One of the most well-known systems theories in psychology is Bronfenbrenner’s ecological model. The model consists of several interrelated systems, beginning with the individual at the center then expanding to include the individual’s immediate family and friends (microsystem); extended family, school, and work (exosystem); and culture and society as a whole (macrosystem). This model can be used as a framework to understand human development and behavior and to design effective interventions to address many different psychological and societal issues.
Consider how this model might be applied to better understand the development and behaviors of a transgender teenager. Suppose the teenager, who now calls herself Shelly, has recently informed her parents and close friends that she would like to officially transition to being a girl. Initially she is overjoyed that her parents and close friends are supportive (microsystem). Then, after attending school for a week and going to a family reunion dressed as a girl, Shelly is met with harsh criticisms from some of her peers and teachers at school as well as her grandparents (exosystem). In fact, she overhears her parents and grandparents arguing about her transition and is immediately overcome by guilt and despair. Finally, while she is encouraged by positive media regarding a celebrity who recently transitioned, she is saddened to learn that the larger public opinion and recent government policies are discriminatory to transgendered persons (macrosystem). Therefore, due to her desire to become accepted at school, by her grandparents, and by society at large, she decides to stop her transition even though it causes her great distress to do so.
This example illustrates the complex and competing pressures among the systems of Bronfenbrenner’s model, which can affect the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of the individual at the center of the model. In this discussion, you will consider how the model applies to the competing pressures in your own life.