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The Ecological Systems Theory (Bronfenbrenner’s theory) was formulated by Urie Bronfenbrenner to explain the innate traits of a child and the qualities of the aspects of the environment in which children find themselves as they develop and grow. A child finds themselves simultaneously entangled in diverse ecosystems. The ecosystems systems networks with and affect each other as well as every aspect of a child life. According to Bronfenbrenner, the development of a person is affected by every aspect of their surrounding environment. The theory stresses on the significance of studying a child in the perspective of their multiple conditions or ecological systems to understand their individual growth and development. As Walker, (2016) states, Bronfenbrenner, categorized the person’s environment into five distinct classes that include the microsystem, exosystem, mesosystem, macrosystem, and the chronosystem. The paper analyzes these levels by applying them to my own life self-assessment, growth and development, and life in totality.
The microsystem is the immediate surroundings of a person. These contexts include the family of an individual, the schools, neighborhood and peers. The most direct interrelations with social agents take place in the microsystem that encompasses teachers, peers and parents. In this environmental setting, a person does not merely receive experiences passively, but they actually help in constructing the social environment (Shaffer & Kipp, 2013). It is the setting in which a child interacts personally, and is influenced.
As I grew up, I had a home with my dad, mum and my siblings. I used to go to a family childcare where I learnt, grew and played. In case I got sick, I would visit a family Pediatrician. In my neighborhood was a local park where we played and run with the neighborhood children. These are many Microsystems that I had an experience with. Some of these had the profound effect on my development while others had minor impacts. However, they all contributed to my socialization via the experiences and relationships that I had within them. The interception between these diverse environmental factors determined how I developed and grew. In my current microsystem, I have friends, family, school teachers, employee, co-workers, neighbors, a church family as well as other agents that share the same hobby as me. From my childhood experiences, my social interactions are positive, thus affecting me and in turn, influencing how I construct and shape my microsystem.
People do not develop within vacuums or alone but in the context of others. Mesosystem includes the interaction of various microsystems that children experience as they develop (Shaffer & Kipp, 2013). The mesosystem is where an individual’s microsystems do not operate independently but are interrelated and influence one another. The interactions of these factors have an indirect on the person. Mesosystem is a system that entails connections between a child’s school and home, between family and peer group or between church and family (Walker, 2016). For instance, if parents actively engage in the friendships of their children, invite their kid’s friends over to their homes and spend more time with them, the development of a child is influenced positively via like-mindedness and harmony. On the other hand, if parents dislike their kid’s peers and criticize them openly, then the child experiences conflicting emotions and disequilibrium possibly affecting their development adversely.
When I was a child, my family’s religion differed from most of my school mates. We did not celebrate some festive seasons that my classmates did. Sometimes it was hard for my classmates to understand me. Interestingly, unlike most of them, I did not believe in Santa as my parents taught me not to lie, and therefore they did not lie to me. They did not hold a fiction character over my head to make me behave, for example, if I am not good Santa will not bring me any presents. My parents taught me how to be accountable for my actions and to understand the repercussions that came directly from either my dad or mum. This had an impact on my development because the various elements of my microsystem were not working together. As a result, I find myself in a little clash of culture between my friends, family and other people.
The exosystem refers to the environmental factors that do not involve an individual as an active participant but still has some effects on them. It includes choices that have an influence on the person, but which they do not participate in decision making. Exosystem pertains to the connections that might be present between two or more settings, one of which might not involve the developing child but affects him/her indirectly. Exosystem comprises the other places or people that a child may not have a direct interaction with but have the impact on the child (Walker, 2016). They include the larger neighborhood, parent’s workplaces, and extended family members.
One part of my exosystem as a child was the workplace of my childhood friend’s father. My friend’s father was in the navy. This often took him away from his family, and they did not see their father for months at times. This circumstance affected my friend as she would become anxious when the father left. The anxiety affected my friend on her development in other areas (such as socialization and how she interacted with me) even though she had not interaction with her father’s work or the decision-making process. The patterns of interaction in her family were also interrupted by the fact that her father was constantly away from home.
In a child’s environment, macrosystem is viewed as the outmost layer. It describes the culture in which they live. Macrosystem comprises of cultural contexts such as ethnicity, poverty and socioeconomic status. It includes ideologies, attitudes, laws, values and customs of a specific culture or subculture such as the economy (recessions that result in poverty) national government policies, wars, the political culture, etc. Even at the macro level, these aspects affect individuals, families and children either negatively or positively. As Walker (2016) reports, the macrosystem is the most distant and largest collection of places and people that exercise substantial effect on the child. It involves the values and cultural patterns particularly the dominant ideas and beliefs of a child, and the political and economic systems.
My siblings and I were brought up by two parents who each attended college and graduate school and eventually both of them taught college. With no doubt, the socio-economic status of my family impacted in me by instilling a profound value for education, and I highly respect education. In fact, I have made a career out of it. Because of the culture and beliefs of my parents in education, my siblings and I managed to pursue education to the highest levels. The macrosystem in which I grew up impacted on my beliefs in education as it acted as a motivation and in fact, that is the reason behind my career.
The chronosystem includes a sociohistorical viewpoint along with environmental transitions, events or patterns over the life course (Walker, 2016). Transfer from one school to another, joining college, marriage, divorce, the birth of a child are all important transitions that occur commonly. The changes may be adverse (for example the demise of a family member which hinders the development of a person) or positive. The chronosystem ecological system encompasses the dimension that can be internal, like physiological changes that happen as the child ages, or external such as the timing of a parental death. As the child grows, they reach in different ways to environmental changes and may be in a position to determine how they are influenced by that change.
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My experience of chronosystem started when I was nine years old. During this time, my mother got a job transfer to a different town, and as a result, I had to shift schools. This was my first time to actually live away from my classmates and neighborhood friends. When I graduated from high school, my parents suggested that I relocate to a nearby city to live with my aunt since she lived near the college that they thought was best for me. Again, I had to live away from my family and hometown. When I was 19, I moved out of my parents house and started a life of my own, an independent life. This was a significant transition from depending on my parents to depending on myself. These and many more others are cumulative changes that I experienced. My transitions and experiences are a classic example of Bronfenbrenner’s Chronosystem model.
The Bronfenbrenner theory illustrates the diversity of interconnected influences on the development of a child. Awareness of the theory sensitizes people to variation in the manner in which children acts in various settings. As a result of these variations, adults are able to pay close attention to the behavior of children in diverse contexts or settings.
- Shaffer, D. R., & Kipp, K. (2013). Developmental Psychology: Childhood and Adolescence. Boston: Cengage Learning.
- Walker, T. L. (2016). Ecological Systems Theory: Using Spheres of Influence to Support Small-unit Climate and Training. United States Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences. Retrieved from http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/1009046.pdf