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Urie Bronfenbrenner and Child Development

Angela Oswalt, MSW Updated: Apr 12th 2016

One final developmental theory needs to be addressed, even though it's not a stage theory. Urie Bronfenbrenner (1917-2005) developed the ecological systems theory to explain how everything in a child and the child's environment affects how a child grows and develops. He labeled different aspects or levels of the environment that influence children's development, including the microsystem, the mesosystem, the exosystem, and the macrosystem. The microsystem is the small, immediate environment the child lives in. Children's microsystems will include any immediate relationships or organizations they interacts with, such as their immediate family or caregivers and their school or daycare. How these groups or organizations interact with the child will have an effect on how the child grows; the more encouraging and nurturing these relationships and places are, the better the child will be able to grow. Furthermore, how a child acts or reacts to these people in the microsystem will affect how they treat her in return. Each child's special genetic and biologically influenced personality traits, what is known as temperament, end up affecting how others treat them. This idea will be discussed further in a later document about child temperament.

family huggingBronfenbrenner's next level, the mesosystem, describes how the different parts of a child's microsystem work together for the sake of the child. For example, if a child's caregivers take an active role in a child's school, such as going to parent-teacher conferences and watching their child's soccer games, this will help ensure the child's overall growth. In contrast, if the child's two sets of caretakers, mom with step-dad and dad with step-mom, disagree how to best raise the child and give the child conflicting lessons when they see him, this will hinder the child's growth in different channels.

The exosystem level includes the other people and places that the child herself may not interact with often herself but that still have a large effect on her, such as parents' workplaces, extended family members, the neighborhood, etc. For example, if a child's parent gets laid off from work, that may have negative affects on the child if her parents are unable to pay rent or to buy groceries; however, if her parent receives a promotion and a raise at work, this may have a positive affect on the child because her parents will be better able to give her her physical needs.

Bronfenbrenner's final level is the macrosystem, which is the largest and most remote set of people and things to a child but which still has a great influence over the child. The macrosystem includes things such as the relative freedoms permitted by the national government, cultural values, the economy, wars, etc. These things can also affect a child either positively or negatively.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

Great article for further readings... - Jenine - Jun 29th 2014

This article made me understand Bronfenbrenner's theory more.

any similar theories? - you knwo - Sep 23rd 2013

great article but is there a similar theory out there?


Thank you - Amanda - Jul 19th 2012

thank you so much! You wrote an awesome article! :) Very helpful!

thanks - lungy - Oct 18th 2011

this has realy helped me with my assignments thanks alot

good read need citation - Jacinta - May 15th 2011

This article is really good and clear. I WISH it had better referencing so it was easier to use in my report. Its dificult to find out who actually wrote it and when ect.
If anyone knows please post!

admiring - heart of a butterfly - Feb 6th 2011

hi' ahm; its very wholesome,documEnt i Ever rEad.tAnk you for the complete inFoRMation,so now i can able to deliver my report perfectly......and clearly.........................keep up the good work...

fantastic piec of writing it encourages - Daniel - Feb 1st 2011

the document has made me learn what i didnt know about child's growth

thank you - kenyahta threatt - Nov 16th 2010

wow i never new there would be so much info about one dude and it was so informational!!!! i love love love love loved it so much....well gotta go chow!!

Brofenbrenner-made easy - Dorah - Oct 25th 2010

This has really helped me in my studies, thanxxx.  Im going to site my examples with ease during exam.

very knowledgeable - kuldeep kaur - Oct 14th 2010

i read through above chapter which is really increased my knowledge.  thanks

thanks - - Sep 27th 2010

This info just helped a bunch

this is great (: - - Aug 26th 2010

im totally getting an A+ in my Living with Children.



:) - - Jul 21st 2010

wow thats was so amazing to read just fantastic :)

thankyou - - Apr 5th 2010

Just want to take this opportunity to say thankyou so very much...your view on Bronfenbrenner really help me with my assesment. It really explained what I needed to know.

Once again thanyou - GodBlezz...

womderful !! - Mr.Capps - Jan 30th 2010

a well put together piece and the comments in the thread are a must read for the enlightened.... 

Chronosystem - Ryan - Nov 23rd 2009

Yes, the Chronosystem is missing. However, it was not part of Bronfenbrenner's original model. Just for clarity, it involves sociohistoric events, life transitions, and environmental changes. Examples would be how the US operates differently after the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks and how beliefs towards certain ethnicities and religious groups have changed. You can also think about marital divorce as a transition and how it affects all of the individuals involved.

I hope this helps!

Feel free to email with questions.

FINALLY...! - garden girl - Nov 2nd 2009

I've been making myself crazy trying make the theories of Piaget & Erickson fit my approach to working with children.  Trouble is, I believed it all in my early psych classes 30 years ago & now?  It just doesn't work for me, it doesn't fit.  Bronfenbrenner's Ecological (Bio-ecological) model does, it is all making sense & my paper is as good as written!  Thank you for the clear & concise information.

Nice, concise and to the point but... - Uzma - Oct 6th 2009

Well according to Bronfenbrenner's Ecological Theory there are these 5 what happened about the "chronosystem" did that get lost with time???????  :)

Well I must say it was clearly explained and the language wassimple.

wow... - (: child development learner. - Oct 2nd 2009

i'm really glad for this article, it really helped me to understand what i was learning. too bad i cant use it cuz the article is too old. i wish the people would renew it. (:

:) - - Sep 14th 2009

This is well put and matches all the correct infomation. I am very pleased with this article! :)

TY! - Jeanne - Sep 1st 2009

This was really great. It toally summed up what was inportant about his theory. It helped me prepare for my assesment.


I was starting to get drowsy with all the other info available, thank god i found this one. this is a big help for my upcoming quiz in my education course..... thanks ! :)

Thanx - Fish - Aug 20th 2009

Nice work, thanks for the help in this area, It explained it well

thank you - Shinaye - Aug 6th 2009

hey thanks for the information, great way of explaining things but i think you missed the final stage of "chronosystem"

well done - jess - Aug 5th 2009

well done

Bronfenbrenner - sarwat - Aug 5th 2009

Informative, useful and straightforward .helped with my assessment. Thanks

Great - ms hepi - Aug 1st 2009

most definitly found this easy to use short and sweet just the way i like it!!!

B Ed(hons)Educational Mangement student - celeste wannenburgh - Jul 20th 2009

As part of our powerpoint presentation at CPUT we humbly asked if we could change from a given theorist to our newfound man, Urie Bronfenbrenner.Wow, what an indepth and relevant study of man.We've read, questioned agreed with, and, can talk non-end about Bronfenbrenner and our newfound observations in our respective schools.Our sincere thanks to this man for making it possible for us as a group to be able to share with our collegues and lecture our twenty minute powerpoint presentation of such worth.


GOOD DOCUMENT - Stanley Mwailah - May 23rd 2009

Congratulation for a good document, I read it and is very helpful to my work of working with children at risk.

awesome - cappacino - May 21st 2009



ths is tha business lol - k.angel - May 13th 2009

awsum info...brief an simple, jus tha way i like it :)

need more - big boi101 - Apr 27th 2009

nice but i need more info about his other theorys and where he grew up childhood and all that great stuff but great info helped me write my papper :)

Chroosystem - johanna - Apr 8th 2009

Hi, i have been doing study on Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems theory i noticed when i was looking at another web site with a PDF it says there is another theory and it is Chronosystem is the elements within the previous relations which are noted above. This system focus on the internal and external factors of children. Internal factors are the physiological changes due to the aging of the child. The external factors maybe the death of a parent or someone close to them. Due to these changes children may become more determined on how change will happen to them.

Johanna Mcauliffe

dammmm - sara - Mar 31st 2009

heyy thanx for da infoo love dat i passed ma assessment for this alot of info was given...thnx again

write bak plzzzz publicity....thnxxxx

thankyou. - Jessica. - Mar 28th 2009

Thankyou so much for your short piece, it was very understanding, clear and precise, helping me very much on my studies...

Yours sincerely.

Urie Bronfenbrenner - Sam - Mar 22nd 2009

Thank you very much for the short piece that you have written regarding the theory of Bronfenbrenner.  I found it easy to understand, which is exactly what I needed to be able to interpret it for the essay that I am writing.

Short & to the point - ljhaynes - Feb 28th 2009

The information is concise, but accurate.  The best way to explain.

klein forest - amanda lala!! - Feb 5th 2009


thank you for this!!! - criszle - Jan 20th 2009

i am just a first year college student and we need an information about ecological theory and piaget theory!

this article is really a big help to me and i also used this in my reporting because my topic is bio-cultural theory!!my professor don't even asked me.

aye - - Jan 15th 2009

okay i need to know where he lived and abuot him and stuff

very helpful - christal - Jan 6th 2009

this infomation was very helpful thank you

grrrrrreat!! - jack hoff - Nov 17th 2008

really well done!

wikipedia - Defne - Nov 16th 2008

You can search on wikipedia about him..

Nice, But... - Cassy - Nov 12th 2008

...I need info about where he grew up and his childhood and such. Have any ideas on what sites to go to? D:

thanks - pauline - Oct 29th 2008

easy reading helped me understand better

Multisystemic Treatment - Jennifer - Oct 22nd 2008

I find Bronfenbrenner's Bioecological Systems Theory works VERY well with Multisystemic Treatment.  Check out Henggeler and the Rochester Youth Development Study.  All very complementary.

Formulating using Bronfenbrenner - SP - Oct 19th 2008

Hi, nice article. Anybody have/know of any good academic articles that explain doing a psychtherapuetic formulation using Bronfenbrenner's theory? I find it useful conceptualizing my cases using the different levels, but will like to read something that explains it a bit more systematically. I'm only in my first year of practice!

Thanks !

Very Helpful - Christina - Sep 15th 2008

This article was very informational on Bronfenbrenners theory. Thank you for this article. I am doing a presentation on him for my Child Education class and I was in need of information. This article was easy to read and to the point. Thanks.

Quick Reading! - - Sep 11th 2008
I found this little reading fantastic, I'm a busy university student and found this article to be to the point and found that the details were correct with other information i've been looking at!! -fantastic people!!

such a cutie - lovermuffin - Sep 10th 2008

i had to do a report on him and i thought that it was going to be hard, boring, and dull, but this helped alot. it was short sweet and to the point. thanks a bunch (:

good thing that this guy is such a cutie though. may he rip.

applying this theory as care giver - ah - Sep 5th 2008

This is very interesting theory. i want some information, how to use this theory to work as caregiver.

Editor's Note: Our articles on Child Development and Parenting of Infants and of Young Children are based on developmental principles, including those articulated by Dr. Bronfenbrenner

helpful - AJ - Jul 9th 2008

 I agree with the other comments about the article being easy to read and understand. I wanted to use it as a reference but was unable to find the name of the person who wrote the article could that be added some place.

Editor's Note: The author's name is Angela Oswalt, MSW

role model - - May 18th 2008
why do children role model their enviroment?

bronfrenner - raz - May 16th 2008

the informations pritty useful, not confusing or too complex its easy to understand!!

good job! - remy - Nov 5th 2006
awesome information, all is good, the only confusing thin is that when i was citing this information i had difficulty finding who specifically wrote this about Bronfenbrenner's theory. it would be more helpful if you included it. thank you keep the good work up :)

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