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Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Theory of Development

Monica T. reaves
Survey of Research in Human Development and Behavior
Dr. Fabio D’ Angelo October 27, 2012

Abstract
Urie Bronfenbrenner, a well-known scholar in the field of development psychology, formulated the Human Ecology Theory. The Ecological System Theory states that human development is influenced by the different types of environments throughout our lifespan that may influence our behavior in various degrees. Bronfenbrenner’s ecological theories consist of five environmental systems that range from close interpersonal interactions to broad-based influences of cultural. There are four different systems which define the ecological theory. The systems include microsystem, mesostem, exosystem, and macrosystem (Santrock, 2008). By Urie Bronfenbrenner creating these different systems, he wanted to show that family, economy, and political structures make up the development of a child into adulthood. In this paper I will attempt to cover the theories of Bronfenbrenner as it relates to child development, while looking at environmental influences.
Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Theory of Development

One cannot grasp human development by simply observation and measuring individuals’ behavior in clinical settings that are separate from their relevant social, physical, and cultural environments (Crandell & Crandell, Vander Zanden, 2012). Urie Bronfenbrebber (1917-2005), had a major influence in the development of human development. Bronfenbrenner’s bioecological model is among the most cited and frequently taught in human development. Bronfenbrenner’s ecological system, first introduced in the 1970s (Bronfenbrenner’s 1974, 1976, 1977, 1979), represented a reaction to the restricted scope of most research then being conducted by development psychologist. Bronfenbrenner’s ecological system theory looks at the child’s environment in terms of its quality and context. The ecological model explains the difference in an individual’s knowledge, development, and competences through the support, guidance and structure of the society in which they live. Bronfenbrenner and Crouter (1983) distinguished a series of systems for investigating the impact of environment on development. The first model 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 according to interfamilial process that are influenced by external environment (Ecology of the Family as a Context for Human Development: Research Perspectives, Developmental Psychology, 1986, Vol.22, No.6, pg. 723-742). According to Bronfenbrenner, the interactions between numbers of overlapping ecosystems affect a person significantly. Moving from the innermost level to the outside, these structures are defined as described below. 1. Microsystem
The microsystem refers to the environment in our daily lives. Examples include such settings as family, school, peer, group, and workplace (Santrock, 2008). It is within the immediate environment of the microsystem that operates to produce and sustain development. Mentors can play an important role in improving some student’s learning.
When guidance is accomplished through demonstration, instruction, challenge, and encouragement on a more or regular basis over an extended period of time. In addition, the young person’s relationship to the mentor takes on an emotional character of respect, loyalty, and identification (Hamilton, 2004, p. 396, based on a personal communication with ecological theorist Urie Bronfenbrenne). According to Bronfenbrenner, the interactions between a number of ecosystems affect a person significantly. As two microsystems begin to work together i.e. teacher and parent working together to educate a child happens through the mesosystem. 2. Mesosystem
The mesosystem comprises the linkages and process taking place between two or more settings containing the developing person (Santrock, 2008). It is basically a two way communication in participating in decision making by parents and teachers. In another mesosystem study, which targeted Latino and African American students in low-income areas, middle school and high school students participated in a program designed to connect their families, peers, schools, and parents’ work (Cooper, 1995). The students commented on how the outreach programs helped them bridge the gaps across their different social worlds. In their neighborhoods and schools the students were expected to fail, become pregnant, drop out of school, or misbehave. The outreach taught morals, helping others, working the community, and encouraging the young to go to college. 3. Exosystem
Exosystem is the linkage between the context where in the person does not have any active roll and the context where in is actively participating(Santrock, 2008). Children tend to have limited access in the parents circle of friends and acquaintances their social network. 4. Microsystem
The macrosystem makes up the whole cultural of an individual (Santrock, 2008). This formulation points to the necessity of going beyond the simple labels of class and cultural to identify more specific social and psychological features at the macrosystem level that untimely affect the particular conditions and process scurrying in the microsystem (Bronfenbrenner 1986,1988,1993). 5. Chronosystem
The chronosysytem transitions and shifts in one’s lifespan. Not only in the characteristics of the person but also the environment in which that person lives. One example chronosystem is divorce. It is a major life transition that may affect not only the couple’s relationship but also the children’s behavior (Ecology of the family as a Context for Human Developmenrt: Research Perspectives, Developmental Psychology, 1986, Vol. 22, No. 6, pg. 723-742). In reading Ecological Models of Human Development (1993) it stated that youngsters who were teenagers during Depression years, the families’ economic deprivation appeared to have a salutary effect on their subsequent development, especially with the middle class. In comparing with none deprived who were matched on per-depression socioeconomic status, deprived boys display a greater desire to achieve and firmer sense of career goals.

Boys and girls form deprived homes attained greater satisfaction in life, both by their own and by societal standards (Gauvain & Cole: Reading on the development of children, 2nd Ed. 1993. Pg. 37-43).

Understanding the interactions of these systems is the key in understanding how a child develops and what factors lead to failure. Bronfenbrenner’s theory has gained population in recent years. It provides one of the few theoretical frameworks for systematically examining social contexts on both micro and macro levels bridging the gap between behavioral theories that focus on small settings and anthropology theories that analyze larger settings (Santrock, 2008). In reading Bronfenbrenner theory it shows without the proper adults and supervision or love available, children look for attention inappropriate places and these behaviors give rise to problem especially in adolescences such as little self-discipline, no self-direction and anti-social behavior. We must think about the child as embedded in a number of environmental system and influences. These include schools and teachers, parents and siblings, the community and neighborhood, peers and friends, the media, religion, and culture. According to a majority of research, children are negatively affected on the first year after the divorce. The next years after it would reveal that the interaction within the family becomes more stable and agreeable (Sincero, 2012).
In reading and studying Bronfenbrenner’s theories, I thought about how the different levels shaped my development in life. According to Bronfenbrenner, primary relationships must be those that last a life time such as with parents and deficiencies in these relationships cannot be replaced with others. As a child I was fortunate to grow up in a home where both parents raised me. I have always had parents that showed concern with my education and daily activities. As a child I can’t think of one educator that didn’t show me concern. Even though I came from a home where I had both parents, I lived in a low-income neighborhood. Being that we lived in an area were drugs were highly used and gangs fought daily, mother hardly ever let us go to outside. Church activities and Girl Scouts was an avenue that kept me involve in positive things. The church activities taught me to be God fearing and how to act as a lady while girl scouts taught me how to get out in the world and become anything I wanted to be.
As I got older things started to change in my environment. My mother and father divorced when I was at the age of nine. It took a toll on me because I was a daddy’s girl and made me feel like a piece of my life was gone. Because of my mother’s strict upbringing, I never really got out of hand. I had friends that my mom knew anything about due to their wild ways of living. I was not like them but wanted to fit in so I wouldn’t be the next victim that got bullied.
As I matured more into adult-hood I knew that watching my aunts and uncles that I wanted more in life. To obtain success I had to change my way of thinking and my surroundings. I knew I wanted to graduate and receive a high school diploma. I knew after accomplishing all of that, I would pursue a college degree. Getting a college degree was very exciting for me because I knew I crossed another path in my life. After graduating college I decided to pursue my Master’s degree in Human Service. Watching my mother raise six girls by herself and taught me courage and strength.

In conclusion of this paper, According to Urie Bronfenbrenner (1979, p.27) states, “Development never takes place in a vacuum; it is always embedded and expressed through behavior in a particular environment.” The Ecological Theory of development shows the centers on the relationship between the developing individual and changing level of environmental influences that we go through in life (Crandell & Crandell, Vander Zanden, 2012).

References
Ecology of the Family as a Context for Human Development: Research Perspectives, Developmental Psychology, 1986, Vol. 22, No. 6, pg. 723-742. Retrieved 01 Nov. 2012 from Capella University Library: http:// web.ebschost.comlibrary.capella.edu/host
Sarah Mae Sincero (2012). Ecological System Theory. Retrieved 01 Nov. 2010 from Explorable: http://explorable.com/ecological
Bronfenbrenner, U. (1994). Ecological Models of Human Development. In International Encyclopedia of Education, Vol. 3, 2nd Ed. Oxford: Elservier. Reprinted in: Gauvain, M. & Cole, M. (Eds.), Reading on the development of children, 2nd Ed. (1993, pp.37-43). NY: Freeman.
John W. Santrock. (2008). Educational Psychology (3rd Edition) New York, NY:
ISBN: 978-0-07-352582-2
Crandell, T.L., Crandell, C,H., & Vender Zanden, J.W (2012). Human Development. (10th Edition) Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill. ISBN 978-0-07-353218-9

References: Ecology of the Family as a Context for Human Development: Research Perspectives, Developmental Psychology, 1986, Vol. 22, No. 6, pg. 723-742. Retrieved 01 Nov. 2012 from Capella University Library: http:// web.ebschost.comlibrary.capella.edu/host Sarah Mae Sincero (2012). Ecological System Theory. Retrieved 01 Nov. 2010 from Explorable: http://explorable.com/ecological Bronfenbrenner, U. (1994). Ecological Models of Human Development. In International Encyclopedia of Education, Vol. 3, 2nd Ed. Oxford: Elservier. Reprinted in: Gauvain, M. & Cole, M. (Eds.), Reading on the development of children, 2nd Ed. (1993, pp.37-43). NY: Freeman. John W. Santrock. (2008). Educational Psychology (3rd Edition) New York, NY: ISBN: 978-0-07-352582-2 Crandell, T.L., Crandell, C,H., & Vender Zanden, J.W (2012). Human Development. (10th Edition) Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill. ISBN 978-0-07-353218-9

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