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To Bronfenbrenner, behavior is not an isolated act but a reciprocal transaction with others in a childs life. A parent influences a child, but the child also influences the parent. Once a child enters school, the teacher impacts the student just as the student also has an effect on teacher behavior. By adolescence, the peer group can rival and sometimes surpass the family and school as an agent of influence. The ecology of childhood is not static but rather changes over time. As they mature, children face new challenges. Predictable developmental milestones include normal life transitions such as starting school or getting a job, but many developmental challenges result from random, unplanned events. As the child's ecology changes, so does the child's fate (Lewis, 1997, Brendtro, 2006).
"Every child needs at least one adult who is irrationally crazy about him or her."
To meet a child's developmental needs, the parent/primary caregiver needs the support of another adult. Sadly, in modem society this alliance has been disrupted by single parenting and the loss of extended families.
Urie Bronfenbrenner developed a comprehensive system for analyzing developmental patterns in children. The ecological systems theory explains how everything in a child and child's environment affects how he or she will grow and develop. It suggests that in order to understand children's development limits parents need a broad view of the interrelated contexts in which the child is developing and that they need to look at the impact of the systems that influence children's development.
Bronfenbrenner labeled different aspects of levels of the environment that influence children's development, including the microsystem, the mesosystem, the exosystem, and the macrosystem. These systems include the family of the child and expand the analysis to the neighborhood, friends, school, jobs, and larger social systems the child lives in. A child's microsystem is the small immediate environment he or she lives in, their immediate family or caregivers and their school or day care. How these groups or organizations interact with the child will have an effect on how the child grows; the more encouraging and nurturing these relationships and places are, the better the child will be able to grow (Bukatko, 2008). Just as well, how the child acts toward and reacts to these people in his or her microsystem will affect how they are treated in return. The Bronfenbrenner theory gives us tools to describe how all of these systems interact with each other to explain how some children may end up as criminals or engage in risk taking behaviors.
Bronfenbrenners four systems unfortunately do not to remain consistent over time. The mesosystem in Bronfenbrenners system is the environment provided by the interrelationships among the various settings of the microsystems, such as access to books and learning to read, or an emphasis on acquiring basic academic and socialization skills can influence the child's experiences of success in another microsystem, school. The exosystem is made up of the social, economic, and other settings that can affect development, either directly or indirectly through their impact on those who care for the child by influencing the various microsystems forming the child's immediate environment.
According to Bukatko (2008), the chronosystem, is where historical events and natural disasters can disrupt and devastate dimensional Microsystems, such neighborhoods, schools, as well as social, and economic frameworks of the community provided by the exosystem. Some other changes that children may experience over time would be moving to another town, divorce of parents, changing schools, the death of a loved one, or even the arrival of a new family member. These temporal event's, shifts and transitions, and have greater or lesser impact depending on when they occur in the child's development.
Using Bronfenbrenners ecological systems theory I would like to look at the specific developmental issue of aggression at different stages of development. Bronfenbrenners first level is the microsystem. At this level for early childhood aggression would most likely come from mimicking what the child sees and hears at home, at daycare, and perhaps from the neighbors. According to Hood et al (1987), the levels of hormones can change in response to changes in the environment, and uninvolved, neglectful, parenting is related to heightened aggression (Hatfield, Ferguson, &Alpert, 1967; Bukatko, 2008).
In Bronfenbrenners, other three levels, mesosystem, exosystem, and macrosystem, all lead to family and social environment. A child of divorced parents living in separate neighborhoods can undergo frequent moves between the two homes and their peers leading to repercussions, aggressive relationships. The school environment continues to be an influence of aggressive behavior with bullies. Inconsistent supervision of children, use of harsh punishment, failure to set limits, neglect in rewarding prosocial behavior. Parents intervening inconsistently with excessive force and negative affect through yelling, threatening, pushing or hitting to coerce compliance teach their children poor problem solving skills. This common parenting pattern appears in homes where children are defiant and aggressive. Aggressive behavior becomes rewarding for children with a coercion acquiescence parenting style. Parents are unintentionally teaching their children to use aggression to achieve social goals. Without intervention, this pattern can generalize from minor, developmentally expected opposition to increasingly; serious noncompliance behavior and can generalize from home to school, where it can become a part of the child's repertoire with their peers and teachers (Fraser, 2002). There is hope.
According to Swick (2004), many viable strategies and strategies can be generated from a systems perspective of the family. (1) Help families develop caring and loving microsystems. The strongest antidote to aggression is caring. Caring, loving family relations can provide a foundation for parents and children to develop bonds that enable them to be more responsive in dealing with aggression (Erickson & Kurz-Riemer, 1999). (2) Assist families in becoming more empowered in their exosystem relations (Bronfenbrenner, 2005). For example, educate parents about what their children experience in early childhood increasing their comfort level. We can use the same thinking in helping children so they can better understand their parents' lives during the day. Exosystem, (3) Nurture in families ways they can use mesosytem to help them better respond to the specific stressors that lead to aggression (Heretick, 2003). (4) Advocate for stronger family support strategies and policies in the macrosystem contexts in which young families live (Brazelton & Greenspan, 2000). Every early childhood professional can put forth a small concept that ultimately influences important societal and cultural gains for families. For example, we can seek local housing improvements such as city council support for more moderate priced homes or we can vote for family-friendly people and policies. (5) Help families learn from their personal, family, and societal, historical lives (Bronfenbrenner, 2005). We can engage families in practical assessments of how they can better use their local resources to empower the family and help positive child development. During the early childhood years, parents are eager to improve themselves so they can help their children. This people can capitalize offering parent education in various forms (Swick, 2004).