The old African proverb ‘it takes a whole village to raise a child’ (Mohamed, 1996, p. 57) rings significantly through Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Theory (Bronfenbrenner and Evans 2000); a theory which focuses on gaining insight into human development through identifying the circumstances and considering the environmental influences of which a child is raised not just the genetic components.
This essay will endeavour to encompass my understanding of Bronfenbrenner’s theory by incorporating the effect of the theory in child development and the significance of the nested systems with the purpose of illustrating the importance for the development of secondary emotion and the development of the expression of emotion from infancy through to adolescence.
Bronfenbrenner’s approach was to study children in their natural environments to explore how a child experiences and interprets their world within a complex system of relationships (Berk, 2009, p. 26). His theory regards the environment of a child; taking into account the practices within that environment and how they might influence development and of the child’s individual connections to show the way in which external forces and the child interrelate to influence their development (Paquette and Ryan, n.d.). It is important to recognise how the interaction of the systems with bidirectional (adults affect children’s behaviour but children’s behaviour can also affect adults’ behaviour [Berk, 2009]) influences within and between the systems can strengthen or interrupt healthy child development as each system contains roles, norms, values, beliefs and rules that can effectively shape their development.
From this writers perspective Bronfenbrenner’s theory attempts to explain an answer to the age old question ‘are we the result of nature or nurture’ but in the words of Wilson, (2009, p. 26) ‘these influences are intrinsic to human development’ and even of Bronfenbrenner (1972, p. 51) ‘with respect to human development, neither factor can exert an influence without the other’.
Children are very complex, unique and varied individuals whose genetics, connections and backgrounds all perform significant roles in their emotional development (Wilson, 2003). The genetic blueprint a child inherits from its parents may plot a course for development but the environment and the influences within can affect how the child is shaped, how they connect with and are perceived by others and how their emotions are or are not expressed. Wilson (2003) points out emotions as an experience that is linked to cognitive interpretation, context, subjective feeling, physical reaction and behavioural expression. Campos, Campos, and Barrett (1989) suggest emotions are processes of establishing, maintaining, or disrupting the relations between the person and the internal or external environment, when such relations are significant to the individual.
Bronfenbrenner and Evans (2000) signify that...