Ecological Systems Theory

Urie Bronfenbrenner is one of the most outstanding living psychologists for his productive and long scientific career. The scholar is well-known in particular for his observations of ecological psychology. Before the emergence of his theory, psychologists studied human emotions, whereas sociologists focused on interactions and social institutions, but no connection between the two sciences was established. Bronfenbrenner managed to address both social and psychological influences of ecological systems upon the formation of human personality. The present paper applies ecological concepts to my own experience.

In his prominent work “The ecology of human development” Bronfenbrenner writes that each person interacts with several levels of environment: the microsystem (Bronfenbrenner, 1979), or families, classrooms or other reference group, which are the immediate environment the person operates in; the mesosystem – the interaction between two Microsystems such as the connection between home and school; the macrosystem, or huge sociocultural context consisting of social norms, rules, standards and expectations as well as interactions ‘with others’ in general (Addison, 1992; Aguirre, 2003).

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Furthermore, Bronfenbrenner suggests that individuals also deal with exosystems, or the environment whose influence is indirect and does not imply personal involvement for such influence. Bronfenbrenner focuses on interactions between an individual and the abovementioned systems, or on the social context. His perspective recognizes that human-beings do not develop apart from ecological systems; as these systems are dynamic, their participants develop in parallel.

Given that each system has a distinct code of conduct, child development can go smoothly only if these norms are well-matched (Bronfenbrenner, 1979). As for me, my own development naturally fits into Bronfenbrenner’s perspective. Since my childhood, I have been involved into two most powerful systems – educational institutions, family and the nursing home I worked for as an adolescent. Throughout the course of my development, I was temporarily involved into such systems as church, sport facilities and the small student hobby groups.

My family and school as microsystems influenced my development in a following way: the main function of the family ‘performance’ (towards the child) is cultural and social upbringing, teaching the most effective communicational and behavioral patterns that would in future help to be included into society and be perceived and treated appropriately. Given that I lost my parents at the age of eight, I was brought up by my grandparents and other relatives; although I remember my Chinese life as a struggle for survival under straitened circumstances, my relatives did whatever possible for me so that I did not regard myself as a burden.

This lesson of unconditional and unselfish love, family support and responsibility further determined my interest in helping others, more professionally, in nursing. School, in turn, beyond its educational function, also taught different behavioral patterns and developed such qualities as industriousness, self-organization (and discipline), self-control and dependability, since I desperately needed to achieve ideal performance in order to obtain high school scholarship and make ends meet.

As for the nursing home, it was my workplace microsystem for quite a long time and crystallized my aspiration for becoming a professional health care worker, probably because of the superior nurses’ positive power, devotion and inspiration. Therefore, I’m planning to apply for the Nursing Program in the next year. Such exosystems as Chinese social services, health care institutions and regulative authorities substantially affected my formative years. For instance, when my grandparents needed to take some medical tests or stay at the hospital, I normally left alone for several days and thus learned all housekeeping skills very early.

Moreover, at that time I probably realized that my relatives’ assistance was not eternal and it was vital to become economically independent as soon as possible. Dissatisfactory pension provision my grandparents received actually determined our low economic background; moreover, regulative authorities developing social policies allowed me to obtain scholarship and fringe benefits for which I was eligible as an orphan. Fortunately, I have experienced operating in two macrosystems, which are Chinese and American sociocultural contexts.

In this sense, my mentality and worldview were classified as Eastern or East Asian before I became an international student, since I encountered Chinese patterns of interaction, lifestyle, childrearing, gender division in each area I engaged with. Later, however, after undergoing the primary acculturation in the United States, I broadened my convictions; in particular, I changed my approach to “proper” education and began to pay more attention to critical and creative thinking as recommended at the college.

To sum up, my existing academic ambitions and the decision to pursue degree in nursing upon the completion of the two-year college education in 2009 have evolved under the influence of the difficult life school I have passed, as sincere friendliness, support and the value of helping those in need were much more distinguishable under the conditions of continuous effort towards survival. In addition, American culture, whose values I have partially adopted, supports literacy and education for successful career.