Article

Chaos Theory and Complexity Theory

Keith Warren

in Encyclopedia of Social Work

Published by NASW Press and Oxford University Press


Published online June 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199975839 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780199975839.013.45

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Chaos theory and complexity theory, collectively known as nonlinear dynamics or dynamical systems theory, provide a mathematical framework for thinking about change over time. Chaos theory seeks an understanding of simple systems that may change in a sudden, unexpected, or irregular way. Complexity theory focuses on complex systems involving numerous interacting parts, which often give rise to unexpected order. The framework that encompasses both theories is one of nonlinear interactions between variables that give rise to outcomes that are not easily predictable. This entry provides a nonmathematical introduction, discussion of current research, and references for further reading.

Keywords: agent-based models; chaos theory; complexity theory; dynamical systems; nonlinear dynamics; system dynamics

Article.  4621 words. 

Subjects: Direct Practice and Clinical Social Work ; Human Behaviour and the Social Environment ; Social Work Macro Practice ; Social Work Research and Evidence-based Practice

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