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Bronfenbrenner's Ecological Theory of Development

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Bronfenbrenner's Ecological Theory of Development

Jermor Simmons

Capella University


Table of Contents

Table of Contents 2

Abstract 3

Method 4

Results 4

References 5



The development and growth of an individual is within the constraints of the social environment (Jordan 183). Bronfenbrenner's theory that development is influenced by experiences arising from broader social and cultural systems as well as a child's immediate surroundings. Ecological Systems Theory, also called "Development in Context" or "Human Ecology" theory, specifies four types of nested environmental systems, with bi-directional influences within and between the systems. The theory was developed by Urie Bronfenbrenner, generally regarded as one of the world's leading scholars in the field of developmental psychology (Bronfenbrenner 1979).

Bronfenbrenner's Ecological Theory of Development

The ecological theory is Bronfenbrenner's sociocultural view of development which focuses on the changing relations between individuals and the environments in which they live. It consists of five environmental systems ranging from the fine-grained inputs of direct interactions with social agents to the broad-based inputs of culture. The five systems in Bronfenbrenner's ecological theory are the microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem, macrosystem, and chronosystem.

The microsystem in ecological theory is the setting in which an individual lives (Bronfenbrenner 1979). This context includes the person's family, peers, school, neighborhood, etc is the immediate environment in which a person is operating. The settings within, which the individual directly interacts and with the most immediate and direct impact on a child's biological and psychological development. The key concept is the "direct contact" between the child and the niche. The mesosystem in ecological theory involves linkages between microsystems or connections between contexts, such as the connection between a child's home and school (Bronfenbrenner 1979). Examples include, parent-teacher conference, having friends come to one's home, or the family attending the school spring concert. The exosystem in ecological theory is involved when experiences in another social setting - in which the individual does not have an active role - influence what the individual experiences in an immediate context (Bronfenbrenner 1979). An example of an exosystem is the child's parent's workplace. Although a child may never have any role in the parent's workplace, or, in fact, never even go there, the events which occur at the child's place of employment do affect the child. For example, if the parent has a bad day at work, or is laid off, or promoted, or has to work overtime, all of these events impact the child. Also, government policies affecting schools, school board, Parks and Recreation Coordinator and friends of family. The macrosystem is the larger cultural context in ecological theory which involves the culture in which the individual lives. Also the availability of economic resources and opportunities is looked at. It is not known whether the way poverty affects socioemotional development of children varies by race, ethnicity or culture. It includes values and beliefs that influence the individual's life. Macrosystems include the developing person's society and subculture, which include the broader ideologies, belief systems, and institutional patterns or values of the culture. Examples include: laws, customs of the culture, economic and political systems, religion, ethnic group, socioeconomic status and American ideology. The chronosystem in ecological theory refers to changes within the individual and changes in the environment across time, as well as the relationship between the two processes. For example, if a divorce occurs in a child's family during the preschool period, it will have a different impact than if the child is an adolescent or young adult (Zanden 54).

Each of these systems is characterized by roles, norms (expected behavior) and relationships. For example, an individual usually acts differently within his or her own family than within a classroom. The person may speak more often at home, be less goal-oriented, and, almost certainly, will not sit at a desk for hours on end. Other things being equal, according to Bronfenbrenner, when the relation between different microsystems is a compatible one, development progresses more smoothly. A common example of this is the relationship between home and school. When role expectations are similar in both settings, e.g., try your hardest, do your own work, be on time, etc., children will be expected to perform better than if role expectations differ substantially from one setting to the next.

The microsystem is described as the settings in which an individual lives. Family had played a big role in my entrance into graduate school, because I would be the first person in my family to enter graduate school and complete it. The mesosystem direct impact on my entrance into graduate school is a little complicated, because I was raised by my grandmother, whom worked very hard to make sure we had a place to lay our head and a table to eat at. She didn't have time for all the parent teacher conferences and any sports I was involved in. So the connection between home and school was very seldom unless I did something wrong and she had to come up to the school. The exosystem direct impact on me entering graduate school didn't play a role, because relating to the example given prior, my grandmother never brought her problems home from work. She we always considerate



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