Society’s Interactive Effect On Childhood

Society’s Interactive Effect On Childhood

“No man is an island” begins a phrase from a poem from John Donne which encompasses the ecological theory proposed by Urie Bronfenbrenner (Crandell, Crandell, & Zanden, 2009). Another quote suggesting the same principle is “It takes a village to raise a child” (African proverb). The basic premise in these quotes is that there are many influences in a child’s life that affect its development. Bronfenbrenner’s theory dealt with concentric circles of influence such as microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem, and macrosystem (Paquette & Ryan, 2001).

For a young child of preschool age of about three years old, the microsystem active in his life would be the family, church, and childcare environment (Paquette & Ryan, 2001). The child’s influence includes himself with his gender, health, and age (Crandell, Crandell, & Zanden, 2009). If one were to introduce into this child’s environment an influence such as an abusive parent, then the balance in the child’s life would become skewed.

Childhood abuse ranks a major public-health concern (Gilbert, et al., 2009). The statistics ranges from 4-16% of young people are abused physically each year (Gilbert, et al., 2009). The rates increase when including psychological and sexual abuse. It is estimated that an average of three children a day die from abuse of some form in their preschool years (Whipple, 1999). Introducing violence into a child’s life at this age can bring future depression, PTSD, and substance abuse in later years (Whipple, 1999).

If there is evidence of child abuse and it is reported, the microsystem of the child can be changed by adding government officials in the mix as Child Protective Services. The probable causes of abuse to young children are poverty, low educational level, substance abuse, and the parent’s possible abuse as a child (Gilbert, et al., 2009). A study by Mashi, et al. (2009) showed that young preschoolers who were maltreated often suffer short- and long-term consequences in their adolescent and adulthood development. This effect will be seen through psychological, social, behavioral, and cognitive areas.

The mesosystem connects this immediate family to the neighborhood, church, and teachers. For a child of preschool age, instead of a school teacher, it would involve the daycare provider. For a child who has been subjected to violence in the early years, the tendency toward aggressive behavior toward others increases (Murrell, et al., 2007).

The next circle of influence in a preschooler’s life would be indirect as it is the exosystem which would include parent’s workplace and community resources. This could include a family doctor who might be responsible for reporting suspected abuse. Marcovitch & Jones (2007) report it is often the pediatrician who is the first to notice abuse in the very young. After reporting suspected abuse, the circle may include the CPS workers or perhaps a counselor who would be working with the child (Paquette & Ryan, 2001). The largest circle of influence is the macrosystem. This is the cultural aspects of the child’s life. The child may live in one country where certain treatment would be accepted, such as spanking or slapping a child. He may live in another country where being left alone at a young age is accepted. It is the culture that one lives in that often defines what is considered abuse of a child.

In tracing the influence of violence as a child grows older, one can look at the changing influence of the various cycles of Bronfenbrenner’s theory. When the preschooler who was abused grows to be a pre-teen, the circles of influence change. The microsystem remains the family with the addition of the school system. The parent’s leverage lessens in these years as the child becomes more controlled by his friends and school peers. The violence against the youth during these years might be met with return violence as the youth grows to a size to protect himself.

The circle interlocking with the microsystem would be school, church, and neighborhood of the mesosystem. Now there are the fellow students who hold sway on the actions of the child. Peer pressure can hold dominion in the decision about drug/alcohol usage, gang membership, and illegal behaviors. Adolescents who are raised in violence are strongly prong to bullying which can increase to harassment in adulthood (Turkel, 2007). The following layer of access in a pre-teen’s life in the exosystem may include a part-time job by this time. Disrespect towards one’s boss can form as a youth may have some antisocial mental disorders (Murrell, et al., 2007). This antisocial behavior can carry out in the cultural context of influence which makes up the macrosystem. The cultural influence may include gangs depending on where the family lives. Some cultures exert a violent influence by such objects as video games and the media. This leads to aggressive behavior in children. Dating values will also be involved in the adolescent years. The normal cultural age of dating starts to exert pressure. If the youth experienced violence growing up, then the percentages are high that there will be aggression in the dating scene. Sexual harassment, teen premarital sex, and teen pregnancies are common results (Murrell, et al., 2007).

The results that face a child with violence include depression, social anxiety, PTSD, general violence, violent crimes, and substance abuse. These children as they grow older are more likely to become abusers themselves to their own children (Murrell, et al., 2007).

One of the strongest effects on the psychological and behavioral well-being of a youth is the type of parenting they received. Parental support gives a youth the sense of self-worth, security, and the psychological well-being to grow up with a balanced life. Rules that a parent set allow a child to know how society is to function (Rothrauff, et al., 2009). Children who have this positive nurturing environment are apt to suffer less mental health issues, have less substance abuse problems, and less legal problems.

Compare this to the child raised in violence and the resulting negative outcomes mentioned above. The nature vs. nurture continues to be a continuing saga in the field of science (Crandell, Crandell, & Zanden, 2009). The role of positive parenting is well documented. The effect of the school system, media, and society’s norms can not be undermined. To today’s scientist, the question is not so much the difference between nature vs. nurture but “how much” or “how” for the comparison of the two (Crandell, Crandell, & Zanden, 2009).

Research shows that genetics are important in issues of heart disease, cholesterol, weight, and life span. Genetics also impacts matters such as some mental illness disorders and substance abuse (Rutter, 2002). The “how much” question asks what is the combination of heredity and environment causes the above issues. Someone can have the genetics to be obese, but work hard on diet and exercise to avoid the same outlook as his family. Another could be born in a family of non-addicts, yet turn to illegal drugs from the impact of school chums. One person can eat a vegetarian diet yet have high cholesterol because of family genes.

Anastasi says that neither heredity nor environment exists separately. They are interconnected and continually interacting (Crandell, Crandell, & Zanden, 2009). Part of our development is determined by the genetic contributions of our parents: how tall we grow, the average age of puberty, and chromosome disorders (Crandell, Crandell, & Zanden, 2009). The relationship with our parents contributes to the type of social look we have toward the world. The parenting style will guide children in their ability to socialize easily or be shy and withdrawn (Crandell, Crandell, & Zanden, 2009). This field of science in considering nature vs. nurture has sprung a new area of study, that of behavioral genetics.

Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems theory stresses the quality and context of a child’s surroundings. He says that as a child grows, the interaction of his surroundings become more complex. This is the result of the child’s physical and cognitive growth. Nature pursues a given path. One asks how does the world surrounding the child help or hinder the child’s development. This is the question that is answered by Bronfenbrenner’s theory (Paquette & Ryan, 2001).

Bronfenbrenner believed that the family suffered from the change in society from industrial to technological. Families were still locked into the normal 40-hour work week. Mothers were very often in the workforce, leaving the children with less parental influence at home. Bronfenbrenner thought that the schools were being called upon to fill the gaps left by parents. He thought that society should step in to provide support for the new family structure brought on by technology (Paquette & Ryan, 2001).


1. Crandell, T., Crandell, C., & Vander Zanden, J., 2009 Human Development (9th Ed.). Boston. McGraw-Hill

2. Gilbert, R., Widom, C., Browne, K., et al. (2009). Burden and consequences of child maltreatment in high-income countries. The Lancet. 373(1). pp. 9657.

3. Maschi, T., Morgen, K., Hatcher, S., et al. (2009). Maltreated children’s thoughts and emotions as behavioral predictors. Social Work. 54(2).

4. Murrell, a., Christoff, K., & Henning, K. (2007). Characteristics of domestic violence offenders: Associations with childhood exposure to violence. Journal of Family Violence. 22. pp. 523-532.

5. Paquette, D., & Ryan, J. (2001). Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems theory. Retrieved March 2, 2010 from

6. Rothrauff, T., Cooney, T., & Shin an, J. (2009). Remembered parenting styles and adjustment in middle and late adulthood. The Journal of Gerontology. 64B. pp. 1

7. Rutter, M. (2002). Nature, nurture, and development: From evangelism through science toward policy and practice. Child Development. 73(1). pp. 1-21.

8. Turkel, a. (2007). Sugar and spice and puppy dogs’ tails: The psychodynamics of bullying. Journal of the American Academy of Psychoanalysis and Dynamic Psychiatry. 35(2). pp. 243-258.

8. Whipple, E. (1999). Reaching families with preschoolers at high-risk of physical abuse: What works? Families in Society. 80(2). p. 148.

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