Question Dilush Education

Ecological theory and behaviour

“The evidence is unequivocal – children who have difficulty regulating their emotions, paying attention, initiating peer interactions and sustaining engagement in learning tasks are at risk for school difficulties” (Bulotsky-Shearer, Dominguez & Bell, 2012, p. 421). Using the quote above define behaviour based on the ecological theory.

Did you know that we write custom assignments? We have experts in each specific subject area with vast experience. Get a complete answer and find out more about our writing services.

Answer Internal Staff

Ecological theory describes the interaction between the environmental systems in which one interacts. It was developed by Bronfenbrenner (1975) and comprises of five key systems: microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem, microsystem and chronosystem. The microsystem refers to the environments, and by extension the groups, institution and individuals within them, that most directly impact on a person’s life: in the case of a child, a school would certainly qualify as a microsystem. Bronfenbrenner asserts that we are not simply passive recipients of experiences we have within microsystems, but can actively assert influence over them in contributing to the construction of the overarching system (1975). The mesosystem refers to the interlinking relationships between different microsystems in one’s life, and this is where a child’s behaviour in a microsystem (school) can be explored: Bronfenbrenner argues that experiences in other microsystems determine a person’s behaviour across the systems they are a part of. For example, if a child is abused or neglected by their family, they will be less likely to trust teachers or other adults within school, which may lead to knock-on behaviours that ultimately impede the child’s learning. To relate this to the titular Bulotsky-Shearer, Dominguez and Bell (2012) quote, a child displaying these behaviours is likely to be experiencing an imbalance in another microsystem they belong to: not just family, but peers, the wider community or religious institutions. Other factors that may affect children’s behaviour include macrosystems (cultural factors like race, class, socioeconomic status) and chronosystems (transitions within a lifespan, e.g. a child whose parents are currently divorcing may be more likely to display the behaviours listed above). Ultimately, according to ecological theory, behaviour is heavily affected by the individual’s level of interaction with the various systems, and an understanding of how one system affects another is vital to finding a solution.


Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979). The ecology of human development: Experiments by nature and design. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Bulotsky-Shearer, Dominguez & Bell (2012). ‘Preschool Classroom Behavioral Context and School Readiness Outcomes for Low-Income Children: A Multilevel Examination of Child- and Classroom-Level Influences.’ Journal of Educational Psychology 104(2) p. 421.