1.5 Bronfenbrenner's Ecological Model

“Particular attention should be given to the opportunities which the environment presents or precludes for involvement of children with persons both older and younger than themselves.”

— Urie Bronfenbrenner1

Developmental psychologist Urie Bronfenbrenner (1917-2005) emphasized the importance of studying children and adults in real life settings, instead of labs, and examining all the socio-cultural contexts in which growth and development occurs.2

Key Concepts from Bronfenbrenner's Ecological Model

Excerpt from LIS 516: Youth Development and Behavior in a Digital Age by Dr. Katie Davis and the University of Washington

1:40

Dr. Katie Davis, University of Washington

Bronfenbrenner’s model is a series of nested contexts:

  • The microsystem is the innermost system; it contains people and settings that directly involve a young person, such as their home, family, peer group, work, or school.
  • A mesosystem is an interaction or connection between two or more entities in the microsystem — for instance, parents visiting school, or friends visiting the young person’s home.
  • The exosystem contains settings that do not directly involve the young person, but that may still affect their life. For instance, a child may never visit their parent’s workplace, but events that occur there may affect the child indirectly.
  • The macrosystem involves patterns and characteristics of a culture, like a community or society’s norms and values that shape and affect the youth experience.
  • The chronosystem represents the passage of time, focusing on changes in the youth’s environment. Changes in family structure, socioeconomic status, and residency can greatly impact developmental outcomes.

Each of these systems interrelate and interact with one another, demonstrating the role of environmental factors in a young person’s development over time.

Digital Technology Through an Ecological Lens

Excerpt from LIS 516: Youth Development and Behavior in a Digital Age by Dr. Katie Davis and the University of Washington

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Dr. Katie Davis, University of Washington

REFLECTION: ECOLOGICAL SYSTEMS

What new microsystems and mesosystems have emerged in the digital age? Are these new systems having a negative or positive affect on families and young people?

Think about a teen who visits your library, or another teen that you know. What systems affect their life? How does the library fit into those systems?


TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE

When two different microsystems interact, they create 

  • Another microsystem 
  • A macrosystem
  • An ecology
  • A mesosystem
When two different microsystems interact, they create a mesosystem.

1: Bronfenbrenner, U. (1973). Two worlds of childhood: U.S. and U.S.S.R.

2: Bronfenbrenner, U. (1994) Ecological models of human development. In International Encyclopedia of Education, Vol. 3, 2nd Ed. Oxford: Elsevier.