Ecological System’s Theory: Understanding Urie Brofenbrenner

Last Updated: 03 Aug 2020
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While growing up in the 1970’s and 1980’s, during a time when homes were comprised of two parents and strong community involvement; children clung to the high ideals of possibly becoming an astronauts, a doctors, a lawyer, members of the NBA, educators and clergymen. These ideals were possible because of the values laid down by parents and their belief that each child should be better than those that came before them. Values of discipline, integrity, respect and dedication were lived on a daily basis, and settling for nothing but the best was definitely thrust upon you.

Today, we see homes with one parent (usually the mother) and communities where your neighbor is your biggest enemy; struggling to survive because of the lack of rules put in place by the parent. Children are being disrespectful to authority figures, because parents refuse to create an atmosphere in which they were raised in. Many parents are being forced to work long hours to provide for the family, and children are raising themselves and making decisions that have no clear-cut design. Since young children are forced to make decisions on their own, many lack the direction in which they need to be successful in society.

This is a direct result of parents who did not have the tutelage of parenthood, and can only pass on what they learned growing up, and the children have no role model to follow. Urie Brofenbreener, a developmental theorist, who developed a system model of human behavior, which described factors that led children down different paths and contributed to human development. In this paper, I will describe the various levels of the Ecological System’s Theory and how they relate to my growth as a person.

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Furthermore, I will describe how the different levels influenced my decision to not only complete a Masters Degree, but to enroll in a second Masters Degree program. Finally, I will show how the Ecological System and its processes have changed the direction of my career goals and forced me to rethink my desired contributions to society. In 1970, Urie Brofenbrenner was born, and so was the beginning of a desire to build a system that depicted the development of children and their behaviors while growing up.

The Ecological Systems Theory has four levels that comprise the system which are Microsystem, Mesosystem, Exosystem and Macrosystem. The first level is described as the Microsystems level. This level is the closest to the child, because of the individuals who have an immediate impact and play the most significant role in forming the child’s behavior. This level is considered the most important level of the four. Involved in this level are parents, teachers, neighborhood, and schools. This level is considered the most important because the child spends most time interacting with individuals within this layer.

As a young male growing up in a single-parent home, I did not have the luxury of receiving values from two parents, so I had to rest my lorals, on that of my mother. My mother was the person that shaped and molded my early set of values, which gave me something to build upon as an adult. My siblings and I appreciated the hard work, loyalty and honesty our mother displayed in everything she did. The role she played in my life was valuable. But, there were more who played a major in my development.

During the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, neighborhoods were labeled as villages, and the motto was “It takes a village to raise our children. ” Our neighborhood was like family. Each adult was empowered to discipline a child that got out of line or disrespected an individual in an authoritative position. Today, neighborhoods are living in a state of fear, due to the increase of violence of the young people who live in their neighborhoods. Youth are no longer receiving the values we grew up on, and make decisions that impact not only them, but a community.

Gone is the mindset of the “village”. Parents are getting younger, which equals to fewer homes having the moral fortitude to develop youth that display integrity and loyalty. Children are no longer receiving the physical attributes of kindheartedness and dedication, but in fact, children are taking on the characteristics of their younger parents, who display anger and an attitude that everyone owes them something. The microsystem level may evolve over time, because each generation can change the system. Next is the Mesosytems level.

Authors Jennifer Boemmel and Joan Briscoe (2009), states this level has a direct link to Microsystems such as the family experiences to school experiences, family experiences to peer experiences, school experiences to religious experiences. My family experiences of love and togetherness, allowed me to form my attitude towards making friends and learning how to socialize. It also taught me how to remain positive in the midst of turmoil. According to Brofenbrenner, if a child goes without positive family experiences, he or she may experience difficulty in making and sustaining friendships.

The third level of the Ecological Systems Theory is the Exosystem level. Although it does not have a direct effect on the child, the exosystems level is very important in shaping a child’s behavioral pattern. As a Juvenile Probation Officer, this particular level is viewed on a daily basis; where single parents are forced to work double shifts and the children are left in the care of a neighbor or family friend, who does not have the same nurturing attitude as the immediate parent. This creates a stressful atmosphere, forcing the children to turn to people who display that loving and caring attitude.

Normally gangs and kids who frequently commit criminal activities. Asked why they committed a crime or join a gang? The answer is always the same. “They love me” or “I had nothing better to do”. In my line of work, this false sense of being and existence, makes my job difficult and turning the youth around is pretty much impossible. The fourth and final level, is the Macrosystem. This level describes the culture in which the child lives in. Each child within this level shares a common identity, values and heritage.

Growing up with six siblings, we all had different goals, but the end result for each of us was to be successful at whatever we chose to do. The values bestowed upon me, was the same for all of my siblings. We all shared the same sense of accomplishment and competiveness. Desiring to be better than the next sibling. My younger brother and I, shared the same drive when it came to sports. He wanted to be better than me, and I wanted to be better than him. We both had drive, which is a characteristic we saw in our mother.

Although, we did not share all of the same characteristics, we did share the same level of desire. This level also supports the child within the environment and can influence the child’s behavioral development. Although never mentioned with the others, there is a fifth level of the original Ecological Systems Theory. The Chronosystem level involves the total of all the individuals experiences over their lifetime. For instance, when I was younger, my goal was to be a Guardian Angel. Guardian Angels were individuals who protected the black community and warded off any criminal activity.

This group was non-violent, and did not carry weapons. My desire to be a protector, eventually led me to the United States Air Force at the age of twenty-two. For 23 years, I watched over this country with a disciplined eye that allowed me to become the person I am today. Also, my serving presented me the opportunity to pass along values to my daughter. Analyze how the levels influenced your decision to enter graduate school to obtain a Masters Degree. How the Brofenbrenner’s levels might impact the career goals within your area of specialization.

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Ecological System’s Theory: Understanding Urie Brofenbrenner. (2017, Jun 07). Retrieved from

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