The ecological theory of development as postulated by Urie Bronfenbrenner holds that several environmental systems are involved in the development of an individual. In this regard, five environmental systems are recognized:
Microsystem: this setting includes an individual’s family, neighborhood, school, and peers. In a microsystem context, the individual plays an active role in constructing the settings, as opposed to remaining a passive recipient of experiences (Santrock, 2007).
Mesosystem: under this system, the various relations interact freely. These relations and experiences include the school, church, peers, and the family. For instance, children who have been rejected by parents may have a hard time relating positively with their teachers (Abrams, Theberge & Karan, 2005).
Exosystem: under this system, an individual’s social setting interacts with his/her immediate contacts; however, the individual does not participate actively in such interactions. For instance, the promotion of a mother at her workplace would mean that she now has to travel more. This could elicit conflict with the husband, thereby altering the interaction pattern with her child.
Macrosystem: the system takes into account an individual’s socio-economic status, level of poverty, and ethnicity. Other issues involved include the level of development of a country.
Chronosystem: here, we have the transitions that an individual makes during his/her lifetime. The way environmental events have been patterned is also addressed (Santrock, 2007). For instance, divorce is a transition event in one’s life course. With respect to socio-historical circumstances, consider how an increasingly larger number of women have risen up the corporate ladder in the last thirty years (Santrock, 2007).
The five different systems of the Bronfenbrenner’s analysis are characterized by certain rules, and norms and these are responsible for shaping the psychological development of an individual. For instance, the challenges faced by an affluent family are different from those faced by an inner-city family. A person living in the inner-city could be exposed to an environment characterized by crime and teratogens. In contrast, the sheltered affluent family could be deficient from the nurturing support provided by the extended family (Vander et al, 2007).
Bronfenbrenner’s levels of influence can play a positive or negative role in shaping an individual’s development. Some of the life-changing events take place during early to late adulthood. They include graduation from college, moving away from home, getting involved in significant intimate relationships and undertaking new occupational and educational endeavors. Since Bronfenbrenner’s levels of influence takes into account factors inherent in an individual’s family, school, and community settings, it thus plays a pivotal role in enabling us to better comprehend the various factors that may for example impact on a person’s depressed behavior. The manner in which a child interacts with his/her microsystem depends on how the microsystem interacts with the mesosystem (that is, adults in the community, and friends in the neighborhood). Attachment styles impacts on a person’s experience with relationships, as well as how he/she expresses, experience, or deal with distressing emotions. An insecure attachment style (one characterized by anxiety and avoidance) are associated with negative mental health outcomes (Liem, Kara Lustig & Dillon, 2010). In my case, my transition from childhood to adulthood was disruptive, and this could have been a predisposing factor to my depressive state.
I grew up in Indiana in a dysfunctional family where I had to face many challenges. My father has been an alcoholic for over fifty years and is a source for constant fighting between my parents. My mother learned from her parents that her place was at home where she was to devote herself to the family. She was also physically violent and would often get involved in fights with my father. In addition, she would sleep days on ends, and even take an overdose of medication. Out of frustration and pain, she would also cut her wrist. I was also sexually abused by my uncle and this was a source of shame and disgust. In addition, I also came to learn of the affairs of both my father and mother. According to Abrams and colleagues, (2005), the quality and type of the microsystem-mesosystem interaction can either stimulate and/or mitigate emotional/behavioral signs of depression. In my case, the interaction has impacted negatively given the limited contact between my family and I, save for my twin sister whom I am very close to. Our dysfunctional family is further demonstrated by the fact that my brother turned into stealing and hard drugs, while my elder sister has taken to marijuana, alcohol and pills.
The macrosystem has also had a dramatic impact on my life. Due to the lack of guidance from our parents and because we had no explicit norms and rules, we found solace in alcohol and drugs. In a bid to run away from the addictive behaviors of my parents, along with those of my elder siblings, I resorted to abusing food laxatives and lesbianism as a way of dealing with the pain. Coming from an alcoholic father, an abusive mother and uncle, this has shaped my life in a negative way. I now have to fight with the issue of love addiction, depression, suicidal thought and attempt, low self-esteem, trust issues, abandonment issues, and lack of internal peace.
The toxic environment of the Bronfenbrenner’s levels of influence that I have been exposed to since childhood has impacted on my adulthood as well. As opposed to being confident and under self-control, I have instead relinquished power and been relegated to the position of a people pleaser. The abuse and trauma that I have been exposed to has taught me that although I may not have had control over my past environment, nonetheless, as an adult, I have can choose an environment that impacts positively on my life.
The need to choose an environment that impacts my life positively has informed my decision to enroll for a master’s degree. When I first began to nurture the idea of furthering my education, the issue of addiction counseling was so strong. This was perhaps because I was already trying my best to overcome my addiction to food laxatives and being gay. By majoring in psychology, this would help to fulfill my passion for understanding the underlying issues of addiction, along with the available treatment and prevention mechanisms. Understanding addiction from a counseling point of view would also helps me overcome this habit, depression, suicidal thoughts and attempt, low-self-esteem, and the issue of trust. By understanding the underlying issues of addiction, I would also be better placed to come into terms with the various forms of addictions in my family. In addition, this would also help me to analyze them on a case-by-case basis, as opposed to generalizing them. Consequently, I would be better placed to forge a stronger bond and understanding with my family.
Abrams, K., Theberge, S. K., & Karan, O. C. (2005). Children and Adolescents Who Are Depressed: An Ecological Approach. Professional School Counseling, 8(3), 284-292. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.
Liem, J. H., Kara Lustig, E., & Dillon, C. E. (2010). Depressive Symptoms and Life Satisfaction Among Emerging Adults: A Comparison of High School Dropouts and Graduates. J Adult Dev, 17, pp. 33–43.
Santrock, J. W. (2007). A Topical Approach to Life-Span Development. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Vander Zanden, J. W., Crandell, T. L., Crandell, C. H. (2007). Human Development. 8th edition (ed.). New York: McGraw Hill.