Copyright

Bronfenbrenner's Ecological Systems Theory of Development: Definition & Examples

  • 0:05 What Is Ecological…
  • 0:47 Microsystem
  • 1:41 Mesosystem
  • 2:32 Exosystem
  • 3:23 Macrosystem
  • 4:11 Chronosystem
Create An Account
To Start This Course Today
Used by over 10 million students worldwide
Create An Account
Try it free for 5 days
Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Lisa Roundy

Lisa has taught at all levels from kindergarten to college and has a master's degree in human relations.

Learn about Bronfenbrenner's ecological systems theory in this lesson and explore the five levels of the environment that can influence human development.

What Is Ecological Systems Theory?

How is a child's development affected by their social relationships and the world around them? Ecological systems theory provides one approach to answering this question. The ecological systems theory was developed by Urie Bronfenbrenner.

Bronfenbrenner believed that a person's development was affected by everything in their surrounding environment. He divided the person's environment into five different levels: the microsystem, the mesosystem, the exosystem, the macrosystem, and the chronosystem. In this lesson, you will learn about these different environmental levels by meeting five-year-old Alex and examining the influences in his life.

Microsystem

We will begin with the first level of Bronfenbrenner's theory: the microsystem. The microsystem is the system closest to the person and the one in which they have direct contact. Some examples would be home, school, daycare, or work. A microsystem typically includes family, peers, or caregivers. Relationships in a microsystem are bi-directional. In other words, your reactions to the people in your microsystem will affect how they treat you in return. This is the most influential level of the ecological systems theory.

Let's look at the microsystem Alex lives in. The first part of his microsystem is his home environment. This includes his interactions with his parents and little sister. Alex's school is also part of his microsystem. His regular school interactions are with his kindergarten teacher and the other children in his class.

Mesosystem

The next level of ecological systems theory is the mesosystem. The mesosystem consists of the interactions between the different parts of a person's microsystem. The mesosystem is where a person's individual microsystems do not function independently, but are interconnected and assert influence upon one another. These interactions have an indirect impact on the individual.

One aspect of Alex's mesosystem would be the relationship between his parents and his teacher. His parents take an active role in his school, such as attending parent/teacher conferences and volunteering in his classroom. This has a positive impact on his development because the different elements of his microsystem are working together. Alex's development could be affected in a negative way if the different elements of his microsystem were working against one another.

Exosystem

The exosystem is the next level we will examine. The exosystem refers to a setting that does not involve the person as an active participant, but still affects them. This includes decisions that have bearing on the person, but in which they have no participation in the decision-making process. An example would be a child being affected by a parent receiving a promotion at work or losing their job.

One part of Alex's exosystem would be his father's workplace. Alex's father is in the Navy. This often takes him away from the family, and Alex sometimes does not see his father for months at a time. This situation impacts Alex, and he becomes anxious when his father leaves. Alex's anxiety has an effect on his development in other areas, even though he has no interaction with his father's work or say in the decision making process.

Macrosystem

The fourth level of ecological systems theory is the macrosystem. The macrosystem encompasses the cultural environment in which the person lives and all other systems that affect them. Examples could include the economy, cultural values, and political systems. The macrosystem can have either a positive or a negative effect on a person's development. For an example, consider the different effects on the development of a child growing up in a third-world economy versus that of the United States.

An important aspect of Alex's macrosystem is the fact that he is a military child. Because of this, he has already moved three times and lived in two different countries by the age of five. Alex is also influenced by the values of the military community that he belongs to.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 10 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member

Already a member? Log In

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 100 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 2,900 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

You now have full access to our lessons and courses, watch the lesson now or keep exploring.
You've watched a video! Now you are officially smarter, check out the next video or take the quiz to keep learning.
You took a quiz! Getting a perfect score on a quiz is how you gain course progress. If you aced it, great job! If not, don't worry, you can try again.
You now have full access to our lessons and courses, watch the lesson now or keep exploring.
You just finished your first lesson. Study.com has thousands of lessons to help you meet your educational goals.
You're making great progress. Aim to watch at least 30 minutes of lessons each day and you'll master this before you know it!
You've learned so much, but only scratched the surface. Wait until you see what we have in your next lesson!
Getting a perfect score on a quiz is how you gain course progress. If you aced it, great job! If not, don’t worry, you can try again.
You're getting the hang of this! Keep taking quizzes to make progress on your learning goals.
Look how far you've come! Take all the quizzes in a chapter and you'll master this topic in no time.
Keep clicking that 'next lesson' button whenever you finish a lesson and its quiz.
You're 25% of the way through this course! Keep going at this rate and you'll be done before you know it.
Two days in a row, nice! Keep your streak going to get the most of your learning and reach your goal faster.