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Bronfenbrenner Ecological Systems Theory

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Published: Thu, 20 Jul 2017

The microsystem is the most influential system because the child has direct interaction with these individuals; that interaction occurs on a consistent basis over an extended period of time (Brofenbrenner, 2004). Family is the most significant relationship of the microsystem; they play an intricate part in the ecological human development. The most time is spent at home with the family; they provide shelter and safety, and also provide emotional support for the child. The parent for example, interacts with the child on a daily basis, they provide a safe and healthy relationship and an environment for them to grow and prosper. The way the parent plays with the child, teaches them, and communicates with them has a lot of influence on their development.

The parenting style a child receives paves the way in their ability to communicate with others, their self-esteem, and the attitude and behaviors they exude.

The main parenting styles are authoritarian, authoritative, permissive, and non-involved. The authoritarian parent is strict and demanding; this creates a child that grows up to behave withdrawn, fearful, and distrustful of others. On the opposite end of the spectrum is the permissive parent. The child raised in a permissive household is more likely to be aggressive, impulsive, and have little self-reliance. The healthy balance between the two styles is the authoritative parent who raises a content, cooperative, and self-reliant child (Berns, 2010). The parent gives the child the ability to create secure attachments with others and to have a healthy and positive disposition. The emotional connectivity of this relationship is a direct reflection of a child’s ability to connect and communicate with all other systems. Parenting styles are not the only ways that family can influence development; family structure also has a great impact.

The nuclear family consists of a mom, a dad, and the children, but not all households are structured this way. Divorce is an unfortunate reality in this day and age and the adaptation plays a large role for the child. Not only does the child not get to live in a household that has both parents which provides a healthy surrounding and assures the child of love, but they may have to listen to the consequences of how each parent deals with the divorce itself. Counseling, mediation, custody battles, and fighting are all situations that the child may be surrounded by. The financial consequences will affect the family and the child would not live in the same lifestyle as they would if both parents were together because the income would be cut in half.

Peers, community, and schools also affect the child. The peer groups help the child gain independence and discover their sense of self. Negative experiences with peers such as bullying can hurt the child’s self-esteem, affect how they interact with their others, and their ability to communicate and socialize with their peers with ease. School is another very important relationship. This gives the child a chance to learn the fundamentals needed as an adult and to help them develop different skills and appropriate behavior. Every child learns differently; they may be an auditory, visual, spatial, or kinesthetic learner. It is the teacher and school’s responsibility to discover this and take the best course of action to implement and teaching style that works best for the child.

The second system that influences development is the mesosystem. Mesosystems may be described a links in a chain. They consist of linkages and interrelationships that exist between two or more of the individual’s microsystems. These interrelationships involve a variety of settings that the child is immersed in; the influences that “bind us together” (Feldman, 2008). Examples of this system may be the linkage between family and peers, family and school, school and community, and so on.

Schooling is the perfect example of the mesosystems linkage between family and school. The more involved the parent is with the child’s school, increases the likelihood of that child excelling in school, receiving higher grades, and attending college in the future. The involvement that the family has with the child’s learning before they enter school creates a positive attitude towards their future learning. When it comes to the child’s relationship with school, the more perceptive that the family and teachers are in their learning with affect their educational experience. They will learn how to complete tasks, problem solve, and understand rewards and consequences.

There is also an important linkage between school and the community. Higher funded schools have more resources available to students; these resources extend the learning process. More books, informative television programs and movies, supplies, crafts, and the ability to go on field trips may provide a more stimulating environment and positive outlook on a child’s involvement and learning at school. Community support and donations can help increase learning in the classroom.

The exosystem is the third system of Bronfenbrenner’s theory of human development. These influences are indirect; the child itself is not an active participant, however it does have an impact on an active member of¬†their microsystem. This may consist of the parent’s career or financial situation, political systems, social support networks, etcetera.

As stated above, exosystems have an indirect affect on the child through career, their socioeconomic status, or the government. A parent’s socioeconomic status affects the child because they may not have the means to purchase educational materials or live in a nice home, if they have a home at all. Children born into poverty statistically have lower self-esteem, are less likely to excel in school or are more likely to drop out, and they are more susceptible to violence and crime.

A parent’s job may also influence a child indirectly. A parent that has to travel a lot for work or stay late hours must place their child in non-parental child care. Different forms of this non-parental care will affect that child differently. There are child care centers, family day cares, and in-home care of a nanny that may be used to watch over the children. The accreditations are different for each type, and there are different programs, such as health, nutrition, and learning programs. Although there are many different options that the family has when they do not have the ability to stay at home with the child, but it is still no substitute for being cared for by their parent.

Although sometimes a parent has no choice but to place their child in a day care program, there can be some developmental consequences

to this. The child will be able to socialize with peers more easily, but they tend to be less cooperative and unresponsive with adults. The longer the child stays in non-parental care, the more likely they are to develop insecure attachments, are at risk for problems with emotions and in behavior. They are also more likely to be aggressive and defiant.

The final system involved is the macrosystem. This system is societal and has a larger context involved in culture. This type of system influences the developing child in a much broader context; the beliefs of the family and their lifestyle, education, religion, and mass media. What society places as the social norms, expected roles, and what a relationship is supposed to look like.

Macrosystem influences come from cultural views in society. Views of roles, such as gender roles, have a set of associated behaviors that are expected in that individual. A boy must be a strong provider and shouldn’t cry, or a girl should be a nurturer and domesticated are examples of these gender roles inflicted on society. Different values and lifestyle are also a large influence to that child. Believing in the necessity of owning a large home, having expensive cars, or that as adults, they need to be married with a white picket fence and 2.5 children. Morals and values stem from the family’s beliefs and religious law; although sometimes the religious laws coincide with federal. Religions such as Catholicism, Lutheranism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Atheism, are all extremely different from one another and go along a different belief system with different sets of values which influence the individual. Children that grow up believing in some form of Christianity may have different values than a child that grew up in an Atheist household.

Mass media and culture are intertwined, but the influence of media is widespread and comes in a variety of forms; screen media, print media, audio media, and interactive media. Media influences “value, beliefs, attitudes, and behavior” explains Berns (2010, pg 321). At least one form of media can be found basically anywhere and is used to communicate and spread information to a large group of people simultaneously. Screen media that comes in television form spreads so quickly and easily influences young and impressionable minds. In some respects the exposure can be a good thing; it is mentally stimulating, can be educational and useful in a classroom to help students understand information in a different way. Programs for younger children such as “Dora the Explorer” and “Blues Clues” are a great way to teach young children colors, numbers, mathematics, and linguistics. Unfortunately there are downsides to this. Not all programs are suitable for young children; they may contain graphic violence, foul language, and sexually explicit material that is inappropriate for this age group. This information can ingrain the idea of what life “should” be like or how the child “should” behave, this sets up negative associations and roles. Violent and graphic material could result in negative behaviors such as aggression or bullying others, it may also cause the child’s imagination to run wild which may be scary, exciting, or intimidating for the child. Too much time in front of the television, or focused on any type of media really, can take away from time spent with the family and engaging in family activities, or it can also affect physical activity. Print media is found in books, newspapers, magazines, and articles. Print media is beneficial because it enhances language and reading skills, it helps with comprehension, and overall cognitive development. Children may understand the sense of who they are because of all the stories and tales they read. A downside to this is that the child may confuse negative actions and material with reality and fantasy. Just as with screen media, print, audio, and interactive media instill the ideas behind different stereotypes; this can be a major concern for problems in the future and self-esteem. Overall between all forms of media there are positives and negatives. They increase cognitive functioning and development, but children are impressionable and graphically violent and sexually explicit material is not good for young children and should be monitored by the parent.

It is now apparent that ecological systems affect development Urie Bronfenbrenner was correct in his theory of the bioecological model of human development. There is significant data to show how influential the four systems influence a child. The microsystem consists of close intimate relationships of those in direct contact with the child; they are involved on a consistent basis and appear to be the most influential relationship. Family, peers, school, and the community are all examples of a microsystem. They all have a large impact on the child’s socialization skills. Because a child spends so much time with their parents, this is the foundation for success. Teaching their children early what behaviors are acceptable or not, having a comforting and balanced parenting style will really help the child be cooperative, self-reliant, and content. Placing a strong focus on the importance of academics will help the child to succeed in school, also choosing the correct school to help the student learning in an environment suitable for their needs. Peers have a massive impact on the child’s communication and interaction with others so it’s important that the parent keep positive influences around that child. The microsystem is the primary system of influence so keeping secure, positive, healthy relationships will help the child’s development as they begin to feel the effects of the other systems. Like the links in a chain, the mesosystem combines the importance of the¬†impact that the microsystems have on each other. Just as school and family influence a child, the relationships between the two systems also have a direct impact on the child. This does not only consist of the two relationships, but all relationships in the microsystem. The indirect affect of the exosystem, such as the stressors of a parent’s career, will have its own impact. Long hours at the job can result in the child being enrolled in some sort of non-parental child care. The type of care provided could benefit the child in their education and learning skills, but may also have a negative impact on their emotional comfort and attachment caused by the lack of the parent being around. Finally, the macrosystem is the combination of culture, religion, mass media, and other influences that are widespread. Mass media has many benefits to the child’s development. Media is mentally stimulating, it can increase imagination, and teach the child different skills such as language, communication, mathematics, colors, and other skills. Parents do need to monitor the media that a child does interact with. The graphic violence and sexually explicit material can be damaging for young and influential minds. They can create different stereotypes that can affect the way the child socializing with others, or their sense of self. The more time spent around different forms of media can take away from the quality time spent with the family, and can decrease the amount of physical activity for the child. Overall, the four different systems involved in Bronfenbrenner’s bioecological model of human development massively impact the socialization and cognitive development of a child.


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