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Urie Bronfenbrenner (April 29, 1917-September 25, 2005) was a renowned psychologist and a co-founder of the U.S. national Head Start program.

Generally regarded as one of the world's leading scholars in the field of developmental psychology, his primary contribution was his Ecological Systems Theory, in which he delineated four types of nested systems. He calls these the microsystem (such as the family or classroom), the mesosytem (which is two microsystems in interaction), the exosystem (which is a system influencing development, i.e., parental workplace), and the macrosystem (the larger cultural context). Each system contains roles, norms and rules that can powerfully shape development. The major statement of this theory, The ecology of human development (1979) had widespread influence on the way psychologists and others approached the study of human beings and their environments. It has been said that before Bronfenbrenner, child psychologists studied the child, sociologists examined the family, anthropologists the society, economists the economic framework of the times and political scientists the structure. As the result of Bronfenbrenner's groundbreaking work in "human ecology," a field that he created, these environments - from the family to economic and political structures - were viewed as part of the life course from childhood to adulthood. Bronfenbrenner's "bioecological" approach to human development broke down barriers among the social sciences and built bridges among the disciplines that have allowed findings to emerge about which key elements in the larger social structure and across societies are vital for optimum human development.

"At his death, Bronfenbrenner was the Jacob Gould Schurman Professor Emeritus of Human Development and of Psychology at Cornell University, where he spent most of his professional career."


  • Bronfenbrenner, U. (1973). Influencing Human Development.Holt, R & W.ISBN 0030891760
  • Bronfenbrenner, U. (1972). Two Worlds of Childhood. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0671212389
  • Bronfenbrenner, U. (1975). Two Worlds of Childhood - US and USSR. Penguin. ISBN 0140811044
  • Bronfenbrenner, U. (1975). Influences on Human Development. Holt, R & W.ISBN 0030894131
  • Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979).
  • Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979). The ecology of human development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-22457-4
  • Bronfenbrenner, U. (1981). The Ecology of Human Development: Experiments by Nature and Design. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0674224574.
  • Bronfenbrenner, U. (1981). On Making Human Beings Human. Sage Publications Ltd.ISBN 0761927123
  • Myers, R & Bronfenbrenner, U. (1992).The Twelve Who Survive: Strengthening Programmes of Early Childhood Development in the Third World.Routledge. ISBN 0415073073

Ecological Systems Theory

Main article: Ecological Systems Theory

Urie Bronfenbrenner is generally regarded as one of the world's leading scholars to focus on the interplay between research and policy on child development. Bronfenbrenner suggests child development research is better informed when institutional policies encourage studies within natural settings and theory finds greater practical application when contextually relevant.[1] This perspective is well defined by Bronfenbrenner, who states, "...basic science needs public policy even more than public policy needs basic science" (Bronfenbrenner, 1979, p. 8, italics in original).[2] It is from this vantage point that Bronfenbrenner conceives his primary contribution, Ecological Systems Theory, in which he delineates four types of nested systems. He calls these:

  • the microsystem (such as the family or classroom);
  • the mesosystem (which is two microsystems in interaction);
  • the exosystem (external environments which indirectly influence development, e.g., parental workplace);
  • and the macrosystem (the larger socio-cultural context).

He later adds a fifth system, called the Chronosystem (the evolution of the four other systems over time).

Bioecological model

Main article: Bioecological model

The bioecological model is a theoretical model of gene–environment interactions in human development. This model, first proposed by Urie Bronfenbrenner and Stephen J. Ceci, in 1994, is an extension of Bronfenbrenner's original theoretical model of human development, called ecological systems theory. Bronfenbrenner developed the bioecological model after recognizing that the individual was overlooked in other theories of human development, which were largely focused on the context of development (e.g., the environment).

See Also

External links

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  1. Bronfenbrenner, U. (1974). Developmental research, public policy, and the ecology of childhood (1974). Child Development, 45, 1-5.
  2. Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979). The ecology of human development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.