Brofenbrenner (1979) researched human development and emphasised the importance of studying the ecology of development. He believed the environment surrounding an individual is very complex, it goes beyond the immediate, concrete setting. Brofenbrenner developed the ‘nested-eggs model’, demonstrating the layers of interaction experienced by children which directly, or indirectly, affects learning.
Firstly, at the core lies the micro-system which consists of a particular setting such as their household, social activities and school environment. As a young child home and school are more prominent but as the child ages peer groups and social clubs affect behaviour.
The meso-sphere links these environments, for instance, the quality of the household affects success in the school environment. Siblings have a strong effect on the learner, for instance, they can be great sources of knowledge and support, providing a positive role model. However, equally research shows young children with aggressive older siblings are more likely to develop conduct disorders, which generally leads to low academic performance. Also, Brody (2004) argues older siblings with excessive caring responsibilities have less time for home and school work; conversely Brody also suggests caring duties can have a positive impact through improving reading and language scores. For an adult the meso-system links environments such as family and work.
The third layer identified consists of the parents’ employment and other aspects which affect the child but the child is not an active participant. Parents who work a lot have less time for their children and so they loose out socially as well as academically, this is especially the case in shift work, usually experienced by lower-class families. Furthermore, those with higher incomes and educational backgrounds are more likely to purposefully move into better catchment areas (Hofferth et al, 1998). As a result, despite the aims of equality expressed through the comprehensive state system, some schools become very middle-class and respected, whereas others receive those lower down the social structure and become viewed as ‘unsuitable’ by middle-class parents. These stereotypes lead to different group dynamics within the schools as pupils react to labelling by society, therefore, social factors and group dynamics work in a symbiotic relationship inadvertently creating unequal opportunities.
The last layer portrayed by Brofenbrenner’s nested-egg model is the macro-sphere, which represents wider society, such as Governmental policy, which affects the child’s learning and progress. Societal views about single or working mothers, the availability of child care, accepted working hours, rates of unemployment and the economy all affect children’s’ and adult’s micro and meso-systems.
Brofenbrenner’s development model recognises the importance of each system as well as the links between them, not just the Microsystems which are commonly studied. However, Thomas (1992) stated Brofenbrenner’s theory is lax in explaining the relationships between Microsystems e.g. how does the involvement in school relate to family life? Overall, Brofenbrenner’s nested eggs model is a significant framework for developmental psychology since it tries to address the real world directly.