Bio-ecological Theory of HumanDevelopmentDarrin Coe, Ph.D.
A New Paradigm for DevelopmentalScience Urie Bronfenbrenner Person-Process-Context Dynamic FeedbackLoop Concentric Circles ofEcological-ContextualDevelopment Longitudinal Ecologically Valid
At the Center The individual is thecentral focus Understanding theprocess of developmentis the goal Context provides thevariables of interest
The Individual Actively engages withexternal ecology Ecology provides activefeedback and isinfluenced by theindividual The individual isinfluenced and moldedby feedbackTime is a primarycomponent of thisdynamic feedbackloop
The Process How does the contextual dynamic feedbackloop mold human development? What are the mechanisms of the dynamicfeedback loop? How do ecological forces exertdevelopmental pressure on the individual?
The Process (Cont.) Ecological Human Development assumesthe individual acts as a causal agent. The entirety of the individual’s ecology alsoacts as a causal agent. “How?” is the question. “How much?” is also a good question
The Context Ever expanding circles of ecologicalpressures Each level of developmental pressure istriggered based on active interaction from anindividual Ecological levels create uniquedevelopmental contexts Life transitions trigger new pressures andcontexts
Context cont. Microsystem: those people and environments theindividual directly engages with – proximal forces Mesosystem: systems exerting influence on oneanother, which then exert influence on themicrosystem. Exosystem: made up of contexts which the individualhas only indirect interaction with – distal forces. Macrosystm: made up of the over-riding socialculture, public policy, norms, and mores.
Time Marches On The Chronosystem over-rides the wholeecological system encompassing historicalevents, socio-cultural changes, eras, andgenerational forces.
Primary Propositions Developed fromthe Theory 1) “Throughout the life course, human development takesplace through processes of progressively more complexreciprocal interaction between an active, evolvingbiopsychological human organism and the persons, objects,and symbols in its immediate external environment. To beeffective, the interaction must occur on a fairly regular basisover extended periods of time. Such enduring forms ofinteraction in the immediate environment are referred to asproximal processes.” (Bronfenbrenner & Morris, 1998, p. 996)
Next 2) “A developmental outcome at a later point in timeis a joint function of a process; characteristics of thedeveloping person; the nature of the immediateenvironmental context in which the person lives; andof the length and frequency of the time intervalduring which the developing person has beenexposed to the environmental setting underconsideration.” (Bronfenbrenner & Evans, 2000, p.119)
And the Outcome is? Ecological processes or forces are usuallymanifested through interactive dyads ortriads that involve the individual and one ortwo other forces, e.g. child, mother, father.These forces result in competence ordysfunction
Different from Stage Theories Unlike stage theories which base development onspecific developmental markers, e.g. pre-operationalthinking or walking Development is gauged through competence, i.e. theongoing acquisition of knowledge, skills, or abilitiesresulting in enhanced self-directed behavior acrosssituations and developmental domains.
But what about . . . Individuals can also manifest developmentaldysfunction, i.e. the recurrent manifestationof difficulties in acquiring and maintainingever more complex control and integration ofbehavior across situations anddevelopmental domains. Compare to what would be considered a“delay” in the stage theories of development.
But How? People achieve ever increasing complexcompetence or dysfunction through:– Level of exposure to ecological forces Duration Frequency Interruption Timing Intensity
Research anyone? It is the components of exposure that can bemeasured and analyzed. Components of exposure provide a developmentalunderstanding of the process of development. In the future this will also include epigeneticcomponents of gene expression.
Examples of Research How does the staff morale at an agency thatprovides services to children with special needsaffect cognitive development in the first three yearsof life: The moderating affect of parentalrelationships. How much does violence in prison affect theadolescent development of anxiety among a sampleof children with incarcerated parents: the mediatingeffect of religious groups.
A Final Example How does the expanding network of firstorder and second order relationship of atoddler affect cognitive and languagedevelopment: An examination of transitionsusing social network analysis.
References Bronfenbrenner, U. & Evans, G. (2000).Developmental science in the 21stcentury: Emergingquestions, theoretical models, research designs andempirical findings. Social Development, 9(1), 115-125. Bronfenbrenner, U. & Morris, P. A. (1998). Theecology of developmental processes. In Lerner, R.M. (Ed.), Handbook of Child Psychology (5thEd. Vol.1): (series editor: W. Damon). Pp. 993-1028. NewYork: Wiley.