that processes. Importantly, the purpose of employing a

that
out of 25 studies published between 2001 and 2008 who stated that their
research was based on Bronfenbrenner’s theory, only four were based on the most
recent form of the theory, and most described the theory simply as one of
contextual influences on development, completely ignoring the centrepiece of
the theory in its final incarnation: proximal processes. Importantly, the
purpose of employing a theory as the foundation for one’s research should be
not only to determine the variables on which to focus and the methods to employ
but also to provide some critical evaluation of that theory. As Meehl (1978)
wrote: “Theories in ‘soft’ areas of psychology lack the cumulative character of
scientific knowledge. They tend neither to be refuted nor to be corroborated,
but instead merely fade away as people lose interest” (p. 806). Neither
refutation nor corroboration is possible either when the theory is
misrepresented or when inappropriate methods are used.

Shortcomings of the PPCT Model

The
nature of ecological theories are considered one of the most complex because
they are characterized by a large number of diverse components, nonlinear
interactions, scale multiplicity and heterogeneity (Wu & David, 2002).  Moreover, conducting research that is
derivative of the contextualist metatheory requires methodological approaches
that incorporate change-sensitive research designs, measurements and data
analysis methods. This, as well as the acknowledgment that individuals actively
participate in the production of their own ontogenetic development is an
essential feature that must (Overton, 2015). In relation to the PPCT model, appropriate
use requires a focus on proximal processes, a means to show that’s these
proximal processes are simultaneously synergistically influenced by both person
characteristics (minimum of two levels, eg high and low levels of motivation) and
by the context (a minimum of two relevant contexts). Unfortunately, Bronfenbrenner
wrote no methodological script for how to translate his bioecological model
into research nor did he conduct any original research himself. Rather he drew
on external sources, for example Drillen (1964) in order to illustrate how the
PPCT model could be adopted and implemented.

This
is extensive specification is no doubt a challenge for any research team to
satisfy. As a result, so it does not come
as a surprise that the model is not well represented in the literature. The
goal of Bronfenbrenner’s bioecological model is to try to understand the joint,
synergistic effects of several relevant influencing factors. However, research
has oversimplified this framework meaning that the complexity inherent in
contextualist or organicist theorizing is too often reduced to methods that while
simpler to apply, are simply inappropriate. In other words, any research that
reduces Bronfenbrenner’s theory to the independent effect of context on
development is misguided, treating his theory as mechanist rather than
contextualist. In order to prove the utility of a theory, the theory itself
must be practical. 

 

Informing Social Policy and
Intervention

Bronfenbrenner
(1974) was explicit in the importance of understanding how human development
happens is not only from research to application but, as well, from application
to research. This point was emphasised by Bronfenbrenner (1974), whose
understanding of the bidirectional Bronfenbrenner’s point was that failure to
appreciate this bidirectionality engenders missed opportunities to test
explanations of developmental change in ecologically valid ways (Brunswik,
1955; Lerner & Callina, 2014). He believed that fostering a social justice
orientation within developmental science would require identifying the person-
and ecology-based variables that need to be engaged in order to alter the
course of individual/context relations to the degrees needed to enhance the
probability that people possessing diverse individual attributes, and living in
all ecological circumstances, have opportunities to pursue positive
developmental goals. Moreover, the use of his model in this
way, in effect, channels Bronfenbrenner’s (2005) vision, about how to make
human beings human.. Bronfenbrenner’s ideas and his ability to translate them
into operational research models and effective social policies. He surmised
that “We are depriving
millions of children — and thereby our country — of their birth right …
virtues, such as honesty, responsibility, integrity and compassion” due to the
evolution of and unstable and unpredictable family life which he concluded was
the most destructive force to a child’s development (Addison, 1992).

According
to the ecological theory, if the relationships in the immediate microsystem
break down, the child will not have the tools to explore other parts of his
environment. Children looking for the affirmations that should be present in
the child/parent (or child/other important adult) relationship look for
attention in inappropriate places. These deficiencies show themselves
especially in adolescence as anti-social behaviour, lack of self-discipline
(Addison, 1992). This theory has dire implications for the practice of
teaching, but which must be dealt with in the home. Schools and teachers fulfil
an important secondary role, but cannot provide the complexity of interaction
that can be provided by primary adults. The problems students and families face
are caused by the conflict between the workplace and family life – not between
families and schools. Schools and teachers should work to support the primary
relationship and to create an environment that welcomes and nurtures families.
We can do this while we work to realize Bronfenbrenner’s ideal of the creation
of public policy that eases the work/family conflict (Henderson, 1995). This
realization spurred the creation in 1965, of Head Start, the federal child
development program for low-income children and their families.  That is, such research may provide the
evidence base for applications that enhance PHD, envisioned as promoting the
dignity, health and life chances of all people and lessening disparities across
racial, ethnic, cultural and geographic boundaries (Fisher, Busch-Rossnagel,
Jopp, & Brown, 2012)

 

Conclusion

From
its inception, Bronfenbrenner’s theories have been ground-breaking in the field
of developmental psychology. Prior to this work, child psychologists studied
the child, sociologists examined the family, anthropologists the society,
economists the economic framework of the times and political scientists the
structure. Bronfenbrenner’s “bioecological” approach to human
development shattered barriers among the social sciences and forged bridges
among the disciplines that have allowed findings to emerge about which key
elements in the larger social structure and across societies are vital for
developing the potential of human nature.