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Part One:

Bronfenbrenner’s ecological theory consists of five “systems”. They are the microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem, macrosystem and chronosystem. We can apply this framework in discussing the achievement for a minority child. Beginning with the microsystem we can begin to assess the core of the minority child’s potential for achievement.

The microsystem is defined as “. . . the setting in which the individual lives” (45, Santrock). This includes the individual’s family, peers, school and neighborhood. “It is in the microsystem that the most direct interactions with social agents take place. . .” (45, Santrock). Using a minority child as the center of this framework we can evaluate his own microsystem and what he can achieve. If we are to evaluate the neighborhoods and school systems of the minority child, we can see that in most situations he lacks the proper facilities for reaching his potential achievement. The school systems for minority children usually lack the proper funds and teachers to expand the knowledge and encourage higher education for those in attendance. The neighborhoods are also filled with unhealthy examples for these children. They are exposed to school drop-outs, drugs and other crimes, abuse and harassment and discouragement to try to make something out of themselves because of their ethnicity or other daunting aspects in their backgrounds. The child then will make an active decision on what his role will be in the society, but the child does not always know what his options may be because of the aforementioned problems.

In the next system, the mesosystem, we can further evaluate what he can achieve. This system is described as “. . . the relationships between microsystems” (45, Santrock). One example is the relationships that are formed between family experiences to work experiences. For example, a child may be brought up to take responsibility for his self and to work hard at his responsibilities. This in turn will provide him with proper job skills for when he is older. On the other hand he may be brought up with no responsibilities and this will effect his achievement later on also. He most likely will blow off his schooling and will begin to circulate the job market, but never holding on to one job for long.

The exosystem is next in Bronfenbrenner’s ecological theory. This is used to consider the influences toward the individual on which he has no control. For example, the minority child may have to ride forty-five minutes on a bus to go to school every day, both ways, due to the city’s new zoning partitions. This means that the child will be torn out of a school that he is used to and from peers he is comfortable with, to attend another school farther away. This affects the child because the things of which he was familiar with no longer exist, and he must make new connections. Also, the new school may have a different curriculum. It may be farther ahead or behind the school he previously attended making it hard for him to catch up, or making him bored because he has already covered the topics. This discourages achievement for the child also because he now must start over from scratch, making new relations with peers and teachers, especially if the child is shy or distant.

The next system is the macrosystem. This “. . . involves the culture in which individuals live” (45, Santrock). Speaking in terms of the United States, the culture is that of the American society, but this needs to be evaluated farther. For example, those who are of Asian descent generally have higher achievements than those of Spanish ancestry. The macrosystem also produces a “trickle down effect” to the three previous systems. For example, the new zoning laws in the exosystem may be instilled because of the city’s upcoming election. The government can use a technique called “cracking” to divide a neighborhood into separate “zones”. They do this because they may be afraid of a certain candidate winning and they know that this particular minority neighborhood predominately votes for candidates that resemble the runner. This leads to the child being shipped off to a different school on the opposite side of his neighborhood.

The macrosystem affects the mesosystem similarly. For example, if a child of Asian descent is raised by his family to believe that hard work and determination is proper, he will more likely succeed in his life. Asians are commonly known for the incredible scholastic achievements- this is the effect of the Asian culture (macrosystem) on the relations that the child will hold within the microsystem (mesosystem).

Finally, the macrosystem has comparable affects on the microsystem. The child in this situation is an active participant. In this setting the child is expected to help construct the setting around him. So if for example he is, again, from a family that is Asian he is most likely to have a very close relationship with his family. The Asian culture is essentially family oriented, and this will effect his future achievements as well- if his family members all attended college and did well in their schooling, it is most likely that he will follow. This can be turned around though if in the years in between him and the previous attending family member the neighborhood and school system declined, he may be more prone to do negatively.

The last system Bronfenbrenner developed was the chronosystem. This “. . . involves the patterning of environmental events and transitions over the life course, as well as socio-historical circumstances” (47, Santrock). The chronosystem’s affects on the minority child is also a big determiner in his future achievements. For example, the child from a Native American background may have a family history of extreme social oppression and social misunderstandings. Today, the child is more likely to be encouraged to pursue life off their reservation, although prejudices still exist and he may still carry the negative feelings from past family experiences.

Bronfenbrenner created the ecological theory in child development. This is his environmental approach to development. The five systems within this theory are the microsystem, the mesosystem, the exosystem, the macrosystem, and the chronosystem. Applying this system to the achievement of the minority child we see that the odds are stacked against the child most of the time.


Part Two:

Erik Erikson developed a psychosocial theory because he felt that Freud had ignored important aspects of development with his own psychosexual theory. Erikson’s theory contained eight stages and covered the entire lifespan. “Each stage consists of a unique developmental task that confronts individuals with a crisis that must be faced” (33, Santrock). The crisis is “. . . a turning point of increased vulnerability and enhanced potential” (33, Santrock).

The eight stages of Erikson’s theory are trust versus mistrust, autonomy versus shame and doubt, initiative versus guilt, industry versus inferiority, identity versus confusion, intimacy versus isolation, generativity versus stagnation, and finally integrity versus despair.

Trust versus mistrust takes place in the first year of life. This is where the infant establishes what his outlook of the future will be. If in infancy the child is neglected and abused than the child will in the future have a very negative outlook on his future. He will be very hesitant about others and situations. On the other hand a child who is constantly coddled and is “babied” will have a very different perspective. This child will be very trusting and most likely very gullible. Both extremes are very detrimental to the child’s future outlook.

Autonomy versus shame and doubt is the second stage and takes place between one and three years. This is when the child begins to discover that their behavior is their own. “They realize their will” (33, Santrock). The child will either develop their own sense of independence or a sense of shame and doubt. For example, a child will develop a proper sense of autonomy if during this period he is let to discover things on his own, within the proper limits. If a child is too sheltered he will most likely become very clingy and unsure of his own self.

Initiative versus guilt takes place during the preschool years and is the third stage in Erikson’s psychosocial theory. This is the stage in which Erikson believes that child begins to become responsible for their selves and for things related to them. The outcome of this is whether the child is pushed appropriately and not made too anxious in his pursuits. Otherwise he will begin to develop feelings of guilt because he doesn’t feel that he is doing the job that is expected of him.

The next stage is industry versus inferiority. This takes place in the elementary school years. This is where the child begins to develop an enthusiasm for learning. “At no other time is the child more enthusiastic about learning than at the end of early childhood’s period of expansive imagination” (34, Santrock). The child will either develop a sense of industry- to keep up their productive feelings, or an opposite sense of inferiority. The child may develop this feeling of inferiority because of bad experiences with teachers in their early school years. For example, a child may have trouble comprehending some early math skills. If the teacher mocks the child or refuses to work with him he may become discourage with the learning experience and feel “incompetent and unproductive” (34, Santrock).

The next stage takes place during the adolescent years. This is the fifth stage and is called the identity versus identity confusion stage. At this point “. . . individuals are faced with finding out who they are what they are all about, and where they are going in life” (34, Santrock). During this time adolescents are beginning to be placed in adult situations. Relationships with peers become more intense, and some children may start working. To develop healthily these individuals should be allowed to explore these areas as much as possible. In contrast, if the adolescents are not allowed to develop socially because of extremely strict parenting the child will be unable to fittingly develop their own personalities. Erikson describes this situation as identity confusion.

The sixth stage is intimacy versus isolation and takes place in the early adult years. “At this time, individuals face the developmental task of forming intimate relationships with others” (34, Santrock). This is described by Erikson as “finding oneself yet losing oneself in another” (34, Santrock). This is where individuals find out whether they will form healthy friendships and relationships with others, or if the will become “loners”. If, for instance, a person becomes friends with someone who constantly betrays them by stealing or spilling secrets, the person may stop associating with others in fear that this may happen again. On the other hand, if the individual finds someone who shares many of their own favorite pastimes, and is trustworthy, than that person has a better chance of having many other successful intimate relationships.

Generativity versus stagnation is the seventh stage. This occurs in middle adulthood. This stage is when the individual determines if they have done something to help future generations (generativity) or if they have contributed nothing (stagnation). If the person participated in civil rights movements in the sixties, than they have generativity. They helped open up paths for future generations.

The final stage is integrity versus despair and happens during the last stage of adulthood- from the age of sixty and up. This concluding stage is when the individual reflects on his life’s experiences and he either feels a sense of integrity- feeling he accomplished positive things, or one of despair- that his life was wasted and he did not accomplish anything.

Erikson’s theory is a good explanation of the psychosocial development of children. Unlike Freud’s psychosexual theory which only focuses on only the first five years and pleasure sources, Erikson’s theory has a more realistic and practical focus. Erikson believes that a person is shaped through progressing through eight stages, which cover the entire life span. He believes that an individual’s personality is determined by how they resolve crises in each of the eight stages. Erikson’s theory also makes more sense because his stages match up with the development of a child, and are not as off the wall sounding as Freud’s. Freud’s theory is off-putting because many people cannot accept that small child, newborns even, would have this type of progression. Erikson on the other hand focuses on the key points of a child’s development, such as trust issues in early infancy, which will affect how the child will view the world in his future.

It is important to study the entire lifespan when discussing child development because the issues that the child must overcome in his childhood will effect who he becomes as an adult. Erikson’s last stage is integrity versus despair. This is when the adult looks back on his life and decides whether he feels positive about his accomplishments or if he feels despair because he is unhappy with his life. When you only study a fraction of the child’s development than you can not make a proper assessment about how the early experiences later on affect decisions that the individual will make. Many theorists tend to neglect the fact that people continue to grow past childhood.

Erikson developed a psychosocial theory that contains eight stages and continues throughout the individual’s lifetime. His stages focus on crises that the individual goes through his during his lifetime.


Part Three:

The nature-nurture controversy refers the arguments of whether nature or nurture has the most influence in an individual’s life. Nature is the biological inheritance and supporters say that it is the most important, while nurture refers to environmental experiences and its’ supporters think that it is the most important. Today, most psychologists agree that one affects the other. Nature is what the individual is genetically predisposed to, and nurture is the part that can either expand or decrease the individual’s potential.

Genotypes, phenotypes, reaction range and canalization are all a part of the nature-nurture controversy. Genotypes are the genetic heritage of the individual, while phenotypes are the observable way that the genotype is expressed. Reaction range refers to the range of possible outcomes for each genotype. The environment in this situation can effect whether the individual will express a certain phenotype of a genotype. For example if a child has a genotype to be extremely outgoing and attends a school where his extroverted personality is discouraged severely, he may tone his social personality down, to a lower reaction range. Canalization is the predetermined path that the genotypes can take, but that will not come into effect unless the individual is interacting with the environment to develop these skills.

An example integrating these four concepts is whether or not a person will develop appropriate language skills. The child may have genotypes that contain “normal” language skills. The child phenotypes may express these skills as a little below the average. This is because the environment hasn’t afforded the genotypes the proper opportunity to expand their reaction range. Because of canalization the child does exhibit quasi-normal skills- canalization is the pre-determined path that the genotypes will take, and they contain a certain adaptive values.


Part Four:

In psychology many different types of research experiments are done. Two of these are the cross-sectional design and the longitudinal design. Cross-sectional refers to the studying of a group of individuals on one subject all at one time. Longitudinal refers to studying the same individuals on one subject over an extended period of time.

When performing a general study of depression in children I would recommend the cross-sectional technique. I would get groups of children, from many different age ranges, together in different places throughout the world. I would then interview the children individually and combine that with a questionnaire to get an in-depth perspective on the child. Than, after completing my assessments I would get averages of the depression ranges of children in each age group.

The strengths of this type of study is that if the researcher is under time constraints, this is a quicker and easier way than continuously monitoring a several individuals depression ranges over a period of years. Also, you will get a more diverse outcome of the ranges since you are using many different people and in a way generalizing their range of depression. The weakness of this study is that it is only a momentary study, and the people chosen may be involved in a crisis in their life at the moment, or they may just be feeling a little down that particular day.

Applying some characteristics from the longitudinal study can help improve the cross-section study. For example, instead of just doing a one day, one shot study, the children could be monitored and interviewed for a week. This would give the researcher more variables to apply to the cause of the depression and also a more information to average out the variance of depression throughout the ages.



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