Urie Bronfenbrenner’s Bioecological Model
Bronfenbrenner, U., & Morris, P. A. (2006). The bioecological model of human development, in Theoretical models of human development (793-828). New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.
Bronfenbrenner’s bioecological model is a theory of human development that consists of four defining features: Process, person, context, and time. A prominent concept in this model are proximal processes, which are reciprocal relationships between other concepts in the model and serve “…as the primary mechanisms producing human development” (p. 795). This model can be visualized as consisting of various levels, of which center around the individual. These levels are the microsystem (e.g. family, peers), the mesosystem (interactions of the microsystem), the exosystem (e.g. healthcare system, social services), and the macrosystem (cultural norms and beliefs); additionally, the bioecological includes micro-, meso-, and macrotime as important elements of the “time” property of development. Time is considered an important element because it considers historical significance and how development changes over time within and across all dimensions of the model.
The bioecological model has made a profound impact on how I view research and life itself. It seems to promote a landscape that can situate any question under study and has become the foundation for many of my thoughts on how the world operates. When I was first introduced to the model, I found myself in awe of not just the beauty of theory, but also the extent to which the world interacts with itself. Bronfenbrenner’s model (and the others who have contributed to it along the way) was a breath of fresh air in what seemed like a rather stale theoretical debate in my field. Finally, it felt like there was a theory for human development that I could wholeheartedly endorse. As well as promoting a renewed excitement for my studies, I also found the bioecological model shedding light on new directions to take in other research areas I have interest in, such as more clinical research in mental illness.
To see the world as such an intricate combination of relationships is amazing. Even though the bioecological model presents the case for one individual’s existence, I see this theory as an even bigger picture. If I am a planet, then I am its core and what surrounds me are the many parts of the model. The wonderful thing about that is I am only one of many, many planets, and we are all stuck in orbit together. Sometimes we collide to create wondrous events and partnerships, sometimes it is destructive, but either way we are part of the fabric of space-time and we all have an impact on each other. This is what the bioecological model means to me – a complex but stunning co-existence.