The human development refers to the process of becoming mature physically, psychologically, and socially. The development in a child occurs in relation to the interaction that the child has with the immediate environmental factors. The biological, social, or psychological context in which a child grows is referred to as human ecology (Berns, 2009, p.5).
The setting under which a child is brought up will greatly affect his development. The family and the home setting of a given child becomes the most fundamental factor that influences much of the development. Much of the child’s time during the early stages of development is spent with the family members. As the child grows and relates with other individuals outside their nuclear family, the kind of interaction so developed will also affect his development.
The extended family is the next immediate factor that will influence the development of the child. The child grows up and attends childcare and educational centers. He will be visiting healthcare centers and different other learning facilities in the neighborhood. He then meets children from within the community in different sites like a community playground. The child now interacts with a wider group of individuals from the society.
Other factors may not be in the immediate surrounding of the child but will influence his development. Various legal provisions and the condition of the parents’ workplace may have influence on a child’s development. Such external factors have often been neglected by various researchers and scholars. However, they influence the meaning that an individual makes out of the immediate settings and influence his behavior and development (Bronfenbrenner, 1979, p.18).
The human development does not occur in isolation. The interaction between the various environmental factors like the family of an individual, their home, the school he attends, the community, and the society have significant impacts on the human development in children.
The systems of Bioecological Model of Human Development
The Bioecological model of human development consists of four basic systems that define different levels of settings affecting the development of a child. These are Microsystems, Mesosystems, Exosystem, and Macrosystem. Different interactions and relationships occur between these structures and affect the development of a child (Berns, 2009, p.18).
Microsystem is the fundamental structure of the Bioecological model of the human development. It encompasses the relationships and activities that are carried out in an individual’s immediate setting like the family, school, the community as well as the peer group (Berns, 2009, p.19).
The family is the first setting that a child encounters in a normal societal setup and is a major component of the Microsystem for a developing child (Lerner, 2002, p.41). The parents are supposed to take care of the child and provide the required parental love to ensure proper emotional development.
The family background (parents’ education, family size, the availability of the learning materials and other facilities at home) will affect the child’s transition into the next setting and his activities and behavior in the settings. Researches have shown that the home background of a child will greatly determine the performance of the child at school.
This was observed to be more influential, in several cases, than all the aspects related to the learning institution (Bronfenbrenner, 2005, p.203). The failure of a family to carry out its responsibility in nurturing a child will disadvantage the child at later ages and allow for other factors that impede development. The family background will determine how the other aspects of the Microsystems affect the child.
The aspects related to the school attended by a child have also been observed to have impacts on the performance of the child and the general development of the child. However, the factors that many individuals would consider more influential have been found to be less significant. The students’ population in a class, the number of learning materials available in the school, and the ability of the students to work in groups has been found to be less significant to the student’s performance (Bronfenbrenner, 2005, p.204).
The teachers’ competence in handling specific subject areas was observed to contribute significantly to the child’s performance. Such a teacher will be a role model to the children. The most influential aspect of the learning institution was found to be the characteristic behaviors of the other children in the learning institution. The family background of the other children would influence the performance of a child from a lower-class family.
A child from a middle or high-class family would, however, not be influenced negatively by the children from the poor families (Bronfenbrenner, 2005, p.204). In this context, it is evident that the peer group influence that a child may experience can have positive or negative impacts on the development of the child depending on the environment for interaction created by the individual’s seniors in the immediate setting.
Community in which a child is brought up is another immediate setting that influences the behavior of the child, his perception of life, and the general development. The activities that are carried out in the immediate neighborhood, the communal facilities that the child can access, and the cultural composition of the community affect the child’s ability to socialize (Berns, 2009, p.20).
A child will interact with the others in the community playground. A child who visits a word workshop may identify his interest and ability in carpentry that can be of economic significance to his life. The activities in the community that brings the children together help model the children into full human.
The joint participation of two or more individuals in a given activity will affect the relationship that is developed among the individuals. Those who work jointly in some activity will develop empathetic and enduring feelings for one another. The individuals tend to consider the problems of every other member as a common problem.
Media was not considered among the Microsystems that influence human development due to the non-interactive nature of the earlier forms. The modern media technology is interactive and influences a child’s development depending on the relative exposure to, and the contents of, the materials in the media.
Mesosystems refer to the interactions and relationships that occur between the different aspects of the Microsystems of a developing individual (Bomstein & Lamb, 2005, p.24; Voydanoff, 2000, p.666). The interactions that are witnessed between the different aspects in an individual’s immediate setting are influential on the development of the individuals.
The parental guidance and counseling interacts with the peer group influence and collectively affects the child’s development. Lack of proper parental guidance will enable the child to be influenced by the peers into some irresponsible behavior in the society. On the other hand, a proper parental guidance enables a child to benefit from the positive impacts of peer influences. The family can interact with the community and workplace of a parent to form a Mesosystem for a developing child (Voydanoff, 2000, p.666).
In a similar context, the interaction of a child’s temperament and that of the caregiver will affect the child’s ability to socialize. The response that the caregiver gives to the child’s reactions at the early age will shape the child’s social behavior. It should be noted that the elements of the Mesosystems would influence the development of the child depending on the quantity and quality of the relationships that occur (Berns, 2009, p.20).
Exosystem refers to the settings that do not contain the developing child but do influence the child’s development in some way (Lerner, 2002, p.41; Bomstein & Lamb, 2005, p.24).
The child does not interact directly with such environments but they affect the primary settings of the child. The larger community, educational system, mass media, the workplace of the parents can be categorized here. The government regulations may determine the systems in the institutions that train early childcare providers and eventually affect the child (Marshall, 2004, p.165).
A parent that has workplace stress and depression will not provide the appropriate parental care to his/her child (Lerner, 2002, p.238). Such a child is forced to learn the hard way and will be emotionally retarded. The mass media or social centers in the society may affect the moral behaviors of the parents or older siblings of a child. This will then affect the child’s immediate setting and influence his development.
The society has great role in helping the parents to model their children into respectable human beings. However, it has been observed in many societies that different individuals are considered independent and self-reliant. The society thus neglects its role to support the parents in rearing their children. The effects of this negligence are seen in ‘crimes, school failure, neglected children, fractured marriages and relationships, and other trends that weaken the values we hold’ (Bronfenbrenner, 2005, p.199).
Macro system is an ecological system that contains the developing individual in a larger context. It considers the different social aspects in a larger context and over a long period. It has elements that will affect the other ecological systems like the Microsystem and subsequently the Mesosystems and Exosystem (Lerner, 2002, p.41).
Factors like the economic level of a given society, the social conditions, the cultural values, and beliefs, the historical events that have occurred in the society and the political regulations that are imposed in a given society are contained here (Saraswati, 2003, p.143).
The level of the national economy will affect the standard of living by the families and eventually affects the developing child. Natural calamities that had occurred or that may occur in the society can destroy facilities and products of social and economic significance in the society (Lerner, 2002, p.41). The cultural values, beliefs, and customs may affect the parents’ attitude towards education or health care facilities.
They also affect the expectation of different individuals on the roles of other individuals in the society. As a key component of the Macrosystem, the role that an individual play in the society will also influence human development. The requirements and people’s expectations of the individual roles enable the roles to influence ‘how a person behaves in a given situation, the activities she engages in, and the relations that become established between that person and others present in the setting’ (Bronfenbrenner, 1979, p.86).
The difference between the systems
The above ecological factors differ in the context of the interaction with developing child. This difference translates into a sequential relationship whereby one ecological system may develop into the other. For example, the interaction between different immediate ecological systems (Microsystems) results into an intermediate system- the Mesosystem.
Examples of the relationships and interactions for the systems
Interactions between different members of the Microsystem will affect the development of the child. For instance, the parents’ relationship with the care providers determines how they (care providers) handle the children. A child will try to practice at home what he was learnt from the teacher and others at school. Similarly, the parents’ closeness to teachers affects the students’ performance, as the two parties will have a clear focus on the child’s performance.
On the other hand, the interactions between aspects of different ecological systems also influence the development of the child. The culture of a community can interact with mass media and the peer group influence to affect negatively the behavior of a child. The effects of the elements of Exosystem reflect the interaction of different elements from variety of ecological systems.
The impacts that the relationships have on the child’s development
The development in a child will be evident if the changes that have been acquired by a child regarding his perception of life and the activities he performs can be carried forward to the other settings and at different times (Bronfenbrenner, 1979, p.35).
A good relationship and interaction between the different settings will help the child reflect and adopt the changes in these settings. A good relationship between the parents of a child and the teachers at the learning institutions will enable the child to make a good transition between the family setting and that at the educational or childcare centers.
The child needs to be the center of focus for the adults involved – the parents and the care providers. The parents’ expectations of the child should be in line with the expectations of the educators. It has been observed that there is a relationship between a teacher’s experience with the older siblings of a student and the performance of the student. If the earlier siblings were high achievers in class, the teacher tends to have high expectations in the child’s performance (Berns, 2009, p.20).
Consequently, the child happens to perform highly as per the teacher’s expectation. Similarly, the different levels of learning should also meet the expectation of the child. A significant difference in the expectations of the child at the preschool level and at the kindergarten level will negatively affect the child’s social and psychological development.
It is therefore evident that the family is the most fundamental unit that influences the social, psychological, and biological development of a child. The experience of the child in all the different ecological settings will affect his social, psychological, and even biological development.
The child’s behavior and character will reflect the behavior that he observed from the parents, older brothers and sisters, the teachers and early childcare providers, the healthcare providers, fellow children in the community, and the older members of the society. The parental care that is given to the child has a positive effect on his development.
The parent has to provide for not only the physical needs like food, shelter, and clothing, but for the psychological and social needs like guidance and counseling as well. Besides, the interactions that do occur between the individual factors will also contribute to the kind of development witnessed in the child. The relationship that the parents of the child have with the staff at healthcare centers and at the learning institutions and their common expectation of the child will determine the development course in the child.
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Bronfenbrenner, U. (2005). Making human beings human: Bioecological perspectives on human development. NY: SAGE
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Marshall, N. (2004). The Quality of Early Child Care and Children’s Development. American Psychological Society, 13(4), 165-168. Retrieved from http://www.psychologicalscience.org/pdf/cdps/childcare.pdf
Saraswati, T.S. (2003). Cross-cultural perspectives in human development: theory, research, and applications. New Delhi: SAGE.
Voydanoff, P. (2000). Social Integration, Work-Family Conflict and Facilitation, and Job and Marital Quality. Journal of Marriage and Family, Vol. 67, 666-679. Retrieved from http://www.midus.wisc.edu/findings/pdfs/259.pdf.