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Urie Bronfenbrenner: biography of this development psychologist

Urie Bronfenbrenner: biography of this development psychologist

September 10, 2022

Urie Bronfenbrenner (1917-2005) was a Russian-American psychologist who contributed much knowledge to the theories of child development. He maintained a holistic perspective from which he proposed an Ecological Theory of Systems, one of the most important contributions for evolutionary psychology.

Then we will review the life of Urie Bronfenbrenner in a brief biography , seeing what his most important work consists of and the professional background that was decisive for his development as a psychologist and researcher.

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Urie Bronfenbrenner: biography of a pioneer in developmental psychology

Urie Bronfenbrenner was born in Moscow, Russia on April 29, 1917. At the age of 6, Bronfenbrenner moved with his family to the United States, where his father would work as research director of the Institute for the Mentally Handicapped in New York.


In 1938, Bronfenbrenner graduated with a degree in psychology and music from Cornell University, later a postgraduate study in Developmental Psychology at Harvard University, and finally, he obtained a doctorate degree in the same area from the University of Michigan, in 1942.

Several years after finishing their studies, and in the course of World War II , Bronfenbrenner served as a psychologist within the armed forces of the United States Army. Many of these experiences were an important basis for the theory that would later develop.

After working in the army, he gave classes in different universities, on psychology, human development, studies on the family, among other topics. Part of his objectives during his professional development were focused on that theories about human development had a direct impact both in psychology students, as well as in politics and public opinion in general.


It was from this that Bronfenbrenner participated in an important way in the design of programs, where he managed to translate into an operational language the theories about psychological development, specifically in the area of ​​child development, and the socioeconomic sectors of lower income in the United States.

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What is a system according to Bronfenbrenner?

The Ecological Theory of Systems is the main work of Bronfenbrenner . In this, he plans a perspective of psychological development that brings together different theoretical proposals, not only evolutionary psychology but also social psychology.

Broadly speaking, it talks about how an individual develops not only from his genetic load or the education he receives from his nuclear family, but in that development there are elements in different environments that are also determinants. For example, the school, the work environment, the neighborhood, the culture.


This is because humans are not only biological beings, but relational beings, that is, our personality and our psychological development are molded largely by the characteristics of the systems in which we live and that make us have things in common or different with others.

Each system coexists, there is no one over another but they are interrelated. For this reason, if a system is altered in an important way, this can affect the need for exploration and the disposition for child learning in other systems.

Likewise, each contains roles, rules and rules that as a whole are determinants for human development.

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The 5 systems of the Ecological Theory

It is an "ecological" theory of systems because it focuses attention on the relationship between different environments and how this relationship determines the development of the human being. Currently the Ecological Theory of Systems is considered one of the bridges between the biological, psychological and social (bio-psychosocial) perspectives of development .

For Bronfenbrenner there are five fundamental systems for individual psychological development, ranging from the family to the political and economic structures: the microsystem, the mesosystem, the exosystem, the macrosystem and the chronosystem. Very briefly, we review them below.

1. Microsystem

It is the immediate and closest environment. It is fundamentally our group of belonging: the family, the caregivers, the school, the neighborhood, the peers .

2. Mesosystem

It is made up of the connection between different microsystem environments, for example, between home and school .

3. Exosystem

The exosystem is composed of environments that are considered secondary, because they affect development indirectly. For example, the place where parents work .

4. Macrosystem

This last system is composed of the cultural environment. Sometimes it goes unnoticed, however it is from which certain behavior rules that affect other systems are generated. An example is the cultural differences between Western and non-Western cultures , or the differences between policies and economic systems.

5. Chronosystem

Some time later, Bronfenbrenner added a fifth system to his theory. The chronosystem is composed of the patterns through which our development takes place throughout life and through the different environments mentioned above.

Outstanding works

Among the most representative works of Urie Bronfenbrenner's thought are Two Worlds of Childhood (1972), Influencing Human Development (1963) and The Ecology of Human Development: Experiments by Nature and Design (1979).

Bibliographic references:

  • New World Encyclopedia. (2015). Urie Bronfenbrenner. Retrieved May 31, 2018. Available at //www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Urie_Bronfenbrenner.

Urie Bronfenbrenner Ecological Theory (September 2022).


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