Urie Bronfenbrenner ecological system theory was created to focus on the quality and satisfaction of the child’s environment. He believed that as a child grow and develop the way he/she interact with the environment becomes more complex. His theory was created to answer the question How does the environment helps or stops the development of a child? (Paquette, Ryan, 2001) The Urie Bronfenbrenner ecological system theory of child development has 5 systems that greatly impact the development of children. These systems consist of rules, norms and roles that is responsible for the shaping in children’s development. The names of these systems are microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem, macrosystem and chronosystem. (schoolworkhelper- St. Rosemary Educational Institution. “Growth and Development Theory: URIE BRONFENBRENNER (1917-2005), n.d).
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Microsystem is define as the direct environment a child lives in, including the child’s interaction with any immediate relationship or organisation. The immediate relationship will be family members, peer groups, neighbourhood and the immediate organisation will be school or day-care. The way that these groups, schools and organisation interact with the child will play a major role in the child’s development. The more warming, comfortable, encouraging, and nurturing the relationship and organisation are the better the child will develop and grow. (Oswalt, 2008). Also the impact of the relationship occurs in two directions; away from the child and toward the child. An example will be “a child’s parent may affect his/her behaviour but the child can also affect the behaviour of the parents.” Urie Bronfenbrenner refers to this mechanism as bi-directional influences. (schoolworkhelper- St. Rosemary Educational Institution. “Growth and Development Theory: URIE BRONFENBRENNER (1917-2005), n.d). An example of bi-directional influence will be ” A friendly, attentive child is likely to evoke positive and patient reactions from parents, whereas an irritable or distractible child is more likely to be a target of parental impatience, restriction and punishment”. (Collins etal. 2000; Crockenberg & Leekers, 2003a).
Mesosystem is use to describes the different parts of the microsystem such as home, school, neighbourhood and day-care working together for the benefit of the child (Oswalt, 2008). The way a parent and a child will interact with each other at home is likely to affect the way that child interacts with the caregiver in child care settings and vice versa. (Brek, 2000 ). An example of mesosytem will be if a child’s caregiver plays an active role in school, such as volunteering to be a part of activities, attend parent teacher meetings, year level meetings, class meetings and even watching the child play games like soccer, basketball, tennis etc will help ensure the growth and development of the child. (Oswalt, 2008). This is because a child’s academic process does not only depend on what goes on in the classrooms but the involvement of the parents or caregiver (Epstein & Sanders, 2002), and as long as the parents or caregiver show interest in what the child is doing then the child will be willing to do and achieve more which will result in proper growth and development. Another way to show how the mesosystem works in shaping the development of a child is by family-neighbourhood connections. For example a child that has an economic disadvantage can benefit greatly from family-neighbourhood relationship. You see, rich families do not depend on their immediate surroundings for social support or education. Therefore they can afford to take their children to lessons and better quality schools in other communities. ( Elliott etal. 1996). Now a “poor family” will depend on their immediate surroundings for social support and education. After school programmes that offer child care to families and art, music, sports, scouting, dancing, singing etc to the child are linked to improve the performance in school in middle age childhood and psychological adjustment.( Posner & vandell,1994; Vandell & posner, 1999). Religious youth groups and special interest clubs like circle K that is provided by neighbourhood organisation will help the development in adolescence, by raising their self-esteem, enhancing their performance and achievement at school and giving them the knowledge on how to behave responsibly in society. (Gonzales etal., 1996; Kerestes & Youniss,2003).
Exosystem refers to the places and people that the child may not interact with regularly but plays an important role in the child growth and development. These places and people will be the parents’ workplace, the neighbourhood, extended family members etc. An example of exosystem will be “if a child’s parent is fired or laid off from work then the household will only have one set of income or no income at all. This will result in the parent not being able to pay rent, buy groceries or even send the child to school which will negatively impact the child development and growth (Oswalt, 2008). In fact “research confirms the negative impact of a break down in exosystem show an increase rates of conflict and child abuse.”( Emery & Laumann-billings, 1998). However if that child parent receives a promotion or a raise at work, then the parent can provide a proper home, satisfy the child needs when the child is hungry and send he/she to school which will positively impact the child development (Oswalt, 2008).
Macrosystem consist of all systems mention above, the cultures, the general beliefs, written and unwritten principles that governs everyone on society behaviours. These principles can either be legal, political, economic, religious or educational (schoolworkhelper- St. Rosemary Educational Institution. “Growth and Development Theory: URIE BRONFENBRENNER (1917-2005), n.d). The macrosystem can be defined as “the effect of larger principles having a cascading influence throughout the interactions of all other layers” (Paquette, Ryan, 2001). For example: If in a particular culture the belief is that parents should have full responsibility of raising their child, it is highly unlikely that the culture will provide any resources to assist the parent. As a result the structures at which the parent functions will be affected. The parent ability or inability to handle the responsibility toward their child within the child’s microsystem is affected (Paquette, Ryan, 2001).
Chronosystem is refered to by Urie Bronfenbrenner as the “temporal dimension of his model”. The environment is always changing. Important events that may occur throughout a child’s life like birth of a sibling, going to school for the first time, parents being divorce are able to alter existing relationships between that child and the environment resulting in new conditions that can affect development. Also the timing of environmental change affects the impact. For example: A toodler having a brother or sister will experience different consequence than a schhol-age child with activities and relationships beyond the family. As a child gets older they have the ability to select, modify and create many of their own settings and experiences. This ability depends on the child physical, intellectual, personal characteristics and their environmental opportunities. Children are both products and producers of their environment therefore both the child and the environment form a network of interdependent effects in ecological system theory (Brek, 2000).
So far we have outline Urie Bronfenbrenner ecological systems theory of child development. Now we will discuss how this theory informs the socialization agents that influence growth and development. Before we get into the discussion we will first define what a socialization agent is. A socialization agent is people like parents, family members, peers, teachers, social institutions like school, community centers and religious institutions that assist with incorporating an individual with society. There are 4 major agents of socialization in society; family, school, community culture and peers. The other agents will be mass media, gender and work. All the agents mentioned above are further divided into socialization groups. The groups are primary agents, secondary agents and social class.
Primary agents of socialization are made up of people that are very close to the individual like family, teachers and friends. The most important primary agent of socialisation will be the family because they help shape the life, development and behaviour of an individual with in the society.
Secondary agents of socialization are institutions that assist the individual in finding their place within the society. Secondary socialization agents include religious instutions, schools, community centers, work places etc. Schools are responsible for improving a child social skill which helps him/ her incorporate well with the surrounding society.
Social classes will be the lower class, working middle class and higher elite class. In other words social class is dividing an individual within the society (Baxamusa, 2011).
Now there is a better understand of what socialization agents are we can discuss how Urie Bronfenbrenner theory informs them. However the focus will only be on the socialization agents that influence growth and development. There are family, educators, schools and community centres.
Urie Bronfenbrenner ecological theory informed educators in how to handle and analysis situation that may occur in schools whether it is pre-school, primary or secondary school. For example: Akelia is sitting in an art class using markers to draw pictures. Henderson joins her at the table and begins to cut scrap paper with a scissors. Akelia place a piece of paper in the centre of the desk, now Henderson thought that it was scrap paper and begin to cut it in pieces. Akelia looks over to what Henderson is doing, when she realise the paper Henderson was cutting was the piece she place in the centre, she jump up and shouted “NO!!!!!! That is mom’s!!” while pulling the paper out of Henderson hands. Suddenly Akelia punch Henderson in the ribs before the teacher can arrive at the desk. In this scenario an educator that is informed by Urie Bronfenbrenner ecological theory will conclude that Akelia’s mesosystem is aggressive or forceful and the way Akelia’s family members, neighbours or parents interact with her is violent or hostile resulting in Akelia developing that way towards others. So instead of punishing Akelia the educator will talk to her parents about her behaviour towards other and try to come to an agreement on how to deal with the situation so Akelia can grow and develop in a more positive way. This approach will be better than punishment because if Akelia is punish it will only make her more hostil. This is because Akelia thinks that her behaviour is right because that is what she knows from home and that is how she developed. Therefore she will not understand the reason she is being punish and will exhibit very hostile behaviour towards the educator and nothing will be resolved. Also the educator informed by Urie Bronfenbrenner theory will reflect on her class room environment or school environment to make sure that Akelia’s microsystem is not interacting with her in any violent or hostile way to make her respond to the situation the way she did. If the mesosystem interaction with Akelia is violent or hostile then the educator will go to higher authorities to talk on how the school is interacting with students and how it is impacting the growth and development of students in a negative way.
Urie Bronfenbrenner ecological theory informed programmes that are put in place in schools and communities centers. For example:The school may have sports programmes, social worker programmes, donation programmes and guidance counsellors to work with students who microsystem and mesosystem is broken where the parents or family members, home and neighbourhood are very aggressive, forceful, hostile violent towards the child resulting in the child being emotional scared and growing and developing into a very angry person. When this occur the guidance counsellor of the school will interact with the child, place the child in afterschool programs like sports to help release tension and violent energy, the guidance counsellor may also alert social workers to interact with the parents and try to make better environment for the child so the child can have great growth and development. Also students who exosystem may be broken or breaking down. For instance the mother might lost her job or salary has been “cut” and the child may be not attending school for long periods of time because the parents do not have sufficient funds to send him. When the child does attend school he is in fights because of the broken exosystem the parents are constantly fighting and on the verge to getting a divorce. This then leads to the child undergoing a life changing event which hinders his growth and development because he do not want to socialize or be a part of school activities or school. The school will have a guidance counsellor interact with the child and be there through the stages the help the child cope with the life changing events without hindering the growth and development. Also students who are in a particular culture that believe that parents should take full responsibility for raising their child and no resources are given to the parent. If the parents do not have the ability to take on that responsibility because one parent is handicap and the other addicted to drugs then the school donation programme will be able to provide for the child so the broken macrosystem will not hinder the child growth or development or cause the child to grow and develop in a negative way.