The Ecological Perspective of development


Urie Bronfenbrenner



Urie Bronfenbrenner is most famous for his views on ecological psychology. Briefly, he suggests that:

• interactions with others and the environment are key to development,

• we all experience more than one type of environment, including

•  the microsystem - the immediate environment in which a person is operating, such as the family, classroom, peer group, neighborhood, etc.

 • the mesosystem - the interaction of two microsystem environments, such as the connection between a child’s home and school, Home system <---> School system

•  the exosystem - the environment in which an individual is not directly involved, which is external to his or her experience, but nonetheless affects him or her. An example of an exosystem is the parent’s workplace. Although a child may never have any role in the parent’s workplace, or, in fact, never even go there, the events which occur at the parents’s place of employment do affect the child. For example, if the parent has a bad day at work, or is laid off, or promoted, or has to work overtime, all of these events impact the family and the child.

the macrosystem - the larger cultural context, including issues of cultural values and expectations

the chronosystem - events occurring in the context of passing time. These events may have impact on a particular birth cohort.

Each of these systems are characterized by roles, norms (expected behavior) and relationships. For example, an individual usually acts differently within his or her own family than within a classroom. The person may speak more often at home, be less goal-oriented, and, almost certainly, will not sit at a desk for hours on end.

Other things being equal , according to Bronfenbrenner, when the relation between different microsystems is a compatible one, development of the child progresses more smoothly. A common example of this is the relationship between home and school. When role expectations are similar in both settings, e.g., try your hardest, do your own work, be on time, etc., children will be expected to perform better than if role expectations differ substantially from one setting to the next.