Urie Bronfenbrenner

      Co-founder of the Head Start program

      Designed to serve at-risk nursery students to prepare them for school

Ecological Systems Theory

      Development is the result of the relationships between people and their environments

     Cannot evaluate a child’s development only in the immediate environment

     Must also examine the interactions among the larger environments that a child develops in

  Key Question:

How does the world around the child help or hinder development?

Four layers of relationships that influence a child’s development

      Microsystem: Relationships with direct contact to the child

      Mesosystem: Connection between relationships of child’s microsystem

      Exosystem: Structures in which child the child does not have direct contact

      Macrosystem: Cultural context


Variables that the child is directly exposed to

     Relationships: Family, school, religious institution, neighbors

      Family: Most influential and durable influence on child

     Environment: Geographic, Material structures

     Child’s body

      General health

      Brain functioning – physiological and psychological


      Cognitive System

     Most of the child’s behavior is learned in the microsystem.

     The microsystem consists of bi-directional influences

     Parents actively shape the development of the child

     Children actively shape their environment

      Personal attributes influence responses from other people

      Children actively select and avoid specific environments

     Bi-directional relationships are the foundation for a child’s cognitive and emotional growth


Mesosystem: Interconnections between the microsystems


Interactions between the family and teachers

Relationship between the child’s peers and the family


Institutions of society that indirectly affect a child’s development


      Parent’s workplace

      Funding for education

Impacts a child’s development by influencing structures in the microsystem


Cultural context

     Provides the values, beliefs, customs, and laws of the culture in which a child grows up

     Influences how parents, teachers, and others raise a child

     May be conscious or unconscious

     Influences the societal values, legislation, and financial resources provided by a society to help families function

     Influences the interactions of all other layers

Ecological Systems Theory

      Properties of the four layers of relationships

     Each layer of the environment is complex

     Each layer has an effect on a child’s development

     Conflict within any layer ripples throughout other layers

      As a child develops, interaction within environments becomes more complex

      Complexity is the result of the maturation of a child’s physical and cognitive structures

      Five propositions that describe how home and school relationships work together for positive development.

1.Child must have an ongoing, long-term mutual interaction with an adult characterized by unconditional love and support

2.   The child-adult relationship provides the pattern of interpersonal relationships with all of the child’s other relationships. The confidence from this relationship allows a child to explore and grow from other activities.

3.Interactions with other adults enables the child to develop a more positive relationship in the primary child-adult relationship.

4.   The primary child-adult relationship improves with repeated two-way interchanges and mutual compromise.

5.   Relationships between child and adults require the society to support the importance of these roles.

      Public policies must provide time and resources for child-adult relationships to be nurtured.

      Instability and unpredictability in modern family life is the most destructive force in child’s development

     Because of demands within the workplace, children do not have constant mutual interactions with important adults that are necessary for development

      Instability and unpredictability in modern family life is the most destructive force in child’s development

     If relationships in the microsystem break down, the child will not have tools to explore other parts of the environment

     Children without a strong primary relationship will find affirmation in inappropriate places, particularly in the adolescence years

      Technology has changed society

     Society does not provide resources to protect children and adults from the potential negative outcomes of technology

     The best interest of society is to lobby for political and economic policies that support the importance of a parent’s role in their child’s development



     Integrates multiple influences on child development


     Does not provide detailed mechanisms for development

Implications for Education

      Primary relationship must be intended to last a lifetime

     Teachers need to work to support the primary child-adult relationship

     Schools should create an environment that welcomes and nurtures families

     Education should foster societal attitudes that value all work done on behalf of children

      More research is needed to examine interactions between different levels of relationships in a child’s development

     Bronfenbrenner states that there is little conflict between families and the school.


      Describe the four layers of relationships that influences a child’s development

      According to ecological systems theory, what can educators do to facilitate a child’s development?



Moral development is the gradual development of an individuals concept of right or wrong – conscious, religious values, social attitudes and certain behaviour.

      Focuses on how individuals learn and change the concept of right and right (morality) from infancy through adulthood

      Morality determines how people treat one another

Does children’s moral reasoning differ from adults? Explain.



      According to Piaget development emerges from action, and people construct and reconstruct their knowledge of the world as a result of interactions with the environment.

       Piaget suggested that people pass through three qualitatively different stages of moral reasoning.

Moral Realism

      In this stage children tend to have a clear sense of right and wrong, although they believe that there is typically only one right answer to every situation.

      They tend to trust adults at this stage and do not question an adult’s moral judgments.

      At this stage, children tend to believe in moral absolutes and tend to only see a situation from their limited perspective.

Morality of Reciprocity

      In this stage, children begin to understand that rules and regulations are formed through negotiation.

      Children learn that rules can be changed and they see the world through the eyes of other people.

      They are able to comprehend that there may be more than one right answer.

      They believe that punishment should act as restitution for immoral acts.

      They begin to use logic and hypotheses at this stage.

Mature Adult Thinking

      In this stage, many different moral issues are addressed through practical decision making.

      People at this stage, the ethics of cooperation and the complexity of moral issues are better understood.



      This theory is a stage theory. In other words, everyone goes through the stages sequentially without skipping any stage.

      However, movement through these stages are not natural, that is people do not automatically move from one stage to the next as they mature.

      In stage development, movement occurs when a person notices inadequacies in his or her present way of coping with a given moral dilemma.


      A woman was near death from a special kind of cancer. There was one drug that the doctors thought might save her.

      It was a form of radium that a druggist in the same town had recently discovered. The drug was expensive to make, but the druggist was charging ten times what the drug cost him to produce.

      The sick woman's husband, Heinz, went to everyone he knew to borrow the money, but he could only get together about Tsh 1 Million which is half of what it cost.

      He told the druggist that his wife was dying and asked him to sell it cheaper or let him pay later. But the druggist refused.

So what would you do? Let the sick die or break the store to steal the drug for the sick?

Kohlberg Stages

Pre-Conventional Moral Development

Conventional Moral Development

Post-Conventional Moral Development

Level 1: Pre conventional Morality 0-9 years

Stage 1 - Obedience and Punishment

Especially common in young children, but adults are capable of expressing this type of reasoning. At this stage, children see rules as fixed and absolute.

      Obeys rules in order to avoid punishment

      Determines a sense of right and wrong by what is punished and what is not punished

      Obeys superior authority and allows that authority to make the rules, especially if that authority has the power to inflict pain

      Is responsive to rules that will affect his/her physical well-being

Stage 2 – Naively egotistical

At this stage of moral development, children account for individual points of view and judge actions based on how they serve individual needs.

Reciprocity is possible, but only if it serves one's own interests.

      Is self-absorbed while assuming that he/she is generous

      Believes in equal sharing in that everyone gets the same, regardless of need

      Believes that the end justifies the means

      Will do a favor only to get a favor

      Expects to be rewarded for every non-selfish deed he/she does

Level 2: Conventional Morality 10-15 years

Stage 3 - "good boy-good girl" orientation

      This stage of moral development is focused on living up to social expectations and roles. There is an emphasis on conformity, being "nice," and consideration of how choices influence relationships.

      Finds peer approval very important

      Feels that intensions are as important as deeds and expects others to accept intentions or promises in place of deeds

      Begins to put himself/herself in another’s shoes and think from another perspective

Stage 4 – Law and Social Order

At this stage of moral development, people begin to consider society as a whole when making judgments.

The focus is on maintaining law and order by following the rules, doing one’s duty, and respecting authority.

      Is a duty doer who believes in rigid rules that should not be changed

      Respects authority and obeys it without question

      Supports the rights of the majority without concern for those in the minority

      Is part of about 80% of the population that does not progress past stage 4

Level 3: Postconventional Morality – 16+

Stage 5 - Legalistic Social Contract

      At this stage, people begin to account for the differing values, opinions, and beliefs of other people.

      Rules of law are important for maintaining a society, but members of the society should agree upon these standards.

      Is motivated by the belief in the greatest amount of good for the greatest number of people

      Believes in consensus (everyone agrees), rather than in majority rule

      Respects the rights of the minority especially the rights of the individual

      Believes that change in the law is possible but only through the system

Stage 6 – Universal ethical Principles

      Kolhberg’s final level of moral reasoning is based upon universal ethical principles and abstract reasoning.

      At this stage, people follow these internalized principles of justice, even if they conflict with laws and rules.

      Believes that there are high moral principles than those represented by social rules and customs

      Is willing to accept the consequences for disobedience of the social rule he/she has rejected

      Believes that the dignity of humanity is sacred and that all humans have value      


Reasoning vs Behaviour

      Does moral reasoning necessarily lead to moral behavior?

      Kohlberg's theory is concerned with moral thinking, but there is a big difference between knowing what we ought to do versus our actual actions.

Overemphasis of justice

      Is justice the only aspect of moral reasoning we should consider?

      Kohlberg's theory of moral development overemphasizes the concept as justice when making moral choices.

      Other factors such as compassion, caring, and other interpersonal feelings may play an important part in moral reasoning.

Western culture?

      Does Kohlberg's theory overemphasize Western philosophy?

      Individualistic cultures emphasize personal rights while collectivist cultures stress the importance of society and community.

      Eastern cultures may have different moral outlooks that Kohlberg's theory does not account for.


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