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A Critique of Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Theory
Transcript of A Critique of Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Theory
Ecological Systems Theory
by Nicky Taylor
The Urie Legacy
The literature does not provide much in terms of critique of Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems theory as the theory is still fairly recent in terms of development theories, however general consensus exists on the strengths of his theory and the legacy he has created.
Strengths: You are Unique!
The theory highlights importance of individual differences in child development. This has influenced how we view and assist a child who experiences barriers to learning. No longer a "size fits all" approach.
Strengths: From Reductionist to Holistic
The model provides a theoretical and research framework through which the influence of environment as a whole (holistic) can be factored into human development. This has taught a whole generation of scientists to look more broadly and inclusively at forces acting on children.
Strengths: Sharing is Caring!
Urie Bonfenbrenner's EST can be used in conjunction with other theories as a complimentary level of explanation to supplement and support individualist accounts of psychosocial development. What this means in practice is that holistic supportive systems can be developed guided by overarching theory but that show appreciation for a child's unique circumstances.
Strengths: From I to We!
The theory integrates multiple influences on child development and provides a holistic framework from which to understand child development.
There is an acknowledgment of the shared responsibility that we all have regards the development of children and the creation of support systems that nurture optimal development.
The consensus is that although
Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems theory does account for the complexity of development and is universally applicable, it may be difficult to apply in practice. This is primarily due to the following factors:
Weakness: No detailed mechanisms
An extensive scope of ecological and
environmental detail is needed to build up a developmental account of an individual. Breadth of model requires that almost every detail of an individual’s environment could potentially play a role in their development. At what point is all the detail enough? What should be excluded and included? The framework therefore does not provide detailed mechanisms for development.
Weakness: No balance
Difficult to achieve balance and hierarchy with collected information. With so much information collected in regards to all spheres of individual how is information classified in terms of hierarchical importance and influence: for example is the child’s relationships in his microsystem having a stronger influence than those in his mesosystem?
Weakness: Difficult to Implement
The theory postulates that all factors need to be considered in terms of systems thinking, this means that even the smallest factor of influence needs to be understood as part of a multifaceted system of influence. (Developmental Psychology: Jackie Watts, p511). All factors then become mutually and systematically influential, even the smallest factor, which makes Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems theory very difficult to implement in practice.
In closing due to the complexity of the theory (holism) as well as the two-way process nature of development that the theory postulates, it is not possible to apply reductionist principles in order to create an operational framework from which to develop a practically implementable analysis of development.