Bioecological Model: Theory & Approach

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  • 1:07 Process
  • 1:42 Person
  • 2:48 Context
  • 3:55 Time
  • 4:26 Uses
  • 5:19 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Karin Gonzalez

Karin has taught middle and high school Health and has a master's degree in social work.

In this lesson, you will learn about the four components that make up Urie Bronfenbrenner's bioecological model. You will learn the theory behind the model, as well as different applications of the model. A brief quiz follows the lesson.

What is the Bioecological Model?

Urie Bronfenbrenner, the developer of the bioecological model, actually first created the Ecological Systems Theory of Development! His Ecological Systems Theory stipulated that people were products of their environment and time. Then, he realized that he was omitting a very important element in human development: the person!

So, Bronfenbrenner created a more comprehensive model, the bioecological model. This developmental psychology model holds that human development is influenced by four primary components:

1. Processes (interactions with objects or people);

2. Person (personality, physical appearance, inherited IQ, etc.);

3. Context (home, school, peer group, community); and

4. Time (time during a process, length of a process, or cultural and historical time period).

Process, Person, Context and Time make up the Bioecological Model.
Process, Person, Context and Time make up the Bioecological Model

Let's look at these components more closely.


Process is a term that can be confusing because it is unclear and ill-defined on its own. Bronfenbrenner coined the term 'proximal processes', which is the interaction between children and their caregivers. Caregivers can be parents, teachers, counselors, grandparents, or a nanny. It can also mean interactions between children and objects. Objects can be a video game, educational digital tablet, toys, gymnastics equipment, or a ball. Processes are most effective in development if they are consistent and occur over a large period of time in the child's life.


The person was exactly what Bronfenbrenner was missing in his first theory, the ecological theory. Bronfenbrenner realized that personal characteristics greatly impacted the way that people (specifically, children) develop, mostly because of the way that they influence social interactions. Physical appearance, gender, and age determine how a person responds to others and how people respond to that person.

A recent study of twins in the United Kingdom that analyzed 800 sets of identical and fraternal twins assessed how much one's personality is genetic versus a product of the environment (upbringing, discipline, education, etc.). This is the 'nature vs. nurture' question that fascinates so many scientists. The results demonstrated that personality is mostly determined by genetics.

The focus on the importance of 'person' in the bioecological theory also has to do with how well a person responds to stress, their temperament, attention span, and so much more!


Context refers to the environment in which the child grows up. Bronfenbrenner divided the environment into four categories: the microsystem, the mesosystem, the exosystem, and the macrosystem.

1. Microsystem: A child's immediate environment: family, friends, teachers, neighborhood friends, classmates, etc.

2. Mesosystem: Interactions between two microsystems. For example, the relationship and interactions between a child's parents and his kindergarten teacher.

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