Ecological Systems Theory

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Ecological Systems Theory

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Ecological Systems Theory
As I was growing up, I always heard of the expression that “people are a product of their environment”. I never gave this expression much thought until I got older and became more aware of my surroundings and my own environment. Personally, I feel that there is some truth to this statement. A person’s environment is very influential to their development. A famous psychologist that studied child development, Dr. Urie Bronfenbrenner, developed the ecological systems theory to show how a child’s development can be influenced by their environment. Dr. Bronfenbrenner felt that “a person’s development is the product of a constellation of forces-cultural, social, economic, political- and not merely psychological ones” (Fox, 2005, para 6). According to an article by Nancy Darling of Oberlin College, “Ecological Systems Theory is presented as a theory of human development in which everything is seen as interrelated and our knowledge of development is bounded by context, culture, and history” (Darling, 2007, p. 204).

The Ecological Systems Theory consists of five levels of the environment that are influential to a child’s development. These five levels are the microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem, macrosystem, and the chronosystem. These five levels each contribute significantly and helps to mold an individual which can affect their personality, the way they think, and who they are as a person overall.

The first level, the microsystem, consists of the immediate environment that the child is in on a daily basis (Oswalt, 2008). The microsystem would include a child’s immediate family, teachers, neighbors, daycare, school, and peers or anyone who a child or individual interacts with directly on a daily basis. The microsystem is important to a child’s development because if the environment they are around on a daily basis is stable, nurturing, and caring, then that child will likely model the same behavior. However, if the child is in an environment where they are neglected and abused or see violence, this can have an influence on their behavior and cause them to become affected by this negative environment. For example, if a child is surrounded by a family who is violent and does not pay much attention to their needs, neighbors that use profanity, and aggressive peers, then this child is exposed to more negative than positive behaviors. This can cause the child to model what they are exposed to, which is negativity. However, if the same child is in an environment where the family is nurturing, the teachers are welcoming and encourage learning, and its’ peers display positive social skills, then the child is exposed to positive behavior and is more likely to display positive behavior than negative. This level is closest to the child and is the most influential level of the ecological system (Paquette & Ryan, 2001).

The next level of the ecological systems theory is the mesosystem. The mesosystem consists of how the people in the child’s microsystem interact with each other. The mesosystem is the connection, or the relationship, between the parents and the teachers or the child and their peers, to name a few. For example, if the child’s parents have a good relationship with his or her teacher and are involved with their education, this can help encourage learning and promote good behavior and good grades at school. If the parents are not involved at school and do not interact with the child’s teacher regularly, the child may feel as if education is not important and may display poor behavior and grades at school, which affects their learning.

The ecological systems theory also includes the exosystem. The exosystem consists of people that the child may not interact with on a daily basis but still has an influence on that child such as their neighbors, a coach, a preacher. The exosystem could also...
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