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Bronfenbrenners Ecological Theory of Development

Urie Bronfenbrenner is on of the best known scholars in the field of developmental psychology and he was the primary contributor to the ecological systems theory of development. The ecological theory of development defines four types of systems which contain roles, norms and rules that shape development or a child. Thies and Travers (2008) stated that, ‘Human ecology is the study of the complex interrelationships between humans and their social environment.’ This is a very important theory that finds applications in many spheres of life and that is beneficial to humanity.

Description and evaluation of how Bronfenbrenner's levels of influence shaped my development

The different levels of influence include a microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem, and macrosystem. Each of these levels of influence or systems is dependent on the contextual nature of one’s life and offers an ever growing diversity of options and sources of growth. Since humans potentially have access to these levels of influence, they are able to have more social knowledge, they is an increased set of possibilities for learning how to solve problems and they have access to new dimensions of self-exploration. Garbarino (1992) stated that, ‘the involvement of children in ever increasing complex settings offer children rich possibilities for having caring and nurturing relations.’ This does not apply for children only, but also for parents and other family members.

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My environment and the passion I possess in regards to helping others truly influenced my desire to obtain a master's degree. The Microsystem which was my most immediate environment as a child offered me a reference point of the world. It gave me the nurturing centerpiece. I was able to experience many things in terms of developing trust and mutuality with the significant people in my life which was my mother, my father and my siblings. My family was clearly my early microsystem for learning how to live and it has shaped me into the person that I am. The nanny also provided the caring relations which helped me to have a healthy personality. The attachment behaviors between me and my parents and other caregivers gave me my first trust-building experience.

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The exosystem is the close, intimate level of influence of our relations within families which creates our buffer and ‘nest’ for being with each other. Since we live in this level of influence psychologically and not physically, it is an exosystem – ‘exo’ stands for outside. Both of my parents were always at work, but psychologically, I felt that they were very present in my early days. In my first few years, I ‘went to work’ with my parents in the sense that I wondered about, sought experiences with ‘the work of the family’ I never really physically experienced. Although I experienced the contexts of exosystems vicariously, they had a direct impact on me. I was empowered because I got a high quality child-care program, but the exosystems also brought about stress in the family resulting from excessive stress at work sometimes that was not dealt with properly. My absence from the system made it no less powerful in my life and I realized the stress of their parent’s workplaces without ever physically being there. However, despite the stress from work, the effects of these exosystems were diluted by the fact that there were many family-friendly practices at home.

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The Macrosystem is the biggest level of influence and it is all about cultural beliefs, political trends, societal values, and other occurrences in the community. These factors greatly affected my development, but some more than others. My family and the whole extended family as well as our friends were from the same cultural background and they had very strong cultural believes. This was a powerful source of energy in my life. My culture taught me to respect my elders and to treat women with respect among other positive lessons and these have played a big role in how I interact with people. The politics as I grew up were very divisive and it made people in the same country have two different outlooks to things. The society was very conservative and this meant that new practices such as homosexuality were not accepted. There were several occurrences in the community such as the killing of people who I knew well and all these macrosytems helped me in one way or the other to hold together the many threads of my lives. I agree that without beliefs, support and encouragement that resulted from these macrosystems, I would have been open to great harm and deterioration.

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Mesosytems are another level of influence in my life and it helped connect some of the systems in which my family and I lived. Bronfenbrenner (1979) stated that, ‘The real power of mesosystems is that they help to connect two or more systems in which child, parent and family live.’ In my community, there were many loving adults beyond the parents who engaged in caring ways with me and other children. Whenever my parents would go for an outing, I was left with adults from church who loved me and when they would go for an outing my parents would take care of their kids. Given that I came from a very close knit family, I was able to get the love of my distant relatives as well.

Bronfenbrenner (1989) stated that, ‘Chronosystems is the all of the dynamics of families is the historical context as it occurs within the different systems.’ The history of all my relationships with my family members determines how I act today. I respond to stressors the same way my father and brothers did. Ford and Lerner (1992) stated that, ‘the history of relationships in families may explain more about parent-child relations than is evident in existing dynamics.’

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Bronfenbrenner’s ecological theory of development is helpful in providing insight into all the factors that play a role in my growth and development. The theory also shows how all the different factors are intertwined and how they impacting the development cycle differently. With this model, we are able to see how our lives are balanced between every aspect of our environment and this is helpful in explaining human behavior. The model is also helpful in developing government policies and programs that are aimed at benefiting the society. With this model, it is now possible to treat the various emotional and behavioral problems in individuals and the society as a whole since the model places treatment externally – changing environmental factors can provide strength and healing. Bronfenbrenner’s ecological theory is helpful in that teachers and other educators it to asses problems in the life of a child and they will be equipped to help in the rebalancing of a child’s environment to begin the healing in conjunction with the parents. For many years, people did not realize that their actions towards their kids have a lasting impact in the future relationships and adjustment of their kids. The Bronfenbrenner model is useful in drilling this point home and everybody can see that the whole society is influencing the lives of all people we interact with. With this knowledge in mind, the society can have a springboard towards becoming a better society for the sake of the children.

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