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Module 2-Unit 2-Activity 2

Instruction: You see the four concentric systems of Bronfenbrenner’s theory below. After reading the explanation, match the appropriate words to the appropriate system:

The ecological framework

  • The context, according to Bronfenbrenner, constitutes four distinct concentric systems: micro, meso, exo, and macro, each having either direct or indirect influence on a child’s development (for more details on the four systems, refer to the work of Parrila, Ma, Fleming, & Rinaldi (2002)). The salient elements of the four systems are explored here. A fifth system, chrono, was later added to incorporate the dimension of time as it relates to a child’s environment. This may involve internal or external changes, such as the physiological changes or events, such as the loss of a parent. A graphic representation of the key features in Bronfenbrenner’s bioecological model is presented in Figure 1.

Microsystem: The microsystem is the innermost level, the one that is closest to the child that the child is in direct contact with. The microsystem consists of such contexts as family, playmates, day care, school, and neighborhood. wherein the proximal processes occur. This layer has the most immediate and earliest influence on the child. The relationships at this level can be, as Bronfenbrenner called it, bi-directional since the child’s family can influence the behavior of the child and vice versa. For practical purposes, the micro-level variables of early child development, either proximal or distal processes may include, among other familial or childcare environments, nutrition, parenting style, parent’s health, and demographic and socioeconomic status (e.g., marital status, income). Among preschool children (age 0-5 years), parenting is the primary proximal process. In instances where both parents work, their caretaking abilities are compromised, impacting microsystem influences on proximal processes.

Mesosystem: The mesosystem is the second immediate layer and contains the microsystem. It focuses on the connections between two or more systems, essentially different micro systems, such as home, playmate settings, school, etc. For example, what happens in a micro system, such as the home in which a child lives, can influence what happens in the school or a play ground, and what happens in a school or a playground can influence interactions at home. More specifically, a parent’s and a teacher’s involvement in the child’s education, if mutual, will result in mesosystem functioning.

The connection between other larger structures, such as a church or community, can also be expected to have distal processes at work because they help the family to provide the necessary support a child needs. For example, counseling services available to the family in times of need can influence the functioning of the mesosytem.

Exosystem: The exosystem is the third layer. Although the child does not directly encounter the system, it impacts his development. The system contains micro and meso systems, and thereby impacts the wellbeing of all those who come into contact with the child. Further, the policies and decisions that are made at a wider level can also indirectly impact the child. For example, a parent’s workplace schedule (e.g., shift work) can influence the proximal processes that occur and consequently the development of the child. In cases where a parent cannot get time off to attend to a parent-teacher meeting, the parent will have limited interaction with the teachers, thereby influencing a child’s development adversely. A school’s policies on special needs children or children of different racial and ethnic background can all be considered as exosystem influences on the child.

Macrosystem: The outermost context layer is the macrosystem. This societal blueprint influences all lower layers of the ecosystem. Aspects of the macrosystem that influence other lower layers include cultural characteristics, political upheaval, or economic disruption, all of which can solely or collectively shape development. For example, cultures having more liberal divorce laws are more likely to have more single parent families. This, in turn, affects income, hindering the opportunities that are available to the child (e.g., participation in sports). Similarly, parents from different countries, who leave their homeland to start a new life in another country, may encounter problems related to language, geography, employment, etc., contributing to an unstable environment where children can be at a greater risk of development.


The time component of Bronfenbrenner’s model encompasses various aspects, such as chronological age, duration and nature of periodicity. An event has varying degrees of impact on development, and the impact decreases as time progresses. Events, such as a parent’s debilitating illness, divorce, or change of residence can have a more profound impact on young children compared to older ones.

In summary, the systems theory surmises that human development must move beyond examining a child’s biology. The bioecological theory is the first theory to embed the context in which children live by biological predispositions. It is based on the thesis that children do not develop in isolation, but, develop instead in a variety of contexts or environments in which they interact continuously. Development is not only shaped by the immediate environment, but also by the interaction with the larger environment.