Ecology of the family as a context for human development: Research perspectives. By: Bronfenbrenner, Urie, Developmental Psychology, 0012-1649, 1986, Vol. 22, Issue 6 Database:
By: Urie Bronfenbrenner
Department of Human Development and Family Studies, Cornell University Acknowledgement: This review is based on a longer background paper prepared at the request of the Human Learning and Behavior Branch of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in connection with the development of their Five Year Plan for Research.
I am indebted to the following colleagues for their constructive criticism of the original document: Josephine Arastah, Mavis Hetherington, Richard Lerner, Jeylan T. Mortimer, Joseph H. Pleck, Lea Pulkinnen, Michael Rutter, Klaus Schneewind, and Diana Slaughter. Appreciation is also expressed to Gerri Jones for typing innumerable revisions of the manuscript. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to: Urie Bronfenbrenner, Department of Human Development and Family Studies, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853 The purpose of this article is to document and delineate promising lines of research on external influences that affect the capacity of families to foster the healthy development of their children. The focus differs from that of most studies of the family as a context of human development, because the majority have concentrated on intrafamilial processes of parent-child interaction, a fact that is reflected in Maccoby and Martin's (1983) recent authoritative review of research on family influences on development. By contrast, the focus of the present analysis can be described as “once removed.” The research question becomes: How are intrafamilial processes affected by extrafamilial conditions? Paradigm Parameters
In tracing the evolution of research models in developmental science, Bronfenbrenner and Crouter (1983) distinguished a series of progressively more sophisticated scientific paradigms for investigating the impact of environment on development. These paradigms provide a useful framework for ordering and analyzing studies bearing on the topic of this review. At the most general level, the research models vary simultaneously along two dimensions. As applied to the subject at hand, the first pertains to the structure of the external systems that affect the family and the manner in which they exert their influence. The second dimension relates to the degree of explicitness and differentiation accorded to intrafamilial processes that are influenced by the external environment.
External Systems Affecting the Family
Research paradigms can be distinguished in terms of three different environmental systems that can serve as sources of external influence on the family. Mesosystem models
Although the family is the principal context in which human development takes place, it is but one of several settings in which developmental process can and do occur. Moreover, the processes operating in different settings are not independent of each other. To cite a common example, events at home can affect the child's progress in school, and vice versa. Despite the obviousness of this fact, it was not until relatively recently that students of development began to employ research designs that could identify the influences operating, in both directions, between the principal settings in which human development occurs. The term mesosystem has been use to characterize analytic models of this kind (Bronfenbrenner, 1979). The results of studies employing this type of paradigm in relation to the family are summarized below, in the section “Mesosystem Models.” Exosystem models
The psychological development of children in the family is affected not only by what happens in the other environments in which children spend their time but also by what occurs in the other settings in which their parents live their lives, especially in a place...