Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Theory of Development

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Graduate School and the influences that shaped the decision HS5002 Survey of Research in Human Development and Behavior Bronfrenbenner’s Ecological Theory Urie Bronfrenbenner (1971-2005) developed the ecological theory, which illustrates how a child’s development and life choices are influenced by their environment. Bronfenbrenner categorized his theory into four levels: the microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem, and macrosystem.

According to Oswalt (2008), the theory proposes that each stage of a child’s growth affects their decision-making abilities and overall development, ultimately molding them into content, happy, bitter, or sad adults. The microsystem refers to the immediate environment surrounding the child during their upbringing, including family members and other relationships. When these various elements of the microsystem collaborate effectively for the child’s benefit, it gives rise to the mesosystem.

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The exosystem level indirectly influences the child by including places or people that don’t have personal interactions with the child but still impact their way of life. The macrosystem, which includes elements like the freedoms granted by the national government, cultural values, the economy, and wars, carries the most significant influence on a child’s development. When combined, all levels have an impact on a child’s development. This includes the microsystem and mesosystem levels.

The microsystem and mesosystem encompass the immediate family as well as external family influences, such as the home, family members, toys, peers, classrooms, and teachers. The characteristics of the neighborhood also affect the home environment. Factors like a parent’s job contact with their child and their level of happiness or oppression at work can impact the family. During my childhood, those I interacted with instilled in me the value of prioritizing education above all else.

Growing up in a single parent household, I witnessed the aftermath of my parents’ separation due to my father’s abusive behavior. In fifth grade, my mother began dating someone who acted as a father figure for me. However, since he was married, he couldn’t fully take on the role of a father. As a result, my mother raised me alone during my childhood and teenage years. Education has always been greatly prized in our family lineage, thanks to the influence of my great-grandmother.

Regrettably, some of my family members were unable to pursue further education, resulting in the responsibility falling on my generation. From a young age (between 5 and 13), I placed significant emphasis on the significance of education. As noted by Bronfenbrenner (1986), the family plays a crucial part in influencing a child’s capabilities (p. 723–742). During my elementary school years, my mother played a pivotal role in supporting my educational endeavors. However, as I reached sixth grade, her level of interest in my grades and academic achievements gradually declined.

Although my parents did not provide support, my middle school teachers, administration, and peers acknowledged my potential for success. The strained relationship between my biological father and mother affected certain aspects of my childhood but did not jeopardize my education. I think that their prior abusive marriage and inability to collaborate after separating impeded some areas of my personal development.

During my time in high school, I no longer received the complete support of my mother. Consequently, I sought alternative sources of emotional and mental assistance. As a result of my consistent behavioral issues throughout my high school journey, my GPA suffered. I was engaged in numerous confrontations and experienced countless minor and major behavioral problems. These included leaving class without permission and verbally disrespecting teachers. My mother’s emphasis on authoritative parenting accentuated the importance of obedience, oftentimes disregarding my need for independence.

Despite facing obstacles in my early development, I eventually started adopting a college-girl mindset. The idea to apply to undergraduate college originated from a shared dream between my twin sister and me. Our initial plan was to enroll in college together, pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting, and establish a firm to serve as prominent accountants for large corporations. However, while the aspiration to attend college remained unchanged, our choice of degree altered after completing our first semester.

Following the attainment of my initial Bachelor’s degree in Social Work, I chose to further my education by pursuing a degree in Criminal Justice. As I progressed through my junior and senior years, my dedication to working with juvenile offenders grew stronger. This ultimately motivated me to pursue a second Bachelor’s degree specifically in Criminal Justice. With the completion of two undergraduate degrees, I initially believed that additional education was unnecessary. Thus, equipped with knowledge acquired from both academic studies and practical experience in social work, I entered the workforce.

According to Oswalt (2008, para. 3), the exosystem level involves individuals and places that a child may not frequently interact with but still significantly impact them, such as their parents’ workplaces, extended family members, and the neighborhood. In my own experience growing up, my mother’s challenges in holding down a job had a similar effect on me as I have also found it difficult to maintain employment for more than one year.

Despite being 28 years old, I opt not to engage with my extended family because of how it negatively affected my childhood. This choice stems from witnessing my mother’s vulnerability and the subsequent distress it caused me. However, our neighborhood played a vital role in supporting my immediate family and significantly shaped my personal development. While residing there until third grade, we were part of a tight-knit community where parents knew one another and all children were held responsible for their actions through a common set of rules and consequences.

In my neighborhood, we all stuck together and taught me the importance of the saying “it takes a village to raise a kid”. Even as children, we were bussed to school together, spent our time at school together, and were raised with an appreciation for education. When my mother moved our family away from the neighborhood, I realized that this strong support system was gone and not replaced. However, I continued in school and used the experiences and challenges from my childhood to help me decide to enroll in graduate school. This decision was influenced by the Macrosystem Level.

The macrosystem, including society and culture, can significantly affect a child’s development, potentially leading to higher rates of depression, anxiety, and self-esteem issues in certain children compared to those raised in nurturing environments. The negative cultural environment I grew up in still influences my decisions today. My mother dealt with cocaine addiction, while my biological father struggled with addictions to crack-cocaine and heroin. Being constantly exposed to their drug dealers influenced the type of men I am attracted to.

The harmful selection in men did not deter my determination to excel in education, prompting me to enroll in graduate school. However, a year ago, my choice of partners did delay my application to graduate school, as I tried to keep up with their lavish lifestyle and face the repercussions of their criminal activities. Consequently, if we as a society work harmoniously and provide our children with a supportive community, we have the potential to greatly impact their lives, making this model invaluable.

According to Ahuja (n.d., p.8), if our next generation fails, if our future citizens are weak, and if mental disorders and illness are increasing, it is because we have all failed. Ahuja emphasized the importance of society working together to raise all children. Personally, the influence of my surroundings and environment led me to decide to pursue my Master’s degree in Human Services.

Ahuja, Y. (n.d). Bronfenbrenner Ecological Theory. [Electronic version]. Retrieved from
Bronfenbrenner, U. 1986. Ecology of the family as a context for

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