Macrosystem: You can’t escape it.

12 Commentsby   |  11.14.09  |  Uncategorized

The macrosystem is comprised of the larger societal institutions, such as government, economy, media, and so forth, which lay the social and historical context for development (Bronfenbrenner, 1979). It is a pretty easy idea to grasp because this system is so large it is easy to spot its influence on our lives. I like that the definition of macrosystem includes the historical context, because it is so important to remember. The macrosystem of our ancestors has an affect on us today. Racism and stereotypes that can be traced back to pre-civil war are still affecting the development of minority youth today, and not just with affirmative action laws. Some events which occur in the macrosystem may affect certain individuals more concretely than others. For example, the current health care bill being passed around Congress has the potential to affect a family currently without health care that takes care of a terminally ill family member. If that legislation passes it could improve the quality of life for that family exponentially. Whereas people with health insurance who are in good health may only feel the impact of that legislation gradually.

While the macrosystem affects us all, few individuals will ever directly influence their macrosystem, and exceptions are the people who make the history books (Coll, C. G., Bearer, E. L., & Lerner, R. M., 2004). Obvious example are people like Martin Luther King, Gandhi, and Queen Victoria, but there are also those whose actions start a chain of events which affect the world. Gavrilo Princip is name that few people ever learn in history class, but Princip’s assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand precipitated Austrisa-Hungary’s declaration of war against Serbia and their allies to join them in war which we now call World War I. For the most part, however, if we look at history we see that most changes were a result of groups (or systems) of people taking action.

When I think about some of the events of change, and societal institutions which directly impact my life and my family, I tend to think of them abstractly as symbols. I think that 9/11 is seen by our nation as a reminder of the importance of pulling together and overcoming the evil in the world. That event brought the nation together as a whole and now symbolizes their pride for country. Thinking about all of this really made me start to play the “What if?” game. We have all done it, especially with events that we would really wish had not occurred. If we change things in our macrosystem, that change flows downward through all other systems to the individual.

This short clip explains some of the events that occur in my new favorite show, Fringe.

How Macrosystems are altered on Fringe

The woman in the show has traveled to an alternate dimension which looks almost exactly like our reality, with a few slight changes.  The show’s producer is explaining some of what is going on and the intention behind it. He talks about the symbolism of the Twin Towers. It is interesting that he says that the alternate world is no better or worse, just different decisions were made with different outcomes. When we play the “What if” game, we try to think of how the world could be better.  I think that the world would generally be the same, even if different decision were made because the human condition remains the same in all circumstances and no matter what humans (individually or in groups) create our own macrosystems.

  1. Who (individual or group/system) do you think has the most impact of change on our macrosystem today?
  2. Play the “What if?” game with me. If you could go back and change something, what do you think would be the most important thing to change, and how would that impact our lives today?
  3. For funsies: Is there anyone in our class that you think may directly impact the macrosystem, good or bad? Be nice, of course.


Coll, C. G., Bearer, E. L., & Lerner, R. M. (2004). Nature and nurture. Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence             Erlbaum Associates.

Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979). The ecology of human development. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. Jeff Pinker: Alternative realities on Fringe.


  1. Sybil Vess
    11:09 pm, 11.15.09

    Okay…I had written this great post, but the internet crashed on me, so it obviously did not get posted. So, let’s try again.

    If I could change one thing, it would be racism. It has been something that has always plagued me. I wish we could live in a world that was, as so eloquently put by dc Talk, colorblind. Recently, my mom and I had this discussion about how she would feel if I came home with an African American boyfriend. She said that while she would not mind, there was still this voice in her head telling her that it would be wrong. I can understand that. I mean, she did grow up in a different time than me, and back then racism was a hot button issue. I just wish it were not the case. I would love to see a world that does not judge or criticize based on skin. It should not even matter, and yet it affects us all on practically a daily basis. I would love a world that sees us all for what we really are. Human. I want to live in a colorblind world. Perhaps, given the progress we’ve made in only one generation gap, we may get there some day.

  2. Tommy Johnson
    10:29 am, 11.30.09

    1. Hitler and the Nazis. Basically their evil sparked lots of change. And then the “good” people that followed up after them made significant change as well.

    2. Ok, hmm. I would stop the world from making the Atomic Bomb! After the Manhattan Project and the creation of the “A” bomb–everything got much more chaotic and anxious. I mean let’s think about it. Even in the olden days, if you knew that you were going to be in war…that was just it–you were in war. But, now after the atom bomb, if we think we are going to be in war. We are so pre-emptive in trying to stop it. The US (and I’m sure other countries are too…) is an Overfunctioner because of the Atom Bomb/Cold-War/Terrorism.

    3. Morgan Myrick with her new line of Sex Therapy.

  3. Kevin Burnette
    12:41 pm, 12.04.09

    When working on the IFS paper, I ran across an OpEd piece that Richard Schwartz had written in Family Therapy Networker right after the September 11th attacks. I can’t figure out how to post it in this reply, but I can e-mail it to anyone who wants to read it. Anyway, it gave me the excuse to use the word isomorphism in my paper, b/c he was talking about how various elements in our society serve as macro-system level Firefighters, Exiles, and Managers.

    Secondly, alternate reality story-lines are always among my favorite Star Trek episodes. In fact, I love the concept in general. Does anyone remember Quantum Leap, or Sliders…how about The Outer Limits…anyway…

    1) I’m a conspiracy theorist, and I tend to think that the people/groups really pulling the strings are not doing so openly, and they’re not really groups that we know anything about. BUT if I had to name a group, I would name the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund. These two groups working in tandem is who really has the power to push a conservative, capitalistic, agenda, and believe me they do…every day.

    2)I’m not sure that it would do any good to go back and change anything because whatever we un-did, someone else, would probably just come along and re-do. I mean if Eve had never eaten the forbidden fruit, Cain, Abel, or Seth or one of their kids or wives probably eventually would’ve.

    3) I definitely think that there is the potential for a great, new, perspective altering theory among our class-mates. Morgan is not a bad nomination, although I also fully expect me and Tommy to get onto the map so to speak with our Minuchin-Haley-Johnson-Burnette Center for Family Therapy.

  4. Emily Savage
    2:10 pm, 12.04.09

    1)I think it is a combination of a convincing person and a powerful group. One person can do nothing if not backed by others – but because of mass media and powerful weapons, it doesn’t necessarily have to be that man people. Like the military coop that took Guinea, Africa last year. One man convinced a powerful group in the Army, and thus they took over a nation. Or on the positive side you can look at Mother Teresa and the nuns who followed her. I think the important thing is to realize that people only have the power that others give them.

    2)Creation. But that is a conversation God and I are in the middle of right now.

    3)Can I vote for myself? I’ve always been really into the ACU mission statement and all…

  5. Sarah Osborn
    12:11 pm, 12.05.09

    DC talk, Manhattan Project, Star Trek, conspiracy theories, and Mother Teresa… good stuff!
    Em, that’s a really good point about people only having the power others give them- so true, even on smaller system level (like family).
    Sybil, I like what you are saying about race relations. I wonder how much we would have to go back and fix to make everything right today.
    Tommy, interesting little analogy. The US as an overfunctioner. I’ve never thought about it that way, but it completely makes sense.
    Kevin, I would be really interested to hear some of your conspiracy theories. Landing on the moon- was it real or in a studio?

  6. Dean Pye
    4:07 pm, 12.06.09

    Man, I loved Quantum Leap!!! I saw they have dvds out for it now…. good times. Anyways, I would say that if I could change society in a “What if…” scenario, I would want to go back and find some way of changing the numerous schisms that have come about in the church from the very beginning. I do appreciate the diversity that we have in the christian fellowship, but at the same time there are so many bad feelings interdenominationally. If I could find some way to hold the banner of truth high while at the same time maintaining the unity of the Church during those first few hundred years after Christ, I think (hopefully) there would be one Church that would be much more visible in showing its love to one another instead of competing against each other. Just a thought.

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  7. Scott Rampy
    11:33 pm, 12.06.09

    1) Money and religion. Especially considering events on the global scale, these two items seem to hold ENORMOUS sway and influence. And, whoever holds the reins of one or both has the power to affect the lives of others for better or worse. Charisma, compassion, or fear seem to be only characteristics of those who exert the influence of these two items(again, for better or worse).

    2) Constantine’s combination of the Christian religion with the power and wealth of aristocracy and empire was, in my opinion, the worst thing that could have ever happened to the Christian faith.

  8. Jaime Goff
    10:59 am, 12.07.09

    Great discussion, everyone! You all are so thoughtful and smart…I guess we made good decisions in bringing you here! Kevin, I love conspiracy theory movies and tv shows, but I don’t tend to be one myself. In some ways, I just don’t think people are that smart or inventive. I’m not sure what I would change. It’s kind of like Hiro on Heroes. You can go back and try to stop bad things from happening, but another bad thing would have ended up happening anyway. I guess I tend to be pretty pessimistic about these things.

  9. Kent Akers
    1:27 pm, 12.09.09

    I tend to agree with Scott about question number one. I feel like people, in and out of relationships, are motivated by money or religion. People use those things for power over others, but also as an explanation for acting and thinking in the way they do. It is interesting to me that both money and religion can function together for good to be done. On the flip side, they can be used sepratley or together for destruction as well. All the more reason to be consious of the thing that inlfuence us and to take evey thought captive before we act on them.

  10. Hima Daniely
    8:04 am, 07.17.22

    Thanks for your useful blog, I learn many things from this and aswered all of my question.

  11. حمل بار به مشهد
    3:35 am, 08.04.22

    Great discussion

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