Human development follows unique developmental trajectories to which each child adapts differently to adversities. To understand these trajectories, a multidimensional approach to understanding human development should be undertaken. Human development is two dimensional; inner and outer worlds. The inner world consists of biological, psychological and spiritual experiences which either influence or are influenced by the outer world factors such as interpersonal, social, structural and cultural aspects. (Insert Ref 2 3-4) The study of complex interrelationships between human beings and their social environments is referred to as human ecology.
Bronfenbrenner was a noted psychologist who came up with a human ecology model to examine the effects of various socio-economic factors that influence a child’s development. Bronfenbrenner postulated that human development followed a model akin to “nested arrangements of concentric structures each contained within the next (Cited in Thies ; Travers 2009 21). These concentric circles represent a contextual level in which a child develops. The levels do not operate in isolation as there are reciprocal interactions whereby the children are products of their environments and vice versa.
This model has recently been renamed the bioecological systems theory to emphasize the child’s biological makeup is the primary environment influencing his/her development (Thies ; Travers 2009 21). The bioecological model has four main interrelated components: (Lerner 2002 238) •The developmental process •The person •Human development context •Time These four components make the bioecological model to constitute a process-person-context-time (PPCT) model that offers a more integrated approach to human development understanding (Lerner 2002 238).
This model constituting of genetics-environment interactions leads to “proximal processes through which genetic potentials for effective psychological functioning are actualized” (Bronfenbrenner ; Ceci 1994 568). The presumed outcomes of these proximal processes are; differentiated perception and response, behavioural control, managing stress, knowledge and skill acquisition, establishing and maintaining healthy relationships and modification and construction of environments. There are four concentric circles namely; microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem and macrosystem (Bronfenbrenner ; Ceci, 1994 569).
Looking back at my own life experiences while growing up, I can relate certain personal characteristics to factors mentioned in this model. The child The innermost concentric circle represents the child and its biological makeup or what Lerner refers to as biopsychosocial characteristics. They are regarded as the most influential shapers of character and three of the key areas in which the person exerts the most influence are; dispositions, ability ; knowledge and demand characteristics.
Differentiation of these three elements to form unique combinations accounts for the differences in resultant proximal processes and the subsequent development. Thus the person is the most important determinant of personal characteristics and accounts for the differences in personalities (Lerner 2002 239). This inborn characteristics explain why identical twins with the same genetic makeup and brought up in the same house and under the same conditions may exhibit different personalities.
For brain development to occur, two dimensional learning has to occur; adaptation to learn by brain capacity and innate information (Johnson, Munakata ; Gilmore 2002 8). An example of how a person’s characteristics may shape their life is my disposition. I have always had a nice disposition that made me want to always help people in need. These values were not taught to me by anyone but I just felt that I wanted to alleviate people’s pain. In school, I hated seeing people bullied and I would always stand up for them and try to befriend them.
This is also why I decided to be a nurse so I could help people who were sick to get better. Microsystem After the child, the first concentric circle is referred to as the microsystem. Bronfenbrenner defines the microsystem as “a pattern of activities, social roles and interpersonal relations experienced by the developing person…physical, social, symbolic…in the immediate environment” (Cited in Lerner 2002 240). It consists of the direct environment in which the child is in contact with.
These factors can hinder or foster proximal processes development. This includes parents, siblings, school, friends and the neighbours. The microsystem is not only restricted to interactions with other people but also includes symbols and language. The relationships in this level give the child a sense of identity, belonging, well being and survival. These relationships are not one-sided but are reciprocal in that they influence the child and in turn the child influences the relationships in what Bronfenbrenner refers to as bi-directional influences.
This reciprocity takes place intra- layers and inter-layers as they are interconnected. This group is where nurturing as a shaper of character and development enters the system (Li, Murray ; Stanley 2008 67). In this layer, children may be exposed to negative factors that inhibit their development and how well they cope with these inhibitions is referred to as resilience. Resilience Resilience refers to the “positive patterns of functioning or development after exposure to adversity or… good adaptation in a context of risk” (Flynn, Dudding ; Barber 2006 4).
Resilience is a measure of a system’s response to challenges and if there are no challenges, then the child can be described as competent or successful but not resilient. How well children are performing in age-salient developmental challenges are the benchmarks of any cultures’ measure of psychosocial development. Personal Factors that promote healthy growth and development include; self-esteem, easygoing disposition, sense of humour, self-control, caring among many others. Family factors that promote well being include; emotional connection, basic needs availability and disapproval of bad behavior.
Other factors include having a positive adult role model like elder siblings, pastors, teachers who provide a less formal forum for dealing with their problems (Humphreys ; Campbell 70). When children experience structural/social violence such as negative effects of discrimination based on race, gender, class, socioeconomic status, they seek new identities and if there are no positive role models, these identities will take a negative form. Effective programmes focus on developing resilience by developing competence through effective partnerships built by good parenting and high expectations (Flynn, Dudding ; Barber, 2006, 10-11).
Adaptation to dynamic societal settings is an important aspect of resilience and is referred to as our self-righting tendency to move towards a steady state. Families and societies are always seeking this steady state to maintain meaning structures that give them identity and a measure of predictability and coherence that may allow them to cope or thrive in adversity. Coping is the thought process or actions humans engage in to try and regain coherence and function after exposure to adversity.
How well a child copes is influenced by demographic and personal characteristics, nature of the crisis, physical and social factors and resources available. In my experience, the people with the greatest influence in my life were my parents. I come from a working class family and my parents instilled in me a deep sense of work ethic and hard work to achieve success and fulfillment. I learnt from example by watching them go to work every day so we could have a better life. Reciprocity is demonstrated her by myself influencing my parents to work even harder to provide for us and by them working hard, instilling work ethic in me.
My father is my mentor and is my biggest role model because he sought to understand and guide me especially through the adolescent years when I would have rebelled. Mesosystem The next layer is the mesosystem and is referred to as the layer of social connectedness or networks. Unlike the microsystem where the relationships are between the individual and the environment, here the relationships linkages or interconnectedness between the settings are observed. Influences in the microsystem relationships do not remain there but spill over to the social network (Insert ref 2 11).
This group includes school, religious institutions, and the neighbourhood among others. Children should be well socialized to be part of the greater society I attended a good School and this helped me to be independent and also sensitized me to other people’s cultures. The school had a high student-teacher ratio and as such I had the best education I could have had. There were also a lot of fellow schoolmates from all walks of life and cultures and I learnt to interact and respect other people’s beliefs even though they were different from mine.
I find these traits useful in my future career because I am responsible and can interact well with people who are from different cultures or places. I also made a lot of friends who form a great support network for me. Exosystem The third layer is the exosystem and it refers to a larger social system, mostly institutions in which the child does not directly participate in. These institutions impact the child indirectly through some interactions in the child’s microsystem. These institutions include parents’ workplaces, local councils, media, Hospitals, and businesses among others.
There is also reciprocity between the child and these institutions as they can influence the child and the child can also influence the exosystem (insert ref 2 10). I grew up in Saudi Arabia which is an absolute monarch and the political situation was stable and peace prevailed. It is also an economically stable kingdom where basic amenities such as health care and education are free and as such I grew up without any economic and health stressors as we always had enough to cover our needs and wants.