Urie Bronfenbrenner was a child psychologist who claimed that our behaviour has many different causes. According to his theory we are each at the centre of an expanding circle of environmental influences. Bronfenbrenner was interested in looking at the total ecology, or life situation of a person and all the different influence that affect them, that are often hidden. This is call the ‘developmental systems’ perspective.

At the inner circle a child’s development is shaped by the relationships with parents, family, friends and school. Outside of this circle the wider community, the media, healthcare etc. are also having an influence on the child’s development. At an even broader level the culture as a whole and the economy are also impacting the growth of the child.

Developmental systems theorist believe we need to use many different approaches to understand development. We need to understand how our genes, our early relationships and the wider society all interact to shape who we become. The culture we live in affect the expression of certain genes in us. The genes we have influence the cultures that we create. In our body different systems are constantly in communication with each other. The same principle applies to how our bodies interact with the systems around them. There is a constant back-and-forth occurring shaping who we are.

Let’s look at an example. If you grow up in poverty this will have an affect on your attachment relationships (caregivers like your mother and father). If your parents are worried about paying bills and getting by, as an infant you might get less of the attention you need from them to grow in healthy ways. You might also not get the right nutrition. You might live in a dangerous area. Each of these factors might increase your stress levels as an infant which may set you up for emotional problems later in life.