Urie Bronfenbrenner’s ecological theory of development gives us ways on how to organize thinking about the complex relationships between personal, social and cultural factor. This theory helps to support and guide human growth. This entry will consist of:
Basic concept of the theory
Urie Bronfenbrenner was a Russian American psychologist. Ecological systems theory was developed by him to briefly explain on how a child and the child’s surrounding affect their growth and development. Ecological model covers a growing body of theory and research. It consists of the processes and conditions that play role in our life especially in the actual environment of human. Basically, Urie Bronfenbrenner’s theory is based on analysis from over decades by researchers. Schwabe and Bartholomai (1870) stated that it begins with a study carried out in Berlin on 1870 on the effects of neighbourhood on the development of children’s concepts. In 1970s, Bronfrenbrenner’s ecological idea was introduced as a reaction to the restricted scope of most research then being conducted by developmental psychologists. In 1974, he published a report on a child and family policy about the challenging implications of ecological approach (Bronfenbrenner, 1994).
The Evolution of Ecological Model
The ecology of human development is the scientific study of the progressive, mutual accommodation throughout the life course between an active, growing human being and the changing properties of the immediate settings in which the developing person lives (Johnson, 2008). Bronfenbrenner’s theory bridges the gap between behavioural theories which include both of small and large setting. His theory is not only about in classroom but it is including the entire environment of an individual such as family, neighbour, culture and custom and the relation between them that effect the development.
There are two formal propositions in defining the properties of the ecological model. Proposition 1 stated that the development of human takes place through a progressive process between the person, objects and symbols in its direct environment (Bronfenbrenner, 1994). Essentially, the direct interaction occur in the surrounding is referred as proximal process. He illustrates the process to a ping-pong game between a child and his or her partner (Lamb, 2010). The movement of the ball back and forth in the game is depending on the partner. If the movement of the ball becomes complex, the child will try to fit or catch up the partner. It means that they will try to match themselves in the environment. It is including the activities done between child-child and parent-child such as learning new skills, reading and completing task. This process will provide the outcome of the child whether it is a positive or negative. The second proposition stated that the authority, form, path and content of the proximal process effecting development differ systematically as a joint function of characteristic developing person towards the environment (Bronfenbrenner, 1994). Both of the propositions are theoretically interdependent and subject to empirical test. Figure 1 shows the difference of parental monitoring over 4,000 cases by giving questionnaire to adolescents in school. Parental monitoring is the effort of the parents to control or keep updated about their children’s outdoor activities. This data give an idea about how the proximal process related to ecological system. It is shown that the relationship between parents and child will be affected according to how the parents treat and care of their child. Proximal processes give a great impact in one’s development.
Figure : Effect of parental monitoring on grades in high school by family structure and mother’s level of education
Ecological Systems Theory was the primary theoretical by Bronfenbrenner. At first, he introduced four stages in the theory. He named it as the microsystem, the mesosytem, the exosystem, and the macrosystem. Then, he later added the fifth system, called the Chronosystem. Each of them contains functions, regulations and norms which can powerfully shape the development.
Ecological Theory in Child Development
Bronfenbrenner claimed that it is important to consider the whole ecological system where the child growths happen in order to understand their development. In Bronfenbrenner’s theory, the child is at the centre and there are 5 stages of the environment from the perspective of the development (Bronfenbrenner, 1994). It is socially organized subsystems that help as guide to briefly explain how a child grows and develops. These systems include the microsystem, the mesosytem, the exosystem, the macrosystem and the chronosystem. Each system is all connected to each other since it is affects and is affected by the other systems. The picture below is one of the example to show the five stages of the Urie Bronfenbrenner‘s theory.
Microsystem is the inner system and most direct interaction between an individual with others in the closest environment that the child lives in. It is the smallest group yet it gives a huge influence such as family and then daycare centre and school as they grown up. Family is the closest person to be with since the child born. The child will observe and learn the behaviour of the family members. For an example, the way we speak and treat them. The voice’s tone and the use of words are vital when we are speaking with the child. Using insensitive and ruthless words can cause the child getting use to it which it bad for their development. They may build up a bad manner because of that. Apart from it, the ways of the parents take care of their child also play a huge role in the development of the child. Praising the child for their good achievement even it is a little accomplishment can encourage them to do more. If it is vice versa, the child stop themselves from doing the good deed since they do not receive any appreciation and support.
Mesosytem is the relationship between the microsystem such as family with teachers or family and peers. Basically, they will work together for the good of the child. In an example, parents go to school to update about their child achievement in school from their teachers. This can give effect into the development of the child when parents know what is happening to their child in both school and house. Maybe the teachers and parents can mark out the child problem. It is the best way in helping the student in solving the problem. Occasionally, trouble occur in school by the student is because of they are having problems in home. Some parents are not being aware of themselves that the child is observing them while they are arguing. By visiting the child’s school, it may help parents to notice it.
In exosystem stage, it consist of the relationship that the child is rarely interact with, but it gives a big impact to the child such as extended families, parent’s work place and neighbourhood play area. For an example, a child who always attached and live with their parents and then out of sudden, his parents go to abroad to work for several month. His parents let him to stay with his uncle and aunty. It may effects the child feeling when they think that he is abandoned by his own parents. Things will get worse when the relationship between the child and his aunty and uncle are not so well. There may be a conflict arise between them. On the other hand, it is possible for the relationship between them become closer when they stick together.
Macrosystem is of a huge number people and things and they have the fewest interactions with a child but they are still giving a great influence over the child (Oswalt, 2013). Laws, values and customs are the example for macrosystems. The freedoms that have been given by the government, race and religion will affect the development of a child. Sometimes, it can give lots of consequence in the child’s growth especially when a war occurs in a country. The war that happened in Palestine is the best example to shows the effect of macrosystem to children. According to the United Nations IRIN news, approximately about 39,000 Palestinian children from Gaza do not have schools to attend because the severe damage of some 280 schools and kindergartens during the Israeli war on Gaza (Barlett, 2010). As a result, a great percentage of students who are having a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder because of the intense exposure to conflict ( Tarazi, 2010).
The last stage in Urie Bronfenbrenner’s theory is chronosystem. It is about transitions over the path of life or the patterning of environmental. For example in today’s environment divorce is one of the serious factor in affecting a child’s progression. In the early age, they may know nothing about divorce. However, things will be difference when they feel that they are lacking of love from the father or mother since they live apart from each other. All in all, this stage is about the changes in time. Things will get different according time when the child’s environment changes corresponding to the time. It will innovate conditions that have an effect on development.
Urie Bronfenbrenner’s Theory in Preschool
Normally, the age for Pre-School student is the children who are below 6 years old. It is actually as a preparation for them before they are enrolling to a formal school education. There will be provided childcare as well as education. Fundamentally, they will be focus more on interpersonal interaction, classroom skills, and being a part of a group of peers. At the same time formal education like learning how to read and write some basic subject also will be teach by teachers. The teacher who will teach them is a specialized in teaching preschool students. Some parents may not send their children to preschool since their children are still young. Giving an opportunity for them to learn at early age will be a wise choice because it can improve interaction with others and get new friends. Moreover, interactions between peers help to have a better social, emotional as well as mental development.
Have you ever heard a story of children who were living with abnormal surrounding such as Genie and Victor of Aveyron? They are the best example to show how important for a child to live in a fine environment at early age. Genie is an unfortunate girl who has been abuse and locked in a small room since she was very little. Her development was so bad that she did not know how to eat and walk. According to Jim Hopper a researcher and therapist in clinical psychology, almost all case of child abuse certainly leads to permanent damage and in a great long-term agony. He also stated that younger is usually more harmful. Whereas, Victor of Aveyron is a boy who had grown up in a forest without parents and he was develop unlike a normal kid (Milton, 2012). Same as Genie, it is difficult to educate him since both of them live in very unusual surroundings which make them used to it. In my opinion, their cases prove that it is vital for children have a very well start in their live.
Parents shall play their role by give some freedom in the child learning since they are at a curiosity stage where they want to try and discover new things. As a wise man always says, all work and no play make Jack a dull boy. Giving them some freedom under your supervise will be a vast help in their learning. It will be a huge mistake if parents ignore their questions and keep asking them to learn everything based on the books. It is possible for the child to stop themselves from learning and lost interest in study.
Does it necessary for a teacher to sealed child’s mouths with packing tape, twisting ears lift up 10cm off the ground with his feet and throws the student into a dustbin? Unfortunately, all of these are already happened at Blue Peacock Kindergarten, a kindergarten in China last year (Peter, 2012). The teacher’s name is Yan Yanhong. She treats her with harsh and unreasonable punishment for a child. Her action will definitely give negatives effect in both mentally and physically towards the children. They will not concern about studies since they are too afraid of the teacher and punishment. Besides, it is vital to keep a good relationship between teacher and student to ensure that they love to take part in all activity and increase their desire in schooling. In fact, teacher must avoid themselves from forcing children to learn at their early age. It is better for teachers to let them play while they learn to boost their attention and thinking in study.
Some student will have a problem in communicate with others in class. They tend to keep distance with other classmates. The teacher shall conduct something so that those students get along with others. Kontos and colleagues (2002) found that preschool aged children experience more complex interactions with peers when they were engaged in creative activities rather than other types of activities. Preschool is the head start for them in making more interactions with peers. So, teacher ought to create some activity that need to be done in a group so that they will get together. Letting them to adapt in the class by their own may give bad effects for the child since they may not know how to start a conversation at their age.
Implication of Urie Bronfenbrenner’s Theory
Urie Bronfenbrenner’s theory helps in knowing the interaction and relationship between the child and their overall environment. In the theory, Bronfenbrenner states that we must build bridges between home and school (Briscoe&Boemmel, 2001). It means that parents must cooperate with school and never let teachers to do all the work. Although teachers already teach them how to write and read in school, parents must reinforce children to do it at house and check their homework. By doing that, children will think that their parents concern about their study. In school, children must participate in community projects and teachers shall invite parents to join them. This activity can tighten the bond within the children, parents and teachers. It is common to have classmates with different culture and tradition. So, by inviting extended family such as grandparents or uncle to school and share their culture history may closer the relationship between the child and peers.
‘Bronfenbrenner says that we must practice what we preach. He also tell us to remember that everything we do and say, not only to the child, but to the people, who have everyday contact and influence over that child, will affect the child’s development. It may even change a child’s development. Think hard about what you want to teach, say and do’.
We must bear in mind that it is important for parents, teachers and adults to practice what you preach. Action and word must be tally to each other as it will influence the children development.