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Masters in Educational Practice: Special educational needs and inclusion learning pack


Impact of the environment


The impact of the environment: Bronfenbrenner’s bioecological theory

Bronfenbrenner’s bioecological systems theory will now be considered. According to Bronfenbrenner (Boyd and Bee, 2012), the family is the filter through which society influences child development. The family has a significant impact on the child’s development, thus has a significant environmental impact. The family can support the goal of socializing the child, and can also act as a safe haven against harmful elements in the wider society. Bronfenbrenner explains how these influences are related to each other.

Figure 2.4.1 - Bronfenbrenner's Bioecological model
Figure 2.4.1 - Bronfenbrenner's Bioecological model

The child is at the centre. The closest layer/circle is the microsystem. This is made up of those settings where the child has direct personal experience, e.g. family, school.

The next layer/circle is the exosystem. The child may not have direct experience of these systems, e.g. the parents’/carers’ work environment or lack of, but these have a direct influence on the microsystem.

The macrosystem is the larger cultural or sub-cultural setting which would include the neighbourhood, the ethnic identity of the family and the larger economic and political system.

The mesosystem refers to the interaction between the systems.

Activity 2.4.1

In this interactive activity, the aim is to create a bioecological model based on Bronfenbrenner’s theory.

Consider two hypothetical 4-year-old American children, growing up in two different ecological settings. Illustrate these ecologies in Bronfenbrenner’s model, and then try to imagine yourself living within each of these systems. You can get a feeling for the many complex ways in which they differ and how all their pieces interact with each other (from Boyd & Bee 2012). The accompanying document to this activity details the two children to consider, and suggests creating and illustrating a profile for a child of your own creation.

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