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Urie Bronfenbrenner is a renowned developmental psychologist who introduced the ecological systems theory.

Learn about Bronfenbrenner’s exosystem from examples and test your knowledge with a quiz.

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Exosystem Defined

The exosystem contains environmental elements that have a profound influence on a child’s development, even though that child is not directly involved with them. The exosystem is a part of Urie Bronfenbrenner‘s ecological systems theory.

Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Theory

Urie Bronfenbrenner is a developmental psychologist who is responsible for creating the ecological systems theory.

Bronfenbrenner believed that a child’s development is best understood by looking at the many aspects of a child’s environment and how they interact with each other. Due to the role that a child’s biology plays in the development of the child, Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems theory is also known as the bioecological systems theory.There are five environmental systems that influence the way children develop. When a change or conflict occurs in one of the systems, it can produce changes in the other systems as well. The five systems are:

  • Microsystem
  • Mesosystem
  • Exosystem
  • Macrosystem
  • Chronosystem

You can see that there is a child at the center of the diagram. Each circle surrounding the child represents the unique environmental variables that affect the way in which the child develops.

The microsystem is depicted in the green circle. The microsystem is the environmental system that is closest to the child and in which the child’s immediate interactions take place. The child’s neighborhood and family are a part of the microsystem.The tan circle is the mesosystem and consists of the interactions between two microsystems.The blue circle is the exosystem, which includes things like the parent’s work environment.The macrosystem is the purple circle. The macrosystem is the culture that the child resides in and includes the government and customs.

The chronosystem is depicted by the white crescent shape. It contains life transitions and environmental events, including any sociohistorical events. An example of a relevant chronosystem element would be growing up during World War I.

Bronfenbrenner’s Exosystem

The exosystem is the third level of Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems theory. The exosystem contains the settings or events that the child does not actively participate in but that have a profound effect on the child’s development nonetheless. Unlike the mesosystem and microsystem, the exosystem influences the child indirectly as it ‘trickles down’ through other individuals that have an influence on the child’s life.

Exosystems can be temporary, like a parent being laid off from their job, or long-term, like the death of an extended family member.Suppose we were interested in examining the exosystems for a 10-year-old female named Stacy. Stacy’s mother just started a new first-shift job with better benefits and double the pay as her previous third-shift job. This means that Stacy’s mother is now able to pay the bills on time, and Stacy now spends evenings with her mother. Stacy’s mother is able to attend her school conferences and plays, help Stacy with her homework, and pick Stacy up from school since her mother no longer works third shift.

Stacy is doing better on her homework assignments, and her relationship with her mother has improved. Even though Stacy is not involved with her mother’s workplace, her mother’s new job has significant effects on Stacy’s development.Another exosystem for Stacy is her school board. The school board decided to close down Stacy’s school, which resulted in her having to transfer schools and make new friends. This makes Stacy anxious about the upcoming school year.

Although Stacy played no role in the school board’s decision, she is impacted as a result.

Lesson Summary

The mesosystem, microsystem, exosystem, macrosystem and chronosystem are the five environmental levels that influence how a child develops. The exosystem is the third layer of the environmental systems and consists of settings that indirectly influence a child’s development by having a direct effect on someone or something that is close to the child. Exosystems are similar to mesosytems and microsystems in that they can be temporary or long-term.

Learning Outcomes

Now that you are done with this lesson you should be able to:

  • Describe Bronfenbrenner’s ccological systems theory
  • Identify Bronfenbrenner’s five environmental levels
  • Discuss how exosystem events can affect a child’s development

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