Ecological Systems Theory

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From the time a person first enters this world until they taketheir final breath, they go through many changes that will shape their character and determine how they handle situations in their life. Many different psychologists have studied human behavior and why it is that we react a certain way in different circumstances, and ultimately why we behave in the way that we do. Urie Bronfenbrenner developed a model called the “Ecological Systems Theory” that attempts to explain what factors influence a person’s behavior and which ones have the most impact. The model is broken down into five systems: the “Microsystem”, “Mesosystem”, “Exosystem”, “Macrosystem”, and “Chronosystem”. The “Microsystem” is considered the most intimate or most influential level and it consists of the interactions between the person and their family or their close friends. These influences are bidirectional, meaning that both sides are influenced equally. For example, a child who is very calm and obedient will most likely cause the parent to be calm and trusting of the child. On the other hand, if the parent is very strict and harsh towards the child, the child may feel the urge to rebel against the parent. The “Mesosystem” essentially represents the connections between the “Microsystems”. This means that there is more than one factor that influences a situation in one’s life. For example, if a young student is doing poorly in school, it can be due to lack of parent involvement in their academics, or if the parents show interest in the child’s school life at all. Another example of this would be if an employee was not doing well in the workplace, it could be linked back to a fight at home or the lack of communication with a spouse. The next level in the theory is the “Exosystem”. This system is made up of experiences or factors that do not necessarily contain the developing person but nevertheless have an impact in their life. These factors or experiences can be formal or informal organizations. Formal organizations consist of flexible work schedules or paid maternity or paternity leaves and these circumstances can positively influence the parent-child relationship. Informal organizations can consist of the parent’s social networks, such as close friends or relatives that can offer advice or friendship in the child’s life. These relationships can provide a sense of trust and source of love in the life of the child. This system can also be observed in a way that will affect the child’s life negatively. For example, if the parents do not have close friends or a feeling of acceptance in the community, there has been shown to be an increased risk of child abuse and conflict within the family. The “Macrosystem” is a much broader system that consists of the cultural values, morals, customs, and resources in the community. An example of this would be if a child attends a private school that closely monitors the behavior of the children and tries to instill moral values, the child might experience a more enjoyable time during their school years. Bronfenbrenner defined the ever-changing nature of a person’s environment to be the “Chronosystem”. He noted that there were many factors that can influence or change the circumstances of one’s life, which he called “Ecological Transitions”. “Ecological Transitions” could be any event such as starting college, getting married, getting divorced, graduating high school or college, becoming a parent, or retiring. All of these instances could be considered “milestones” in someone ‘s life that can have a major impact in the routine or schedule one is familiar to. For the project, I chose to conduct an interview with my aunt, who is now forty-eight years old. In the interview, I asked her questions that would reveal what or who were the influences in her life and what were the major special events that occurred. I repeated the interview with her twice; the first to ask her about her life at the age of twenty-one and then...
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