- Ecological Systems Theory
Ecological Systems Theory, also called "Development in Context" or "Human Ecology" theory, specifies four types of nested environmental systems, with bi-directional influences within and between the systems. The theory was developed by
Urie Bronfenbrenner, generally regarded as one of the world's leading scholars in the field of developmental psychology.
The four systems:
*Microsystem: Immediate environments (
family, school, peer group, neighborhood, and childcareenvironments)
*Mesosystem: A system comprising connections between immediate environments (i.e., a child’s home and school)
*Exosystem: External environmental settings which only indirectly affect development (such as parent's workplace)
*Macrosystem: The larger cultural context (Eastern vs.
Western culture, national economy, political culture, subculture)
Later, a fifth system was added:
*Chronosystem: The patterning of environmental events and transitions over the course of life.
The person's own biology may be considered part of the microsystem; thus the theory has recently sometimes been called "Bio-Ecological Systems Theory."
Each system contains roles, norms and rules that can powerfully shape development. For example, an inner-city family faces many challenges which an affluent family in a
gated communitydoes not, and vice versa. The inner-city family is more likely to experience environmental hardships, such as teratogens and crime. On the other hand the sheltered family is more likely to lack the nurturing support of extended family. [Vander Zanden, J. W., Crandell, T. L., Crandell, C. H. (2007)."Human Development". 8th edition (ed.), New York: McGraw Hill.]
Since its publication in 1979, Bronfenbrenner's major statement of this theory, "The Ecology of Human Development" [Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979). "The Ecology of Human Development: Experiments by Nature and Design". Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. (ISBN 0-674-22457-4)] has had widespread influence on the way psychologists and others approach the study of human beings and their environments. As a result of his groundbreaking work in "human ecology", these environments — from the family to economic and political structures — have come to be viewed as part of the life course from childhood through adulthood.
Bronfenbrenner has identified Soviet developmental psychologist
Lev Vygotskyand German-born psychologist Kurt Lewinas important influences on his theory.
Bronfenbrenner's work provides one of the foundational elements of the
Ecological counselingPerspective, as espoused by Bob Conyne, Ellen Cook, and the University of CincinnatiCounseling Program.
* Urie Bronfenbrenner. (1979). "The Ecology of Human Development: Experiments by Nature and Design". Cambridge, MA:
Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-22457-4
* Dede Paquette & John Ryan. (2001). [http://pt3.nl.edu/paquetteryanwebquest.pdf "Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Theory"]
* Arch G. Woodside, Marylouise Caldwell, Ray Spurr. (2006). "Advancing Ecological Systems Theory in Lifestyle, Leisure, and Travel Research", in: "Journal of Travel Research", Vol. 44, No. 3, 259-272.
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