Talk:Ecological systems theory

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French article exist (but don't know how to make the link to it...)[edit]

"Écologie du développement humain" is a direct translation and a wiki page exist ( If somebody could make the link. Thanks! — Preceding unsigned comment added by Zibudizz (talkcontribs) 14:52, 13 January 2012 (UTC)

Influence of Vygotsky and Lewin[edit]

DoctorW: I left the statement, since it is unquestionably true, but as you know, under WP:OR a personal conversation isn't allowed as a reference. If you don't have time to locate one in print, I may be able to cajole my wife into finding something. {She teaches Human Development, and has each of her students write a Bioecological Systems Self-Analysis paper.) I envy you having had the opportunity to work with Dr. Bronfenbrenner! Regards, Cgingold 15:18, 6 February 2007 (UTC)

This article needs additional citations for verification.[edit]

This article is severely laking in proper citations for the material being reviewed. Saum1 (talk) 18:21, 24 April 2008 (UTC)

I didn't write this article, but I found this missing data in no time. This article is started. If you have extra information here, use it to improve this article. -- Mdd (talk) 20:06, 24 April 2008 (UTC)

Requested move[edit]

The following discussion is an archived discussion of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on the talk page. No further edits should be made to this section.

The result of the move request was: page moved. Vegaswikian (talk) 06:05, 26 October 2011 (UTC)

Ecological Systems TheoryEcological systems theory

Per WP:CAPS ("Wikipedia avoids unnecessary capitalization") and WP:TITLE, this is a generic, common term, not a propriety or commercial term, so the article title should be downcased. Lowercase will match the formatting of related article titles. Tony (talk) 10:49, 19 October 2011 (UTC)

The above discussion is preserved as an archive of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on this talk page. No further edits should be made to this section.

Why no microsystem?[edit]

I can't help but notice the drastic omission of the first system, the "microsystem," for some reason. And I quote: "These are the most immediate contexts in which the developing individual interacts with people. The relationships between a child and family members in the home, and the relationships between a child and teachers or peers in the school, are examples of microsystems." -- from — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:31, 10 December 2011 (UTC)

These are proposed changes. We would like the editor's suggestions for change.[edit]

Bronfenbrenner Bioecological Model[edit]

Urie Bronfenbrenner
File:Psychologist Urie Bronfenbrenner.jpg
Born April 29, 1917 (1917-04-29) (age 99)
Moscow, Russia
Died September 25, 2005 (2005-09-26)
Occupation Russian-born American psychologist
Known for Developer of The Ecological Systems Theory and co-founder of Head Start


The bioecological model was developed by Urie Bronfenbrenner through revisions of his original framework, ecological systems theory. The bioecological model is used in various developmental contexts, and can be applied to both children and maturing adults. The framework posits the importance of the bidirectional influences of individuals’ development on their surrounding environmental contexts, and vice versa.

Ccolemag7 (talk) 01:48, 25 October 2012 (UTC)

1. Influences to the Bioecological Model[edit]

Bronfenbrenner began to informally discuss new ideas concerning ecological systems theory throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s. He felt that he could not rest on the laurels of his success, and the more he discussed his original model the more he began to see the role of other key factors in development. His informal discussion of his new concept emerged through his lectures and presentations [1]. However, it wasn’t until 1986 that this new theory emerged in print as bioecological systems theory [2]. One of Bronfenbrenner’s main influences was Lev Vygotsky, a Russian teacher and psychologist. He developed the social learning theory of development in the 1920’s and 1930’s to understand how people learn in social contexts and how social environments influence the learning process (1962). His recognizes that this learning always occurs and cannot be separated from a social context [3]. This kind of learning is integral in a child’s development, according to Vygotsky. His theories, all written in Russian, are still being translated today to understand the breadth, but it has been made clear that “individual development cannot be understood without reference to the social and cultural context within which it is embedded” [4].

Kurt Lewin, a German forerunner of ecological systems models and the universally recognized founder of modern social psychology [5] pioneered the use of theory and using experimentation to test hypotheses. He focused on the life space, that is, a person’s psychological activities that occur within a kind of psychological field [6]. It is this life space that contains all the events in the past, present, and future that shape and affect and individual. This focus on individuality led him to diagram the life space that contained arrows leading to and from possible life goals, both positive and negative. All in all, Lewin’s ecological systems model emphasizes situational and proximal causes and that behavior is a function of the current person by their environment, which are all affected by past experience.

In addition to Bronfenbrenner’s influences is his cooperative colleague, Stephen J Ceci. They both co-authored Nature-nurture in developmental perspective: A bioecological theory. He is a developmental psychologist who redefined modern developmental psychology’s approach to intellectual development. He focuses on predicting a pattern of associations among ecological, genetic, and cognitive variables as a function of proximal processes.

2. Timeline of the Bioecological Model[edit]

The history of bioecological systems theory is divided into two periods as distinguished by Bronfenbrenner himself in 1999. The first period resulted in the publication of his theory of ecological systems theory, titled Ecology of Human Development, in 1979. Bronfenbrenner described the second period as a time of criticism and evaluation of his original work [7]. In his justification for a new theory, Bronfenbrenner wrote that he was not pleased with the direction of current [mid 1980s] research and that he felt that there were other realms of development that had been previously overlooked [1]. In comparison to the original theory, bioecological systems theory adds more emphasis to the person in the context of development. Additionally, Bronfenbrenner chose to leave out key features of the ecological systems theory (ecological validity, ecological experiments) during his development of bioecological systems theory. As a whole, Bronfenbrenner’s new theory continued to go through a series of transformations as he continuously analyzed different factors in human development. Critical components of bioecological systems theory did not emerge all at once. Instead, his ideas evolved and adapted to the research and ideas of the times. For example, the role of proximal processes, which is now recognized as a key feature of bioecological systems theory, did not emerge until the 1990s [7]. Thus, one can see that this theory as many other theories do, went through a series of transformations and elaborations up until 2005 when Bronfenbrenner died [2].

3. The Original Model: Ecological Systems Theory[edit]

Bronfenbrenner labeled his original model “ecological systems theory” ( Through this framework, Bronfenbrenner identified the need to understand individuals’ development within their environments. In order to conceptualize environmental contexts, Bronfenbrenner described four ecological systems levels, described below:

  1. Microsystem: The microsystem is the innermost layer of Bronfenbrenner’s model. This context is closest to an individual, and encompasses interpersonal relationships and direct interactions with immediate surroundings [8]. For example, family members and a child’s school is considered part of the microsystem.
  2. Mesosystem: The mesosystem includes interactions between various aspects of the microsystem. A relationship between an individuals’ family and their church can be considered part of the mesosystem, because theses two direct influences to their development (parts of the microsystem) may interact.
  3. Exosystem: The exosystem does not directly affect individuals; rather, the exosystem encompasses aspects of structures within the microsystem [8]. For example, financial difficulties within the family of origin, parent’s job loss, etc may affect a child, but do not involve the child directly.
  4. Macrosystem: The macrosystem is the outermost layer of Bronfenbrenner’s model. This system includes social or cultural ideologies and beliefs that affect an individual’s environment [9]. For example, laws or religious beliefs may be incorporated into the macrosystem [9].

Bronfenbrenner suggested that individuals constantly interact with these systems, and also posits that both individuals and their environments are constantly and affecting the other [9]. However, in this original model, Bronfenbrenner recognized that there was not enough focus on individuals’ own role in their development [7], and thus began developing this model further.

4. The Process-Person-Context-Time Model[edit]

Bronfenbrenner further developed the model by adding the chronosystem and placing a greater emphasis on processes and the role of the biological person. The Process-Person-Context-Time Model (PPCT) has since become the bedrock of the bioecological model, which examines human development across the lifespan. PPCT includes four concepts. The interactions between the concepts form the basis for the theory [1].

Process - Bronfenbrenner viewed proximal processes as the primary mechanism for development, featuring them in two central propositions of the bioecological model.

  • Proposition 1: [H]uman development takes place through processes of progressively more complex reciprocal interaction between an active, evolving biopsychological human organism and the persons, objects, and symbols in its immediate external environment. To be effective, the interaction must occur on a fairly regular basis over extended periods of time. Such enduring forms of interaction in the immediate environment are referred to as proximal processes. [2]

Proximal processes are the development processes of systematic interaction between person and environment [9]. Bronfenbrenner identifies group and solitary activities such as playing with other children or reading as mechanisms through which children come to understand their world and formulate ideas about their place within it [7]. However, processes function differently depending on the person and the context.

  • Proposition 2: The form, power, content, and direction of the proximal processes effecting development vary systematically as a joint function of the characteristics of the developing person; of the environment—both immediate and more remote—in which the processes are taking place; the nature of the developmental outcomes under consideration; and the social continuities and changes occurring over time through the life course and the historical period during which the person has lived [2].

Person – Bronfenbrenner acknowledged the role that personal characteristics of individuals play in social interactions [2]. He identified three personal characteristics that can significantly influence proximal processes across the lifespan. Demand characteristics such as age, gender or physical appearance set processes in motion, acting as “personal stimulus” characteristics [7]. Resource characteristics are not as immediately recognizable and include mental and emotional resources such as past experiences, intelligence, and skills as well as material resources such as access to housing, education, and responsive caregivers [2]. Force characteristics are related to variations in motivation, persistence and temperament. Bronfenbrenner notes that even when children have equivalent access to resources, their developmental courses may differ as a function of characteristics such as drive to succeed and persistence in the face of hardship. In doing this, Bronfenbrenner provides a rationale for how environment influences personal characteristics, but also suggests personal characteristics can change environments [7].

Context - Context involves five interconnected systems. The microsystem describes environments such as home or school in which children spend significant time interacting. Mesosystems are interrelations between microsystems. The exosystem describes events that have important indirect influence on development (e.g., a parent consistently working late) [9]. The macrosystem is features of any group (culture, subculture) that share values and belief systems. The chronosystem describes historical circumstances that affect contexts at all other levels [2].

Time – Time has a prominent place in this developmental model. It is constituted at three levels: micro, meso, and macro. Micro-time refers to what is happening during specific episodes of proximal processes. Meso-time refers to the extent to which the processes occur in the person’s environment, such as over the course of days, weeks or years [7]. Macro-time (or the chronosytem) focuses on the shifting expectancies in wider culture. This functions both within and across generations and affects proximal processes across the lifespan [1].

Thus, the bioecological model highlights the importance of understanding a person’s development within environmental systems, and further explains that both the person and the environment affect the other bidirectionally. Although even Bronfenbrenner himself critiqued the falsifiability of the model [9], the bioecological model has greatly contributed to developmental theory, practice, and policies.

5. Research implications of bioecological model[edit]

In addition to adding to the theoretical understanding of human development, the bioecological model lends itself to changes in the conceptualization of the research endeavor. In some of his earliest comments on the state of developmental research, Bronfenbrenner lamented that developmental research concerned itself with studying “strange behavior of children in strange situations for the briefest possible period of time” [10]. He proposed, rather, that developmental science should take as its goal a study of children in context in order to best determine which processes are naturally “developmentally generative” (that is, promote development) and which are naturally “developmentally disruptive” (that is, prevent development).

Bronfenbrenner set up a contrast to the traditional “confirmatory” approach to hypothesis testing when specifying the types of research needed to support the bioecological model of development [11]. The dynamic nature of the model calls for, in Bronfenbrenner’s view, “primarily generative” research designs that explore interactions between proximal processes (see Proposition 1) and the developing person, environment, time, and developmental outcome (Proposition 2). Bronfenbrenner called this type of research the “discovery mode” of developmental science.

To best capture such dynamic processes, developmental research designs would ideally be longitudinal, rather than cross-sectional, and conducted in children’s natural environments, rather than a laboratory. Such designs would thus occur in schools, homes, day-care centers, and other environments in which proximal processes are most likely to occur. The bioecological model also proposes that the most scientifically rich studies would include more than one distinct but theoretically related proximal process in the same design [1]. Indeed, studies that claim to be based upon bioecological theory should include elements of process, person, context, and time, and should include explicit explanation and acknowledgement if one element is lacking [7]. Based on the interactions of proposed elements of the PPCT model, appropriate statistical analyses of PPCT data would likely include explorations of mediation and moderation effects, as well as multilevel modeling of data to account for the nesting of different components of the model.

6. Policy implications of the bioecological model[edit]

As Bronfenbrenner conducted substantial research on children in single-parent homes, he found a destructive effect in “chaotic” households that negatively impacted proximal processes [11]. Conversely, he found a protective effect for children whose single caregiver had interpersonal support from others, such as quality day-care workers, religious organizations, and neighbors. Such research would indicate that ensuring adequate socioemotional and practical support in childrearing for single parents should be a national priority, as would exposing children to increasingly difficult activities around a variety of supportive individuals (e.g. carefully planning academic and extracurricular learning to prevent stagnation or decline) [12]. As such, Bronfenbrenner investigated and advocated for changes in childcare policy and practice in the “Anglo-Saxon” world (e.g., English speaking nations), noting the lack of institutional and governmental support for working parents [13].

The Bioecological model is a natural extension of Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems theory ( of human development. In addition to the interacting environmental levels found in Ecological Systems theory, the Bioecological model takes into account “levels of individual structure and function (biology, psychology, and behavior)” [14]. The Bioecological model is a truly comprehensive understanding of the many factors that comprise human development, with a renewed focus on the actual person undergoing the development. Research stemming from the Bioecological model largely contribute to policies that promote quality care of children from infancy onward.


[1] Bronfenbrenner, U. & Morris, P.A., (2006). The Bioecological Model of Human Development. In W. Damon & R.M. Lerner (Eds.), Handbook of Child Psychology, (Vol. 1) (pp. 793- 828). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

[2] Bronfenbrenner, U. & Morris, P. A. (1998). The ecology of developmental processes. In W. Damon & R. M. Lerner (Eds.), Handbook of child psychology, Vol. 1: Theoretical models of human development (5th ed., pp. 993-1023). New York: John Wiley and Sons, Inc.

[3] Neff, L. S. (n.d.). Lev Vygotsky and social learning theories. Retrieved from

[4] McLeod, S. (2007). Lev Vygotsky. Retrieved from Simply Psychology website:

[5] Greathouse, J. (1997, May). Kurt Lewin. Retrieved from Psychology History website:

[6] Kneessi, D. F. (2002). Bioscopes: Kurt Lewin. Retrieved from Kurt Lewin website:

[7] Tudge, J.R.H., Mokrova, I., Hatfield, B.E., & Karnik, R.B. (2009) Uses and misuses of Bronfenbrenner’s Bioecological Theory of Human Development. Journal of Family Theory and Review, 1, 198-210.

[8] Berk, L.E. (2000). Child Development (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon, 23-28.

[9] Bergen, D. (2008). Human Development: Traditional and Contemporary Theories. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 220.

[10] Bronfenbrenner, U. (1974). Developmental research, public policy, and the ecology of childhood. Child Development, 45, 1–5.

[11] Bronfennbrenner, U. (Ed.) 2005a. Making human beings human: Bioecological perspectives on human development (pp. 3-15). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

[12] Bronfenbrenner, U. & Ceci, S.J. (1994). Nature-nurture reconceptualized in the developmental perspective: A bioecological model. Psychological Review, 568-586.

[13] Bronfennbrenner, U. (Ed.) 2005b. Making human beings human: Bioecological perspectives on human development (pp. 274 - 282). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

[14] Lerner, R.M. (2005) Foreward. In U. Bronfenbrenner (Ed.) Making human beings human: Bioecological perspectives on human development (pp. ix - xxvi). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Ccolemag7 (talk) 02:28, 10 October 2012 (UTC)

Ccolemag7 (talk) —Preceding undated comment added 14:18, 17 October 2012 (UTC)

Hi Ccolemag7. Your text seems to more about the Bioecological model. Why don't you add the text to that article? -- Mdd (talk) 15:40, 17 October 2012 (UTC)

Proposed merge with Role of technology in Bronfenbrenner's ecological systems theory[edit]

This is clearly the part of Ecological systems theory and not independent article Arthistorian1977 (talk) 05:57, 16 September 2015 (UTC)