4 Systems of Bronfenbrenner Ecological Model of Human Development

As human’s child comes to this world, the journey of his development has started from the day of conception of his or her zygote. After that the individual passes through different stages biological, psychological and social development. There are many theories of life span development. Hence Bronfenbrenner ecological theory of development is one of them. Human ecology theory describes the interactions of individuals with five basic systems. The Bronfenbrenner Ecological Model of Human Development affirms that human development is influenced by the different types of environmental systems. It was developed by famous psychologist Urie Bronfenbrenner.

He developed a most differentiated and comprehensive approach to human development that focuses the contextual influences on development. It also describes that we encounter different environments that may influence our lifespan development positively or negatively based upon specific environment. Environmental influences determine our psychological health, interpersonal relationships and our habits.

Bronfenbrenner ecological theory of development states that development of a person within a complex system of relationships affected by multiple levels of current environment. Here the biologically influenced dispositions of a child join with environmental forces to mold development, Bronfenbrenner envisions the environment as a series of nested structures, including but extending beyond the home, school, neighborhood, and workplace settings in which people spend their everyday lives. The author also states that each layer of the environment has a powerful impact on development.

Systems from Bronfenbrenner Ecological Model of Human Development:


The innermost level of the environment is called the microsystem. It involves activities and interaction patterns in the immediate surroundings of a person. Bronfenbrenner focuses that at this level the human development is depends on bidirectional relationships such as adults affect the behavior of children but attributes, personalities, and capacities of children which are biologically and socially influenced also affect the behavior of adults. Bidirectional interactions have long lasting impact on development and affect the quality of relationship among two people. If they are supportive, that would enhance their interaction, if parents are not enjoying healthy marital relationship then child may become hostile this influences the child parent relationship negatively.

The micro system is the direct environment we have in our lives. It’s based on immediate environmental interactions. The nature of these interactions is based on individual’s direct contacts with family, friends, classmates, teachers, neighbors and other people. The bronfenbrenner ecological models of human development theory suggests that we are not just receivers of the experiences we have when socializing directly with these people in the micro system environment but also contributing to the construction of such environment. If we are reluctant or hesitant in reaching out, not good in making good friends or this direct interaction is not emotionally stable then it may cause psychological problems in children such as emotional instability & interpersonal conflicts.

Mesosystem in Bronfenbrenner ecological theory of development

The mesosytem involves the relationship links between the microsystems in one’s life such as the relationships between family and peers may influence one’s social are school experiences. For instance, if parents neglect their child he may have a least chance of developing positive attitude towards his teachers. Further the children may feels uncomfortable in the presence of peers and may resorts to withdrawal from a group of classmates or may indulges in criminal activities or drug abuse to overcome solitude.


The exosystem consists of social settings which are not immediate but they are linked with formal organizations such as individual’s workplace, community and neighborhood. Furthermore in these settings there is a link between the contexts of one’s active and passive role such as a situation where the one has a passive role and the situation where one has to participate actively.

For instance a child is more attached to father as compare to his mother. If the father travels abroad for work or stays for several months then that may generate a conflicting situation in social relationship of the mother and the child, or contrary this event may develop a stronger bond between child and the mother. Basically at this stage a child is indirectly influenced by forces (positively or negatively) that are involved at the stage such as parents financial issues, family social networks, workplace, neighborhood and community contexts. If the family is positively interacting and effectively managing all roles then the family has a positive impact on children.

At this level the support system is informal and children are affected by the social networks of their parents, friends and extended-family members. These informal links give them companionship, advice and even financial assistance. Past researches showed that the socially isolated families with few relationships ties and those families who are affected by unemployment show increased rates of conflict and child abuse.


This setting is the actual culture of an individual. It is composed of cultural values laws and other societal norms which influence the child’s other systems of development. This macrosystem have positive or negative impact on cognition of child to develop the sense of what is wrong and right. The cultural contexts consist of socioeconomic status, family, ethnicity or race of a person and living in a still developing or a third world country. Members of a cultural group share a common identity, heritage, and values. Macrosystem is basically the interactions of person whom he belong. Macrosystem evolve from generation to generation over time.


According to bronfenbrenner ecological model of human development the environment is not static force that influences people uniformly but it involves dynamics and changes. This system involves transitions and shifts in one’s lifespan. These ecological transitions are most important and turning point of development such as starting schooling, marrying, joining occupational organization, becoming parents, getting divorce etc. Adjustment to these transitions is depending on their age, their physical, intellectual, personality characteristics and their environmental opportunities.

These transitions may involve the socio-historical contexts that may impact a person either positively or negatively as a trauma caused by wars, natural disaster, etc. Moreover, one common example of this is divorce, as a major life transition that may affect not only the relationship of a couple but also the psychological well being of their children.

According to a majority of research, first year after the divorce has devastating effects on children and negatively affect their wellness. The next years after it would reveal or it would enhance the probability of stable and agreeable interactions within the family. These transitions are external and internal as well. External transitions are parent’s death or other environmental contingencies or natural disasters. Internal transitions include physiological disabilities or other diseases. Historical influences also impact the development negatively and depend on how a family or child responds to such stressors.

Hence according to bronfenbrenner ecological model of human development theory, development is not explained by a single factor’s contribution thus it’s neither controlled by environmental factors nor determined by inner dispositions. People are products and also the producers of their environments, so both people and their environments form a network that affects their development.

The author for the Bronfenbrenner ecological theory of development works for a topnotch center for Drug Addiction Treatment in Islamabad.

The author also posted Say No to Drugs Essay on Google Blogger.

Leave a comment