Difference between two theories

High School ・Sociology ・APA

Theories will enhance the comprehension of social workers around the world, which is complex and interlocked, according to Connolly and Harms (2012). The ecosystems and critical theories are the methodologies to help us develop a deeper understanding of the conducts of society members. This academic paper discusses both the correspondence and the discrepancies between these two hypotheses and how they can be effectively applied to the case study review. By applying the methodologies in the analysis of the given situation, one will gain understanding of the social workers by scrutinizing their life experiences and eventually identifying the actions to be taken and the impacts it has on the individual.

Summary of Two Explanatory Theories

Critical Theory

Mac Horkheimer of Frankfurt University in Germany developed the Critical theory in 1937. Sociologists such as Herbert Marcuse, Walter Benjamin Theodor Adorno contributed immensely towards the development of the theory (Scambler, 2002). According to Payne (2014) the critical theory creates a better understanding of the states of how the societal structures create predicaments along with the attempts of those with to oppress their weak subordinates. The social theories examined by Payne derivate from the scholars at the Frankfurt School, Germany as well as from the structuralist and Marxist social theory (2014). Moreover, Pease and Briskman (2002) explores the conflicts that are entrenched within the functionality of the state of from the viewpoint of Marxism. The two philosophies incorporate a wide range of concepts from feminism as well as postmodernism along with the contributions they made towards the outlooks against oppression.

According to the critical theory, societal works can be best understood by reconnoitering as well as criticizing the occurrence of changes over time. Through the historical and current perspective, the approach considers the entire society (Agger, 2006). The method strives to heighten people's understanding of the culture by incorporating the economic, political, historical, and further aspects of sociology. The critical theory should be explanatory as well as practical. To achieve this, the theory should offer descriptions of scenarios that are not only clear and detailed but also relate to the societal issues.

Theory of Ecosystems

The method ascertains that the different environments in which human beings interact have significant impacts on their behaviors. The theory on ecosystem was first published by Urie Bronfenbrenner (1979) with the contributions of Kurt Lewin and Lev Vygotsky (Bronfenbrenner, 1999). The philosophy defines individuals given several considerations that entrench them to their environment. It arguments that the best way to understand people's concerns about their distinct ecological conditions is the application of the personalized model. Therefore, an apparent variation between their conduct and events analysis (Bronfenbrenner, 1999).

The distinct environments are categorized into five groups that are interconnected. The microsystem is the first environment and consists of the close people one intermingles with such as relatives and friends. Secondly, the mesosystem describes the interactions between various forces in the microsystem in the life of people such as the relation between the learning institution where one attends and his peers. Thirdly, the ecosystem creates a distinction between the immediate locales where one is actively involved and a different setting where the person does not participate actively. The macro-system delineates the cultural framework that includes the indigenous as well as the socioeconomic aspects of a person’s surroundings and the impacts they have on his comportment. Lastly, the chronosystem defines the happenings along with changeovers experienced by persons (Leonard, 2011).

Comparison of the Two Explanatory Theories

Both approaches have equal importance in the understanding of the society. The two are similarly based on their approaches to issues in the community. The critical and ecosystem principles argument that observations on a particular phenomenon should be regarded as an entity. The critical theory emphasizes on criticizing the society by considering the exploration of the societal issues. It further expounds on the significance of evaluating different aspects in the society at all levels starting from the historical level, social, cultural, economical to the geographic level that can be used in changing a culture (Agger, 2006). The theory of ecosystem confers with the notion by suggesting that the knowledge of human behaviors should incorporate all environmental aspects. Further, it elaborates on the importance of developing an individual’s ecomap such as his racial background and the class he belongs to that offer an explanation on the relationship of distinct ecological conditions and their influence on people. At the macro-level, several concepts which vary from economical to political offer a framework that can be used in the understanding and description of persons (Bronfenbrenner, 1999) and makes available various intermediation avenues. Consequently, the dual theories are analogous because they use a comprehensive methodology to create an in-depth insight of the subject. Another similarity is their illustrative aspect since both aims at illuminating individuals or societal facets. The critical theory in particular addresses this matter by offering a comprehensive description of the humanity through the analysis of its distinct aspects and promoting understanding by explaining them in details. This opens a discussion on how and why it is necessary for the society to undergo transformation (Scambler, 2002). The approach employed by the theory of ecosystem in exploring individuals’ conducts depicts its critical nature. By analyzing the influences different ecological conditions have on human beings, the ecosystem approach uses an exhaustive methodology (Bronfenbrenner, 1999).

Nevertheless, the two theoretical perspectives vary in the range of issues they deal with. The ecosystem theory solely focuses on a single person’s mannerisms and claims that the personalized approach is the best in creating a better understanding of individuals' behaviors in the society. One's behavior is studied by considering correct settings that are unique to him or her (Leonard, 2011). Nonetheless, the critical theory overlooks the individual by focusing on the society as an entity. According to theory, the person's public involvement and influences on various societal aspects should be considered (Agger, 2006).

As opposed to the critical theory whose objective is to critique and alter the society, the ecosystem theory purposes to explain different circumstances. The principle concern of the philosophy is to elucidate and comprehend people's conducts but not to change them. However, it illuminates the behavior by with the intentions of accommodating the person by gaining insights on why he or she behaves that way (Bronfenbrenner, 1999). The theory not only expounds on the diverse facets of the society but also integrates a contemplative style by probing fundamental subjects with the intention of questioning or complimenting the existing conventions on how the community functions (Murdoch, 2001).

Application of the Explanatory Theories

Grounded on the situation being experienced by Jo, (Appendix 1), applying the critical and ecosystem results in various elucidations. Jo aged 30, was recently laid off from his workplace. He dreads that his Italian parents will discover that he is jobless and that his Ellen, his wife is supporting the family financially. Jo’s GP referred him to receive health services because he is mentally disturbed.

According to the perspective of ecosystem, Jo’s predicaments arise from his immediate environment which consists of associates, kinfolk, colleagues, neighbors and blood relations who significantly impacts his behaviors. Conversely, the critical theory analyses the situation from a different perspective. The theory attributes Jo's behavior to his environs and the lack of readiness for the circumstances he finds himself in. The two perspectives also diverge in their commendations on how to support. According to the ecosystem theory, offering support to Jo will enable him to relate effectively with his surroundings whereas the critical theory claims that Jo should change his attitudes.

The ecosystem approach can be applied to illuminate why Jo is acting in a particular manner specifically the effects of his surroundings. Jo is identified as hardworking in the case study which is evidenced by his immediate surroundings that consist of his nuclear family where he is the sole breadwinner. Jo portrays another behavior as the scenario unfolds when he is laid off, and his wife secures a new job as a cleaner. Jo tries to conceal the misfortunes and the fact that his wife is now working. The reason behind his behavior is his peers from the soccer club and the men's shed. He dreads their remarks when making fun of him which would cause humiliation. Ellen despite being learned is not in employment and opts to work away from home. This can be attributed to her ecosystem that comprises of her spouse and parents- in-law who disregards working women due to their Italian culture. Jo's microsystem consists his Italic parentage forces him to obscure predicaments from his parents. In the societal context, women are discouraged from being sole breadwinners while their spouses remain at home caring for the young ones. Consequently, Jo suffers from anxiety and depression due to the shame of staying at home while Ellen goes to work. The problems can be traced back to his chronosystem where the transitions along with changes interfere with his relationships. The ecosystem theory reveals the need to intervene specifically in Joe's relations with his parents and friends. From the analysis, it is evident that both environments have contributed to the failure of Jo to accept his predicaments and the events that have caused him mental disturbances.

When the case study was analyzed using the critical theory, it is evident that the environment is not the sole factor influencing his behaviors, on the other hand Jo is to blame for the predicaments that resulted in stress. Foremost, his inclination cover problems started long before he lost his job. Though he had challenges in reading and writing, he kept it a secret from his wife. Jo's tendency to hide his predicaments from associates and neighbors suggests that he attempts to create another image of himself that is false. He is also reluctant to share his problems with his blood relations. By critically examining the life of Jo as illustrated in the scenario, it is evident that he may face difficulties in adapting to environmental changes. By evaluating his reactions after being laid off, it is likely that he did not indulge himself actively in seeking other job opportunities. Additionally, considering his family contextual, one can conclude that Jo's friend has no problem with Ellen working, but he is the one with the issue. It is a perfect sign that Jo might encounter difficulties in facing reality accommodating changes. Considering the critical theory, assisting Jo to accept himself and acquire techniques which will assists him to accommodate any modifications that might arise.


Conclusively, the academic paper explores ways in which the critical theory and ecosystem theory provide critical standpoints on how to treat one’s predicaments as well as those of the society. Jo’s difficulties as presented in the case study offers an avenue for the enquiry of variations psychosocially. The two theories are highly valuable in the social realm. The critical perspective attempts to criticize as well as change the behaviors of members of the society to certain phenomena while the concept of ecosystem explores the adaptation process from multifaceted dimensions to accommodate the transitions in life. The theories present different tactics of tackling transformation. From the ecosystem perspective, one’s predicaments are attributable to the aptness in the societal setting and offers the basis to discover multifaceted interceptive measures. Besides, it necessitates for the societal workforces to adopt a practical stance that is more circumstantial as opposed to being procedural (Meyer, 1979, p.271). The critical perspective that offers a framework to understand the creation of dilemmas in the society though the prevailing conventions on culture. The case study about Jo creates a platform for the workforces in the society to understand the concepts of psychosocial focus on people in both social and family settings.


Agger, B. (2006). Critical social theories. Paradigm Publishers, PO Box 605, Herndon, VA 20172-0605.

Bronfenbrenner, U. (1999). Environments in developmental perspective: Theoretical and operational models. Measuring environment across the life span: Emerging methods and concepts, 3-28.

Choo, H. Y., & Ferree, M. M. (2010). Practicing Intersectionality in Sociological Research: A Critical Analysis of Inclusions, Interactions, and Institutions in the Study of Inequalities*. Sociological theory, 28(2), 129-149.

Healy, K. (2014). Social work theories in context: creating frameworks for practice. 2nd edition. Palgrave

Leonard, J. (2011). Using Bronfenbrenner’s ecological theory to understand community partnerships: A historical case study of one urban high school. Urban Education, 0042085911400337.

Meyer, C. (1979). What directions for direct practice? Social Work, 24(4), pp. 267-272

Murdoch, J. (2001). Ecologising sociology: Actor-network theory, co-construction and the problem of human exemptionalism. Sociology, 35(01), 111-133.

Payne, M. (2014). Modern social work theory(Fourth ed.).

Scambler, G. (2002). Critical Theory. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Appendix 1

Scenario 1: Jo

Jo, (30), has twin boys (3) and a 10-month-old baby girl with slightly delayed development. Jo has always been hard working after leaving school at a young age without finishing high school. He has trouble writing and reading but covers this well and even his wife does not know he can only read basic material. Jo has recently been made redundant from his job selling cars – less demand due to the global downturn. Jo feels very down and is anxious about the cost of life and paying the mortgage. His wife Ellen is doing some cleaning for others to meet the ends but Jo never dared to tell this to his parents. His parents, who are from Italian decent, would be shocked and ashamed that Ellen is cleaning and that Jo is made redundant. Living in a small community Jo is avoiding telling people he is out of work, even though people kind of know. Ellen is well educated and could get a job and is open to change traditional role patterns. However, Jo fears his parents’ reaction if he tells them he is now the stay at home parent. He is also worried about his friends at the men shed and soccer club making fun of him being at home. Jo is very worried and anxious about this situation and has spoken to his GP who referred him to a mental health social worker as he presents anxious and slightly depressed. Although Jo is ashamed, he is supported by Ellen to make an appointment to see the social worker who is practicing in the same building as the GP.

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