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In this lesson, you will learn about the four components that make up Urie Bronfenbrenner’s bioecological model. You will learn the theory behind the model, as well as different applications of the model.

A brief quiz follows the lesson.

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What is the Bioecological Model?

Urie Bronfenbrenner, the developer of the bioecological model, actually first created the Ecological Systems Theory of Development! His Ecological Systems Theory stipulated that people were products of their environment and time. Then, he realized that he was omitting a very important element in human development: the person!So, Bronfenbrenner created a more comprehensive model, the bioecological model. This developmental psychology model holds that human development is influenced by four primary components:1. Processes (interactions with objects or people);2.

Person (personality, physical appearance, inherited IQ, etc.);3. Context (home, school, peer group, community); and4. Time (time during a process, length of a process, or cultural and historical time period).

Process, Person, Context and Time make up the Bioecological Model.

Process, Person, Context and Time make up the Bioecological Model

Let’s look at these components more closely.


Process is a term that can be confusing because it is unclear and ill-defined on its own.

Bronfenbrenner coined the term ‘proximal processes‘, which is the interaction between children and their caregivers. Caregivers can be parents, teachers, counselors, grandparents, or a nanny. It can also mean interactions between children and objects.

Objects can be a video game, educational digital tablet, toys, gymnastics equipment, or a ball. Processes are most effective in development if they are consistent and occur over a large period of time in the child’s life.


The person was exactly what Bronfenbrenner was missing in his first theory, the ecological theory. Bronfenbrenner realized that personal characteristics greatly impacted the way that people (specifically, children) develop, mostly because of the way that they influence social interactions. Physical appearance, gender, and age determine how a person responds to others and how people respond to that person.A recent study of twins in the United Kingdom that analyzed 800 sets of identical and fraternal twins assessed how much one’s personality is genetic versus a product of the environment (upbringing, discipline, education, etc.).

This is the ‘nature vs. nurture’ question that fascinates so many scientists. The results demonstrated that personality is mostly determined by genetics.The focus on the importance of ‘person’ in the bioecological theory also has to do with how well a person responds to stress, their temperament, attention span, and so much more!


Context refers to the environment in which the child grows up. Bronfenbrenner divided the environment into four categories: the microsystem, the mesosystem, the exosystem, and the macrosystem.1.

Microsystem: A child’s immediate environment: family, friends, teachers, neighborhood friends, classmates, etc.2. Mesosystem: Interactions between two microsystems.

For example, the relationship and interactions between a child’s parents and his kindergarten teacher.3. Exosystem: An element of the environment that does not involve the child, but affects them nonetheless.

For example, consider a father who is having difficulty at work with his supervisor. His daughter is not part of the father’s work environment. But he comes home angry every night, and this would have an impact on the daughter.4. Macrosystem: The cultural environment of the child. For example, if a child lives in a predominately low-income neighborhood with a lot of crime and drug use, this will have an impact on the child.


Bronfenbrenner coined the term ‘chronosystem‘ to describe the time element of his bioecological model.

This describes the events or transitions in a child’s life that can impact their development. It also involves sociohistorical events that can happen during the child’s life. For example, if a child was born and raised during the Great Depression of the 1930’s, that child will be impacted by the fact that his family rationed food and sometimes went to bed hungry.


Bronfenbrenner’s bioecological model has helped teachers, parents, and other caregivers understand what affects child development and what needs children have in meeting developmental milestones and reaching their full potential.It has also helped psychologists, social workers, and therapists pinpoint what elements in a child’s environment could be affecting their behavior.

Home-based therapy services have increased due to professionals recognizing how much a child’s home environment affects their performance in school or their behavior around peers.Urie Bronfenbrenner is actually the co-founder of the Head Start program, a United States government preschool program that helps disadvantaged children prepare for school. This is just one example of a policy or program that has been influenced by the bioecological model.

Lesson Summary

Urie Bronfenbrenner’s bioecological model is divided into four main components: processes (interactions with the objects or people), person (personality, physical appearance, inherited IQ, etc.), context (home, school, peer group, community) and time (length of a process or cultural/ historical changes in time).Applications of the model include caregivers creating environments to help children reach their full potential and counselors targeting problems in the environment to solve issues. Social programs such as Head Start have been created due to the belief that environment plays a major role in a child’s development.

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