The ecological theory of Urie Bronfenbrenner’s systems consists of an environmental approach to the development of the individual through the different environments in which it develops and influences change and its cognitive, moral, and relational development.

This theory can be applied in all fields of Psychology and other sciences since we start from the basis that human development occurs in interaction with genetic variables and the environment, and clearly exposes the different systems that make up personal relationships according to the context in which they are found.

Bronfenbrenner’s Systems

From minor to greater globality, Urie Bronfenbrenner names four systems involving the primary nucleus understood as the same individual. The systems are: microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem, and macrosystem.


It is the most immediate or closest level at which the individual develops. The scenarios included in this system are family, parents, or school.


It includes the interrelationship of two or more environments in which the person actively participates. It can also be understood as the linkage between Microsystems. Clear examples can be the relationship between family and school, or between family and friends.


It refers to the forces that influence what happens in Microsystems. In this case, the individual is not understood as an active subject. It is made up of, for example, the nature of the work of the parents, relations that a teacher maintains with the rest of the faculty, etc.


It refers to the social, cultural, and structural conditions that determine in each culture the general features of the institutions, the contexts, etc. in which the person and the individuals of their society develop. It constitutes the values ​​of a culture, customs, etc.

The chronosystem, which introduces the temporal dimension into the scheme, should be added to these spatial areas. This includes the cultural evolution and living conditions of the environment.

Criticism Of This Theory

The main criticism of this environmental vision that we can find is that it pays little attention to the biological and cognitive factors of development in its essence. In addition, it does not provide a sequence of change in development, such as the theories of Jean Piaget and Erik Erikson.

However, by placing so much emphasis on the contextual aspect of human development, which is a space in which one can intervene directly, this theory is often used when talking about networked education and shared responsibility for education.

As social beings immersed in an environment with a particular culture and context, and at the same time in constant transformation by the globalized framework in which the zeitgeist places us, we can think that personal development is created from the cultural intermediaries and the interrelation of the systems mentioned in Bronfenbrenner’s ecological theory.

We must not only mention the development through theoretical interactions, but to address the existing criticisms of the model, we must take into account the interaction between personality variables and the environment, since the sum of systems is both a socializing and individualizing agent, and serves to understand the development of the individual in different contexts.


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