptualise these systems according to four different levels, rather like a set of Russian Dolls – the tiniest doll, representing the individual and their immediate family can be termed “The Micro System”; the individual sits inside the larger doll, which might be referred to as the "Mezzo System" (representing a small group such as extended family, community family). The next doll up is the "Exosystem:" Containing environmental elements that have a profound influence on a child's development, even though that child is not directly involved directly with them.Finally, the Exosystem System sits inside the biggest doll – the “Macro System”.
We might also consider a fifth system, the "Chronosystem" which represents fluctuations and changes over time.
People are actors living out their lives according to their own need, desires, pressures, achievements and objectives. We also have to face and deal with our own limitations as professionals. We are, at any given time influenced by our circumstances, histories, culture, gender, physical and cognitive skills and abilities and our genetic inheritance and our social, cultural and ethnic heritage; ee are influenced by our past life experiences and the way in which we were brought up. As the German Philosopher Martin Heidegger put it, we are all “bearing the weight of the past”. Nevertheless, we are also influenced by our hopes, future plans and ambitions and perception of opportunity or impediments to those hopes and ambitions.
So we cannot do much to change that which we have inherited or has been given or done to us but we live and act in the present. In the course of every day living we become absorbed in ambiguity, curiosity and inquiry, and interaction with others. At the same time we look to the future in the short, medium and long term according to our aspirations, objectives, desires, insecurities and anxieties.
Thus we are, as individuals, constantly influenced by our past experiences and present circumstances that generate trends or pressures to move us forward in a particular direction into the future.
In social work with families, the child is an individual system comprising biology, physical and cognitive development, gender and formative experiences.
The child is also a subsystem of their family, school, community, society as are their parents, the nuclear family unit, the extended family unit…and so on.
It is easy to see that systems operate within systems, interact with and effect other systems and it is these interactions that are the concern of Systems Theory. Systemic analysis can not only enable social workers to alleviate problematic conditions but prevent them: This model encourages practitioners to understand the world in terms of organised complexity that needs to be understood as a whole in order to grasp problems accurately and intervene effectively.