The ecological theory of development that was proposed by Urie Bronfenbrenner (1917-2005), is relevant to state all of our lives. Bronfenbrenner’s research demonstrates how our development is affected by the environment in which we live. The model consist of five major systems; microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem, macrosystem, and chronosystem.
Ecological systems theory is an approach to study of human development that consists of the scientific study of the progressive, mutual accommodation, throughout the life course, between an active, growing human being, and the changing properties of the immediate settings in which the developing person lives, as this process is affected by the relations between these settings, and by the larger contexts in which the settings are embedded'” (Bronfenbrenner, Ecological systems theory, 1989).
In proposing the ecological model as a research tool, Brofenbrenner wanted to move away from the traditional focus that sees either the environment of the person instead of the relationship between them as the most important aspect of development. Furthermore, he wants to focus on the process of development rather than concentrate on isolated variables at a single point in time. (Crandell, Haines Crandell, Vander Zanden, 2009 p. 52) Many developmental models place an emphasis on the nature vs. nurture in the development of children.
However, Bronfenbrenner’s theory looks at the child’s environment in terms of quality and context. This student briefly described Bronfenbrenner’s five ecological systems theories. She also explained how the levels of influence shaped her development and how they influenced her decision to enter graduate school to obtain a master’s degree. The first level is microsystem; it consists of the network of social relationships and the physical settings in which a person is involved in each day (Crandell, Crandell, & Vander Zanden, pg. 11 2009).
This system will include any immediate relationships or organizations a child interacts with in their life. The way in which these groups interact with the child will have an effect on how the child grows. For example, the more encouraging and nurturing these relationships and places are, the better the child will be able to grow. In turn if the child is exposed to the opposite of those things the child may struggle in their development. In addition, depending on how the child acts or reacts has an influence on how the people in their microsystem will treat them.
This student related the microsystem to her decision. Her desire and motivation to return back to school to obtain a Master’s degree was influenced by her nieces and nephews. She used them to form her opinion and the choices she made in life because she does not have any children of her own. Every decision that the student makes will have some type of impact on their lives for the better or the worse. Her plan is to be a positive role model and make a positive impact on their lives so they can be successful and productive citizens.
The student wants her nieces and nephews to know the importance of having an education. She can illustrate to them by achieving a higher level of education. The second level is the mesosystem; it consists of the interrelationships among the various settings in which the developing person is immersed (Crandell, Crandell, & Vander Zanden 2009). This system describes how the different parts work together for the sake of the child (i. e. , the relationship between home and school, school and workplace, home and the workplace and so on).
Thus, the mesosystem is a system of microsystems. For example, if a child is raised with both parents in the household they will most likely grow up believing that is the right environment for a child to be in. In contrast, if a child is raised by two sets of parents, mom with step-dad and dad with step-mom disagree on how to raise a child therefore the child is conflicted on which way is the best way, then this could hinder the child’s development. This student related the mesosystem to her decision. Her place of employment played a big role in obtaining her Master’s degree.
She wanted to be able to advance in her current career and in order for advancement; a Master’s degree is required. Also by obtaining a Master’s degree in Human Behavioral, the student believes it would allow her to better communicate and understand the clientele she works with. The third level is the exosystem; it consists of social structures that directly or indirectly affect a person’s life: school, work, mass media, government and various social networks (Crandell, Crandell, & Vander Zanden 2009).
For example, if a child’s parent, especially a one income family household, gets laid off and is without work that may have negative effects on the child if her parents are unable to pay rent, buy groceries, or provide the necessities. In contrast, if her parent receives a promotion and a raise at work, this may have a positive effect on the child because her parents will be better able to give her physical needs. This may have a positive effect on a child’s development and motivate them to work hard and obtain a good job as an adult.
Another example within this system would be the relationship between a child’s school and home, as the rules are often times different for a child at home and school and being able to keep the two separate can prove challenging for a child. This student related the exosystem to her decision because of the economical recession. With all the rising cost of such things as gas, food, medical care, etc. , it is very hard to maintain an adequate lifestyle when one can barely makes ends.
This student wanted to enjoy a better life and she knew that continuing her education would make her more employable and it would open the doors for advancement in her current career. She knew that in order to achieve more she knew would have to put forth an effort to improve herself. The fourth level is the Macrosystem; it is comprised of the all-encompassing pattern of microsystem, mesosystem, and exosystems characteristic of a given culture or subculture, with particular reference to the belief systems, material resources, customs, lifestyles, opportunities, and life course options that are embedded in each of these broader systems.
For example: a child born into a strong Christian family will be strongly influenced by their parents, (mesosystem), who would have been influenced by their parents (exosystem), who would have been influenced by the Christian values and customs passed on through the family’s generations (macrosystem). This shows how the macrosystem can have an indirect yet still significant influence on the child. (Berk, 2007, p. 25).
This student related the mesosystem to her decision. Her current job entails her to encounter variety of people from different cultural and socioeconomic standing. This student job deals with a diverse group of families, with one common goal in mind and that is to no longer be involved with her department. The fifth and last level is the chronosystem. Traditionally in the study of human development, the passage of time was treated as synonymous with chronological age.
Since the early1970s, however, an increasing number of investigators have employed research designs in which time appears not merely as an attribute of the growing human being, but also as a property of the surrounding environment not only over the life course, but across historical time (Bates and Schaie 1973, Clausen 1986, Elder 1974, Elder et al, 1993). A chronosystem incorporates change or consistency over time not only in the characteristics of the person but also of the environment in which that person lives.
An example of this would be a change in a person’s socioeconomic standing, a job promotion, or place of residency. Obtaining my Master’s degree in regards to this system would help me climb to a higher socioeconomic standing as it would allow for me to receive a better paying job or a promotion within my current job. Also, with new employment or promotion I would be given the opportunity to relocate which would change my entire social network. Bronfenbrenner believes that the ecological system is an active system, which is constantly developing.
The size of an individual’s microsystem changes every time they obtain or let go of life roles or surroundings. These changes are crucial to the child’s development. For example: starting school, getting married, starting a first job, having children, moving house/countries, getting divorced, retiring. This form is known as the chronosystem (chrono meaning ‘time’). Life changes are enforced from external environments, however, these changes can also occur from inside the individual.
This is because humans are able to choose, alter and construct several of their own settings and understandings. The way in which this occurs is affected by the person’s age, their environment prospects, behavior, and physical and logical characteristics. As a result, in the ecological systems theory, an individual’s development is not determined by environmental factors or internal character. People are products and creators of their own environments. Therefore, both people and their surroundings form a system of mutually dependent effects. (Berk, 2007, p. 25).
In conclusion this student feels that Bronfenbrenners model is a useful tool, giving a framework to her development and an opportunity to see it as more than a series of disconnected events. Although she sometimes thinks she should have already accomplished this task, there is no time like the present. The student knows she is more mature, responsible and is determined to succeed. She feels confident that the wait was worth it, and the hard work will make it worthwhile. She knows she is blessed to have a job, supportive friends and a loving family to keep her focused.