Urie Bronfenbrenner is one of the most well-known psychologists alive. Now in his eighties, he has had an extremely long and productive career. Bronfenbrenner is most famous for his views on ecological psychology. Very briefly, he suggests that:
• interactions with others and the environment are key to development,

• we all experience more than one type of environment, including

Each of these systems are characterized by roles, norms (expected behavior) and relationships. For example, an individual usually acts differently within his or her own family than within a classroom. The person may speak more often at home, be less goal-oriented, and, almost certainly, will not sit at a desk for hours on end. Other things being equal , according to Bronfenbrenner, when the relation between different microsystems is a compatible one, development progresses more smoothly. A common example of this is the relationship between home and school. When role expectations are similar in both settings, e.g., try your hardest, do your own work, be on time, etc., children will be expected to perform better than if role expectations differ substantially from one setting to the next.

 The above is just a very brief, simplified introduction to Bronfenbrenner’s theory. In my opinion, it is one of the most interesting theories in psychology and one that includes the largest percentage of truly important concepts (e.g., your relationship with your mother, cultural expectations for women in your society, the national economy, your socioeconomic status and much more). Obviously, it is also a very complex theory that has only been touched upon in this discussion.

A good place to start learning more about ecological psychology is

Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979). The ecology of human development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

 To be truthful, the average student just starting out in psychology will probably have some difficulty grasping all of Bronfenbrenner’s theory reading this book just once. It is not that the language is that difficult, but rather, that he introduces so many concepts in one book. You should, if you are planning on majoring in psychology, try to find time to read it at some point.

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