Bioecological Systems

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CHAPTER 14

The Bioecological Model of Human Development
URIE BRONFENBRENNER and PAMELA A. MORRIS

OVERVIEW 795 DEFINING PROPERTIES OF THE BIOECOLOGICAL MODEL 796 Proposition I 797 Proposition II 798 FROM THEORY TO RESEARCH DESIGN: OPERATIONALIZING THE BIOECOLOGICAL MODEL 799 Developmental Science in the Discovery Mode 801 Different Paths to Different Outcomes: Dysfunction versus Competence 803 The Role of Experiments in the Bioecological Model 808 HOW DO PERSON CHARACTERISTICS INFLUENCE LATER DEVELOPMENT? 810 Force Characteristics as Shapers of Development 810 Resource Characteristics of the Person as Shapers of Development 812 Demand Characteristics of the Person as Developmental Inf luences 812 THE ROLE OF FOCUS OF ATTENTION IN PROXIMAL PROCESSES 813

PROXIMAL PROCESSES IN SOLO ACTIVITIES WITH OBJECTS AND SYMBOLS 814 THE MICROSYSTEM MAGNIFIED: ACTIVITIES, RELATIONSHIPS, AND ROLES 814 Effects of the Physical Environment on Psychological Development 814 The Mother-Infant Dyad as a Context of Development 815 BEYOND THE MICROSYSTEM 817 The Expanding Ecological Universe 818 Nature-Nurture Reconceptualized: A Bioecological Interpretation 819 TIME IN THE BIOECOLOGICAL MODEL: MICRO-, MESO-, AND MACROCHRONOLOGICAL SYSTEMS 820 FROM RESEARCH TO REALITY 822 THE BIOECOLOGICAL MODEL: A DEVELOPMENTAL ASSESSMENT 824 REFERENCES 825

The bioecological model, together with its corresponding research designs, is an evolving theoretical system for the scientific study of human development over time (Bronfenbrenner, 2005). In the bioecological model, development is defined as the phenomenon of continuity and change in the biopsychological characteristics of human beings, both as individuals and as groups. The phenomenon extends over the life course, across succesWe are especially grateful for the thoughtful criticisms of earlier drafts of the manuscript generously provided by the following colleagues: Jay Belsky, Rick Canfield, Nancy Darling, Glen H. Elder Jr., Steven F. Hamilton, Melvin L. Kohn, Kurt Lüscher, Phyllis Moen, Donna Dempster-McLain, Laurence Steinberg, and Sheldon H. White. We owe particular thanks to Professor Susan Crockenberg and her students at the University of Vermont who, in the course of a graduate 793

sive generations, and through historical time, both past and future. The term future raises a question: How is it possible to scientifically investigate phenomena that have not yet taken place? This question is hardly new; indeed, it pervades every field of scientific endeavor. However, we are the only species that, over historical time, has developed the capacity to engage successfully in scientific inquiry, and thereby, in many respects, has seminar, carefully reviewed a draft of this chapter, and made many constructive suggestions. We have done our best to meet the high standards that they commendably set. We wish to express gratitude to Richard M. Lerner and William Damon, the editors of the 1998 Volume and of that series as a whole, for their wise advice, encouragement, and patience. Finally, a special thanks goes to our most severe and most constructive critic, Liese Bronfenbrenner.

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The Bioecological Model of Human Development

been able to change the nature of the world in which we live. As a result, within certain limits, we humans have altered the nature and course of our own development as a species (Bronfenbrenner & Evans 2000; Bronfenbrenner & Morris 1998). To place bioecological theory of human development into a larger context, it is important to recognize that many of the general perspectives advanced and elaborated in this theory are also parts of other related lines of theoretical and empirical inquiry into human development. Examples include life-span psychology (Baltes, Lindenberger, & Staudinger, Chapter 11, this Handbook, this volume), cultural psychology (Cole, 1995; Shweder et al., Chapter 13, this Handbook, this volume), Magnusson’s developmental theory of...
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