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Family Aggresion and Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Theory Essay


Family aggression bothers millions of Americans. Children usually face physical or emotional aggression in families without even knowing what aggression actually means and what effects it may have on further human lifespan development. In this paper, Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems theory will be used to analyze the problem of family aggression and evaluate the relationships between each system and the chosen issue.

Problem Description

The peculiar feature of the cases of aggression is the fact that many parents truly believe that their decisions to hit or yell at children are morally correct because such activities help to stop child misbehavior and gain the required control. However, not many parents understand how influential such kind of aggression may be for their children. Numerous forms of aggression and social bullying are observed in schools and colleges (Espelage, 2014).

College smoking and rude behavior cases are increased promoting new public health problems (Otsuki, Tinsley, Chao, & Unger, 2008). Therefore, it is necessary to investigate these family cases from different perspectives to realize if there is a solution to this problem and clarify what parents should be ready for if they decide to hit a child. This problem is chosen because it is high time to think about the ways of how parents treat their children and what life lessons they are ready to share with society.

Ecological Systems Theory and Human Lifespan Development

Some many models and theories can be used to investigate child behavior and its dependence on parental aggression. In the discussion of the chosen problem, it is necessary to understand the context in which parent and child behaviors occur and develop (Brose, Scheibe, & Schmiedek, 2013). Hurd et al. (2013) suggest using Bronfenbrenner’s ecological model according to which the interactions between individuals and contexts shape individual outcomes and changes that may be observed during human lifespan development.

Bronfenbrenner was one of those theorists who believed in the distal influences of such environments as a family, school, work, and culture (Sameroff, 2010). The role of the family remains to be crucial in lifespan development in terms of the recognition of personal characteristics and the possibility to develop specific interactions with family members, as well as other people outside the house (Rosa & Tudge, 2013). The impact of this ecological systems theory on human development cannot be ignored or neglected, especially when aggression is discussed in family frames.

Elements of the System and Family Aggression

According to Bronfenbrenner, there are five primary environmental systems, including microsystems, mesosystems, exosystems, macrosystems, and chronosystems (Espelage, 2014; Griffin et al., 2013). The chosen topic of aggression may be properly interpreted in terms of the microsystem that refers to the groups of people that have an immediate impact on the child’s development. A family is a place where aggression is rooted, and it is the possibility for parents to provide their children with supportive care to avoid negative outcomes.

Friends and teachers can also be used as sources to prevent aggressive behaviors and give appropriate examples. The mesosystem includes the relationships between the already mentioned microsystems. Aggression may be avoided if parents can cooperate with teachers or their child’s friends. Exosystems cover all the social environment a person may be involved in. Families and schools exist in a certain environment divided into neighborhoods and communities.

Police may control the causes of aggression in this system. The macrosystem level is based on the culture a person has to live. Aggression usually depends on such factors as socioeconomic status and poverty. If a person has to live under poor conditions with the necessity to survive day by day, aggression and anger may become important attributes in human lifespan development. Finally, the chronosystem includes the transitions that occur during a life course. For example, a person may live consistently or experience changes regularly. Aggression is a reaction to the environmental events around. This system plays an important role in the development of the chosen problem.

Additional Factors and Family Aggression

In addition to the ecological system developed by Bronfenbrenner, such factors as mental health problems and biological changes should be mentioned. For example, a person suffers from hormonal imbalance or inappropriate blood chemistry. Aggression is an outcome of these problems. To avoid or reduce its impact, a person should be medically treated. Mental health problems, including Alzheimer’s disease, autism, or psychosis, may not be treated, and people should learn how to live with all possible deviations.

Bidirectional Relationships between the Systems

Bidirectional relationships between the levels of environment discussed by Bronfenbrenner play an important role in human development. Still, the microsystem level is characterized by the strongest bidirectional relationships that may influence a child. Personal characteristics, family examples, communication with peers, and the behaviors observed at schools create for a child a solid basis for future growth and an understanding of the world.

Weaknesses of Bronfenbrenner’s Theory

In Bronfenbrenner’s theory, there are no detailed mechanisms and explanations on how to promote the development of an individual, what factors have to be included and excluded, and how to achieve a balance between what is allowed and forbidden. Aggression may influence a child’s life in different ways, and Bronfenbrenner’s model explains how different factors may determine the child’s development, but does not show how to use a family, school, or culture to avoid the negative outcomes of aggression.

In general, Bronfenbrenner’s model helps to analyze the role of aggression on human lifespan development and understand how families, schools, and peers may contribute a child’s development in a certain environment.


Brose, A., Scheibe, S., & Schmiedek, F. (2013). Life contexts make a different: Emotional stability in younger and older adults. Psychology and Aging, 28(1), 148-159.

Espelage, D.L. (2014). Ecological theory: Preventing youth bullying, aggression, and victimization. Theory and Practice, 53(4), 257-264.

Griffin, A., Gilleland, J., Johnson, A., Cummings, L., New, T., Brailey, T., … Osunkwo, I. (2013). Applying a developmental-ecological framework to sickle cell disease transition. Clinical Practice in Pediatric Psychology, 1(3), 250-263.

Hurd, N.M., Sellers, R.M., Cogburn, C.D., Butler-Barnes, S.T., & Zimmerman, M.A. (2013). Racial identify and depression symptoms among Black emerging adults: The moderating effects of neighborhood racial composition. Developmental Pscyhology, 49(5), 938-950.

Otsuki, M., Tinsley, B.J., Chao, R.K., & Unger, J.B. (2008). An ecological perspective on smoking among Asian American college students: The roles of social smoking and smoking motives. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 22(4), 514-523.

Rosa, E.M., & Tudge, J. (2013). Urie Bronfenbrenner’s theory of human development: Its evolution from ecology to bioecology. Journal of Family Theory & Review, 5(4), 243-258.

Sameroff, A. (2010). A unified theory of development: A dialectic integration of nature and nurture. Child Development, 81(1), 6-22.

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