Education and the Wider World

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.


11 thoughts on “Education and the Wider World

    • Personally I think change should start in wider society, you can’t alter employment or home backgrounds or school life without first addressing gaps in Government policy and the economy. But yes, many areas do need to be addressed.

  1. Agreed. But doesn’t the circle go full round? For (an overly-simplfied) example: by bringing up a generation that is not rascist, would we eliminate rascism? But then again, to your point, I guess we can’t bring up a generation ‘of’ anything without “wider” societal input & approval. Kind of the chicken and egg thing… Although they say it all (every idea/movement) starts with one & grows from there.
    I’m getting a headache. 🙂

    • haha I suppose I was thinking that no matter what teachers do in school they are always going to be restricted by Gov. policy. Also, free childcare helped parents. And you can’t really bring up a generation of non-racists or non-sexists without first altering society’s views as it’s the parents who influence their children. Chicken and egg indeed 😀

      • That means the chicken came first?
        Which is why my basic mantra (?) is that we all, individually, should face the problem head on – admit it exists – and then each one of us will know the best (our) solution/action. In this context, with my kids, I did my best to override any input I felt was stupid (or insane) – like rascism, which was replaced with respect. It was hard & that’s partly why I’m divorced, but I’m hoping they got it – at least a little bit… I think they did… They must have… I think… Shit, here comes that headache again. 🙂

  2. I would appreciate if you could provide a more detailed reference for Brofenbrenner (1979) and (Hofferth et al, 1998

    • Brofenbrenner, U. (1979). ‘The Ecology of Human Development: Experiments by Nature and Design.’
      Hofferth, S., Boisjoly, J., Duncan, G. (1998) Parents’ Extrafamilial Resources and Children’s School Attainment. ‘Sociology of Education’ 71 (3), P. 246-268.
      I also used Malim, T., Birch, A. (1998). ‘Introductory Psychology’ where I found the critisms and advantages of Brofenbrenner’s theory, it also gives an overview of each stage.
      Hope this is helpful 😀 Thanks for stopping by.

  3. Myself – being a latch key kid and had parents who worked non-stop. I had to take care a raise my younger sister, I learned to cook at age 9. My parents worked until around midnight. I did not have any help with school work or any motherly advice, help etc.
    That being said, this was not a bad thing for my personality. This, in and of itself made me a very strong and independant person. Most of the time such things hinder children to be impoverished. This was not the case for me. I went to college despite this, and graduated being on the Dean’s List each quarter.
    My parents are wonderful people, just during this time, the economy in America was horrible. This taught me many valuable lessons in life. I learned how to “take care of business” at a young age. I also had to work much harder than most children on my school work, as they would often get answers from their parents.
    The responsibilites at such a young age made me a stronger person. I took care of my sister well, she is now very successful. My sister and I would study for hours on her school work at night.

    My sister and I (being latch key kids) are now independant and successful. However, this is due to both of us having very strong personalities. People who do not have a high self-esteem tend to not have such a great outcome. I respect my parents for doing whatever they could to provide us with everything we needed as the economy (in the 80’s) was not so great in America.

    Your post brought back many memories. I didn’t mean to write my own post, on your post.

    Wonderful article.


    • I suppose personality has a lot to do with it, some like you flourish whereas others don’t. By the sounds of it your parents still loved you and cared for you even though they worked often. I suppose some children don’t get any kind of support at all.
      The state of the economy seemed to affect your parents lives and consequently yours.
      We are all individuals and react differently to different circumstances. Thanks for being so honest, I like recieving long comments 😀

  4. I studied this model recently and LOVED it! I agree with what you said about how you need to look at the larger system to create change in the microsystem but I think it works the other way too! You can’t help say a student in elementary school if they are always returning home to a bad home-life…..I like that you posted about this and that I found it!!!

    • Thank you.
      You make a good point, I suppose my thinking is that if the wider structure isn’t there then it’s harder to change the little things. But ‘every little helps’ as tesco says 😀 lol

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