Thursday, October 23, 2014

What influences my child's development? The Ecological Model

This week for the Thursday Theorist I am going to take up Uri Bronfenbrenner.  I love this guy but his theory is a little confusing so I am going to try to take it piece by piece.  I chose this topic for the week because last week in my podcast about Identity Development I stumbled into talking about the model. I didn't have notes and I hadn't reviewed the theory in almost a decade. I figured it was time to wipe away the cognitive cobwebs and present this model in a more clear and concise way.  That is a really nice way of saying I think I blew it the first time so lets get it right in writing!

Bronfenbrenner was born in Russia in the first decade of the 1900 but came to the US as a small boy.  He studied at Cornell, Harvard, and Univeristy of Michigan before being inducted into the Army the day after completing his PhD.  He wrote:

The ecology of human development involves the scientific study 
of the progressive mutual accommodation between and active, 
growing human being and the changing properties 
of the immediate settings in which the developing person lives, 
as this process is affected by relations between these settings, 
and by the larger contexts in which the settings are embedded 
(Bronfenbrenner, 1979).
Yeiks. Don't fall asleep on me. 
It is always dangerous to quote actual researchers on all this stuff.

What he is saying is that development happens because of biology, but within and influenced by various settings and context.

The microsystem is a 'pattern of activities, social roles' and relationships that happen face to face with the developing person.  So they are things like school, peer group, family.

The mesosystem is a system of microsystems. It is the links and processes between two or more settings.  One example would be the relations between home and school.

The Exosystem is the links and processes between two or more settings where one does NOT contain the developing person.  So for a child this the link between home and a parents work.

The macrosystem consists of the overarching patterns of the other systems, with special consideration of culture or subculture.  Customs, opportunity structures, resources etc would be embedded in the macrosystem.

The chronosystem is the final parameter and it encompasses change or consistency over time in both the person and the environment.

Within this model, biology, human interaction, social structures, and cultural forces all come together to shape the individual.

The engine of development are the proximal processes: fairly regular, enduring forms of interactions between and active evolving brio-spychological human organism and the persons, objects, and symbols in the immediate environment.  These operate in the microsystem (because they have to contain the developing child).  They are the most powerful forces in the child's development and although they are influenced by other systems, they can help to overcome much.

Ready for more?

The research design used to study this in action is the Process-Person-Context-Time (PPCT) model.  The person, the context and the time all influence the proximal processes.  Context refers to things have have to do with the environment, for instance SES.  The time refers to cohort effects and the timing of biological/social transitions as they relate to culture.

So why should parents know about this theory? 

It helps us recognize how interconnected all these influences are, but also helps us to see the the main place to influence development is in the microsystem where the proximal processes occur.

Your child's development is influenced by regular & enduring interactions.  Those interactions are influenced by their context, both the direct context and more distant contexts.

What influences do you have in your family?  You can be super careful to not expose your child to certain TV shows, but it is even more important to be aware of your the enduring interactions that contain your child.  Coaches, choir directors, drama coaches, teammates, piano teachers - these are all people that will have regular and enduring interactions with your child.  Their personalities, character, and language will influence your child's development.

So think about your child's microsystems - What are your child's regular and enduring interactions?    Does she do sports? Music? Chess club? What are her teachers like?  What is her peer group like - not just her friends but the other kids who surround her?   How well does your home and school work together?  How does your work life impact your family life and those interactions with your child?

To read about his model in his own words click here

Thanks for stopping by!

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