Individuals play a vital role in the grand scale of social structure. However, even though individuals are unique and should be considered as different from another person, does amelioration through individual interventions trump transformation through ecological interventions? This paper will discuss the pros and cons of amelioration through both individual and ecological interventions, and will emphasize how both interventions should be combined to provide a more, comprehensive approach to social justice work.
Definition of Individual and Ecological Interventions
How do individual and ecological interventions differ? According to Fox (1997), “amelioration means change within a system, or what has been termed ‘first-order change,’ while transformation means changing the basic premises of a system or second-order change” (p.171). While the use of amelioration through individual interventions, within the social justice framework, involves a more personal approach and considers all people as truly, unique individuals with their own sets of challenges, ecological interventions focus on the macro level of a social ecology. According to Shankoff (2000), “an ecological perspective…aids [psychologists] in seeing the full range of alternative conceptualizations of problems affecting children and points [psychologists] in the direction of multiple strategies for intervention” (p.81). While both the individual and ecological interventions require special attention to the individual, the ecological intervention analyzes the individual’s place on the grand scale of a social structure.
Advantages & Disadvantages of the Individual Approach
While amelioration through individual interventions focuses solely on an individual at the micro and meso level, this approach doesn’t aim to understand the individual on a macro level. In practice, the individual approach will usually lead to quicker results because it only involves working with an individual’s family, friends, work, and schools. According to Fox, “ameliorative projects have the advantage of producing results in a relatively short period of time [and are] more focused; [do] not threaten the status quo; and [have] a solid research base to support ameliorative preventive efforts.” (171).
However, Fox (1997) also believes that using an approach simply because it leads to fast results shouldn’t be the only reason psychologists choose this method above other methods. Also, this approach doesn’t consider the role the social structure of an individual plays in an individual’s life, which can be then applied to provide long lasting positive results for both the individual and the community at large.
Advantages & Disadvantages of the Ecological Approach
Even though an individual approach takes into consideration the fact that all humans are diverse, the ecological approach understands that an individual is part of a larger social structure. This proves very important for the ecological approach because all pieces of the social structure are considered. Fox (1997) states “efforts to promote collaboration and respect for diversity at the micro level are undermined at the macro level by a larger social structure that promotes inequality, supports individualism and competition, and is intolerant of diversity” (p. 171).
Addressing the reciprocal relationship between individual and ecology
Instead of simply focusing on one factor of the social structure, the individual, the ecological perspective takes into consideration many complicated factors. According to Shankoff (2000), “an ecological perspective has much to contribute to the process of formulating, evaluating, and understanding early intervention [which] gives us a kind of social map for navigating a path through the complexities of programming” (p. 81). Thus, while amelioration through ecological interventions may seem to not take into consideration that an individual has unique needs, such as an individual approach; this form of intervention seeks to provide a comprehensive framework to provide lasting solutions for social justice. As stated by Shonkoff (2000), “it constantly suggests the possibility that context is shaping causal relationship, always tells us “it depends” and stimulates an attempt to find out “on what” (81). Therefore, while both interventions are useful in there own right, combining them into one approach, such as the ecological intervention does, proves more useful in providing true, social justice solutions.
- Fox, Dennis. Prilleltensky, Isaac. (1997). Critical Psychology: An Introduction. London: SAGE Publications.
- Shankoff, Jack P. Meisels, Samuel J. (2000). Handbook of Early Childhood Intervention. United States of America: Cambridge University Press.