Thursday, October 19, 2017

Bronfenbrenner's Bioecological Approach

Bronfenbrenner's Bioecological Approach

The developmental theories presented, Urie Bronfenbrenner's bioecological approach and Lev Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory on development, will compare with my own life experience to assist with the integration of developmental perspectives and theories. My argument is (1) To present a basic understanding of Urie Bronfenbrenner's bioecological approach to development.  (2) To integrate Urie’s model, along with Lev Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory on development that relates to my own childhood experience.

 [Keywords: Vygotsky, developmental theory, bioecological approach, childhood development].

"The bioecological model, introduced by Uri Bronfenbrenner, is a theoretical approach that focuses on human development from a gene-environment perspective. Urie discovered, after his original theory, the ecological systems theory, that areas of human development were overlooked regarding environmental factors. Bronfenbrenner saw this theory as a “lifespan” approach, meaning it affects children and adults. The emphasis of this model highlights the crucial aspects of not only the individual, but also the environment one is raised in, “The bioecological approach suggest that five levels of the environment simultaneously influence individuals.” (Feldman, 2011).

Microsystem, the first level of the bioecological model involves the immediate environment. For example, when I was five years old, my family consisted of my three older sisters, ages ten, twelve and fifteen, my mother, my uncle, my biological father, my stepfather, two dogs and a few cats. We were happy enough, considering we were lower middle class financially. My uncle that lived with us was a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic. My mother was an alcoholic, as well as my stepfather.  My parents had recently separated after twenty-two years of marriage. We had no idea my parents were separating. One day, my Father just left. My stepfather became my new father. He was an outstanding human being even though he was an alcoholic, which did not intrude on raising us.

My biological father was not a nice man so his leaving was not that much of a loss to me. I was just confused as to why he left because that was never explained to me. My uncle was severely ill and that was extremely difficult to deal with along with my mother’s alcoholism. The adults all worked full time. Healthy communication in my family was nonexistent. I attended an extremely strict Catholic school; my first teacher was Sister Mary Laurana, who was loving and understanding.  She passed away the same year she taught me. Our community was supportive and family oriented, no one was perfect, and everyone struggled in some fashion. It is in this level that most of child development ensues. 

, the second level, are similar to links on a chain, meaning connecting parts of the microsystem together. For example, my mother was always friendly except for when she drank. That was like existing with two completely different people, a nice one and a nasty one. My father was always distant; he never checked on us or cared for us emotionally or financially after he left. Even when my father lived with us, he was always someone to be feared and emotionally distant. There was no hugging or words of encouragement, only punishment or fighting regarding my parents. My schizophrenic uncle and my alcoholic stepfather were the adults that showed us love, ironically.

My biological parents did not interact with teachers at my school or helped with my schoolwork. Our community was exceptionally supportive of the school and parish. Our house was always full of people. My mother, uncle, stepfather and sisters constantly had friends over. It is in this level where direct and indirect behaviors of family members to one another and family to community exist. 

Exosystem, the third level, maintains influences such as societal intuitions, government, places of faith, school and work. This level affects both the microsystem and mesosystem. For example, both of my parents worked full time, as well as my uncle. My mother and uncle both worked at Mercy Hospital and my stepfather worked at Republic Steele. We did not take any family vacations. There never seemed to be enough time or money to do these things even though there were three full time working adults in the household. We would take short trips like going to the park or the beach. We had one vehicle but only for a short time. Our school was supportive yet extremely strict.

It was around this time, shortly after my parents separated, that they divorced. It is in this level that qualities such as the educational system, media, religious affiliations, and society in general have a greater impact on a child’s long-term cognitive development. 

Macrosystem, the fourth level, is about cultural affiliations and influences. Ethics, morals, values and mores are parts of the macrosystem. For example, my family consisted of mostly Irish ethnicity, half German, and American raised in the Catholic faith. My family was middle to lower middle class. The year was 1976, the bicentennial. Gerald Ford was the current United States President and was almost assassinated by Sara Jane Moore, who was caught and sentenced to prison.

This year, the United States vetoed a United Nations resolution for Palestine as a free state, Steve Jobs formed Apple and Patty Hearst was sentenced to prison. In addition, this year, Jimmy Carter defeated Gerald Ford as President of the United Sates. As a part of culture, things that occur in society affect the individual. The value placed upon things that happen in a specific group of people affect the values of those living in that culture. 

Chronosystem, the fifth level, combines all previous levels of the bioecological theory. This stage includes global events and gradual changes that affect someone over time. During this time, more women worked, women’s rights were prominent in society, protesting was still a part of society that included homosexual, African American and Native Indian rights. The face of television changed and shows represented more true to life scenarios.

There were more single working parent households, higher divorce rates and more crime. Reflecting upon each level of development, in addition to my own experience added as examples, I am able to observe how all of these levels added together affected me gradually. A solitary experience did not drastically change me; all of the issues challenged me later in adulthood. 

One developmental theory that applies along with Urie’s bioecological model and my own experience at age five is Lev Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory on development. This theory supports Urie’s bioecological model involving the environment one is raised in, as well as the role of society in general, “. . . a full understanding of development was impossible without taking into account the culture in which people develop.” (Feldman, 2011).  This includes cognitive development due to social and cultural relations.

In my own experience, applying the bioecological model, it is plain to see that every stage of development affected me whether that was familial, societal, institutional or global. In my late 20’s, I was diagnosed with panic disorder, agoraphobia and obsessive-compulsive disorder. By utilizing each level of the bioecological theory, keeping in mind, Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory, it is obvious as to why gradually, as an adult, the experiences of my childhood emotionally and mentally surfaced.

I have since overcome these difficulties, yet Urie Bronfenbrenner's bioecological approach to development plainly relays to me the “what, when, where, how and why” of my own cognitive and human development from a five year old to a twenty eight year old. From an anthropological perspective, “the bioecological approach is of considerable importance to child development, suggesting as it does the multiple levels at which the environment affects the children’s development.”  (Feldman, 2011).

Feldman, Robert S. (2017). Development Across the Life Span. Chapter 1.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Republic and Paradigmatic Shift

The Republic and Paradigmatic Shift

The first Utopian work, 360 B.C., from Greece, is Plato’s Socratic dialog, The Republic. This text focuses on a society that is equal for everyone. Ten books within this ongoing philosophical debate alternately discuss social and governmental structuring along with legislation and resource distribution necessary to sustain a society. Initial comprehension of The Republic at first is dystopian in nature. Presented are strict class systems, referrals to slavery, and veneration of kings. However, one must realize that to our present existence, in relation to this ancient world, 360 B.C., Plato’s belief is radical idealism.
Morality and ethics play an immense role in the formation of Utopian societies and in The Republic, justice is of utmost consideration. Robin Waterfield, editor of the Oxford World's Classics edition of Plato's Republic, states via video, “Plato did not write philosophy like a dry text book, he wrote it like a living conversation . . . Plato asks this absolutely, fundamental question, “Why should we bother to be good?”. . . He [Plato] asks the question, “What is justice?”
The brilliance of paradigmatic shifts is numerous. For example, in Book I of The Republic, during conversations between Socrates, Polemarchus, Cephalus and Thrasymachus, starting with, “And a just person is good?”, Socrates examines and refutes each conversationalist with another equally essential question leading up to a final answer that not everyone agrees with. This mode of truth leads to sabotage because Thrasymachus repeatedly attempts to take over the conversation, yet is restrained. Eventually, Thrasymachus attacks all speakers with rage by roaring, “What nonsense have you two been talking, Socrates? Why do you act like idiots by giving way to one another?” (Plato. Complete Works. The Republic. Book I. Page 981).

A second paradigmatic shift occurs within the same question, “And a just person is good?” Most speakers answer with a resounding, yes. Socrates asks another question to their answer, again a “what if this?” question leads to yet another scenario. Essentially, every answer leads to another question that leads to another answer than what was originally thought. In turn, the minor change in thought leads to an entirely new world. The worlds that can be created via Plato are endless. It all depends on the perception of the individual.
In conversations between Socrates and Glaucon, the utilization of satire in this dialog is for the sole purpose of shaming current ideals about inequalities into improvement starting with, “the only difference between them [men and women], is that the males are stronger and the females weaker.” (Claeys, Gregory, Sargent, Lyman Tower. (1999). The Utopia Reader. Chapter 2. Page 27). The dialog then continues to ask questions to answers to prove that men and women are equal and share responsibilities and passions.
In conclusion, Plato examined Utopia and justice by posing hypotheticals and questioning rationales normal to his time in order to cause people to think, more importantly, to allow people to decide for themselves how they need to be thinking first, followed by action. As Plato's best-known work, as well as the world’s most influential works of philosophy and political theory, The Republic teaches us that our perception enables the creation of our existence.


Plato. (2008). The Republic. The Project Gutenberg EBook of Plato's Republic, by Plato

Plato. (1997). The Republic. Complete Works. 

Claeys, Gregory, Sargent, Lyman Tower. (1999). The Utopia Reader. Chapter 2. Pages 27-56. 

Waterfield, Robin. (2011). Why Read Plato's "Republic"? Oxford University Press.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Evaluating Research on Human Development, Anti-Bullying: Case Studies


My focus is on two anti-bullying programs implemented in educational systems, as well as society: Exploring the Anti-bullying Role of a Befriending Peer Support Programme: A Case Study within the Primary School Setting in Northern Ireland and Pushing Schools Around: New Jersey's Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act. 

My argument is (1) To present a basic understanding of bullying and anti-bullying programs.  (2) To present the importance of mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical well-being in addition to legal action and implications in regards to bullying.

“To us, then, laws protecting innocent and defenseless children from dangers like exploitation at work, pornography, neglect, and abuse make sense. It seems inconceivable to us that the protection of innocent children is not a fundamental value in all societies, present and past.”  (David Newman. Sociology: Exploring the Architecture of Everyday Life. Fifth Edition. Chapter 4).

Bullying is the use of predominant strength or influence to terrorize someone. This results in an ongoing destruction of the health and well-being of human beings, beginning in elementary school and progressing into adulthood. Bullying affects the children and families involved, in turn, affecting the community and educational system. Age and gender are not specific in regards to bullying; however, primary school children are by large, targeted. 

A primary school case study in Northern Ireland, Exploring the Anti-bullying Role of a Befriending Peer Support Programme, focuses on the importance of the primary school bullying as being a subjective experience. For example, the importance of the bullied and those bullied addresses the understanding that both are subject to emotional and developmental health issues. There is scientific research cited in this case study that suggests, “Bullying is strongly associated with poorer mental health.” (Hawker & Boulton 2008).  Furthermore, they discovered an increase in suicide, depression and psychosomatic behavior between both the victim and victimizer.

In the Ireland case studies, a most integral aspect debates whether emotional, mental and physical illnesses arise from victimization or precede the onset of bullying. This factor asserts that children that have been bullied are more susceptible to further bullying, hence, carrying into adulthood. For example, some cases involving alcoholism, drug use, abuse, addiction, mental and emotional disorders, violence, and criminal activity can then be associated with low self-esteem as a child due to bullying.

Northern Ireland considered these diverse scientific studies and started an anti-bullying policy by securing a cross-departmental initiative titled, “Northern Ireland Child and Adolescent Mental Health Strategy.”  The Northern Ireland Anti-Bullying Forum, funded by the Department of Education in 2006, placed a statutory duty on all schools to the development and implementation of anti-bullying policies. Since this policy, bullying persevered. This forced Ireland to enact the role of friendships and peer groups to join in the anti-bullying campaign. 

By exploring the social constructs and culture of bullying, in addition to a support network of friends, children were less likely to be isolated. The support system, started at school level by an instructor, involves children that volunteer for training in active listening and empathy. In turn, reducing prejudice by communication on how to deal with conflict constructively.

The scientific studies that resulted from this initiative provided the opportunity to chart progress within the school systems and the communities. This provided a systematic way of tracking events and cases by use of collecting data, analyzing information and reporting results. The scientific approach led to a better understanding of how the implementation of this program served Northern Ireland and reported findings in order to educate and train other school systems in starting this practice. 

The program was effective because children were directly involved, listened to and trained. Their opinions mattered.  In this program, the children are the ones consulted and they actively carry out their decisions on bullying situations. In Northern Ireland, they saw bullying as a systemic problem that needed a systemic solution. As a result, a whole school system involvement led to less bullying.

In September 2010, 18-year-old Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge after discovering his college roommate used a webcam to observe him during an intimate encounter with another man. (Norgard, Holly. (2014). Pushing Schools Around: New Jersey's Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act. Seton Hall Law Review). Tyler’s roommate posted this utterly private information on social media. 

This horrible incident woke the world up to the importance of cyber-bullying. Within weeks, New Jersey’s legislators founded the
New Jersey Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act. In addition to legislation, the Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act was enacted that involved federal legislation that forced universities to implement stronger policies disallowing bullying and harassment on campus. This incident is a fine example of how bullying carries over into adulthood.

The Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act was tough to implement. The federal regulations are stern. This act plays upon universities and colleges receiving federal student financial aid. For example, matriculated students are prohibited by law to harass other students, faculty, and staff regarding race, ethnicity, disability, religion and sexual gender, orientation and identity. In addition, this act demands that colleges submit all anti-harassment policies to students and employees, even non-matriculated students focusing on strict adherence to the prohibition of cyber-bullying. While this looks good on paper, in practice it is difficult to achieve. 

In this instance, legislature was quick to act in passing federal law without addressing the underlying root cause of bullying. This act is referred to the “toughest law in the country” due to the impossibility of every single college and university being able to comply with regulations laid forth by legislation. Six months after this law was put into place, a study of 12 New Jersey schools showed over 1,000 instances of bullying. The numbers of bullying incidents also increased from 2011-2012.

Developmentalists assume that the process of development persists throughout every part of people’s lives, beginning with the moment of conception and continuing until death.” (Robert S. Feldman. Development Across the Lifespan. Chapter 1, Pages 4-5).

One failure of The Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act is lack of scientific theory. This is where lifespan development, a field of study that examines growth and behavior over an entire lifespan, needs utilization. With this method, there is immense focus on human development. Lifespan development is about growth and change in people. As seen in the instance between Tyler and his roommate, one can easily deduce that both adults carried into adulthood bullying instances experienced in childhood. Whether each was the victim or victimized, both Tyler and his roommate exhibited patterns of behavior that did not heal. 

Researching the stability of the environments of each student involved is yet another way this act can gain momentum with implementation. An example of this is to study the reported bullying instances only instead of passing law on all schools and affiliates. This way, discovery of root cause is present, specific students and faculty get help; this act will then prove to be sustainable, lessen the impact of all people, and focus on those guilty or involved.

A secondary failure of this act is it does not specifically cover cyber-bullying or any action taken off campus. In this age of technology, anyone anywhere can post, in seconds, anything on several social media sites at once. There is not enough labor or money to begin to monitor such behavior, let alone this sort of monitoring breaking law already present in amendments in the United States Constitution. 

While the two acts, New Jersey's Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act, and The Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act are necessary, there is no scientific basis behind each act. Legislation simply passed law without understanding bullying or cyber-bullying.

The positive impact of this law is it brought to the forefront, internationally, and defined, gravely, bullying and cyber-bullying. Unfortunately, it took the death of a human being to accomplish this. Furthermore, specifically in New Jersey, numerous deaths and suicides were found after this act passed. 

It causes me to wonder how long people have been bullied, victimized, asked for help and never received it or were too scared to say anything at all. It also makes me wonder how many lives could have been saved if bullying and cyber-bullying were taught earlier to grade schoolchildren, families, community and staff. 

In my own experience in regards to bullying, I have been the victim and the victimizer. As an overweight child with an dark skinned best friend in an all-white Catholic school, every grade school day of our lives was filled with being called “fatty” and “nigger.” There was no inclusion in gym or social activities in and outside of school. The pushing around and name calling was not that bad, it was after repeated instances of my best friend having bubblegum put in her long beautiful black hair until eventually, she had to have it all cut off that she transferred schools. I stayed. 

An interesting turn of events occurred when I became severely ill with scarlet fever in sixth grade that resulted in hospitalization and extreme weight loss. Upon return to the new school year, seventh grade, everyone wanted to be my friend. I absolutely rebelled. I wanted nothing to do with that. It was a scarring experience. The teachers and institution did not care, there was nothing implemented, let alone taught, in school or in community about bullying. You just dealt with it, stood up for yourself the best you could and got on with life. 

The most I was able to do before seventh grade, was tell my older sisters and they showed up at school anytime someone was truly threatening. As a direct result of victimization, my friend and I then victimized others. Nothing as severe as our experiences, briefly explained above, however, we were indeed acting out. That did not progress into adulthood, thankfully, a fleeting experience.

In conclusion, all aspects of bullying, cyber-bullying, regardless of the age of the person doing the bullying, is imperative to be addressed in early childhood.  Whether this is taught in school as a course, in the community as a workshop, or in the home by parents, the importance of knowing if you are being bullied or you are the one doing the bullying, is integral in creating healthy human beings.

It is my belief via research and personal experience, that in our present world, these aspects of development are not sufficiently taught. Education is forefront in eradicating bullying and if needed, legislation can then step in and pass necessary law. As seen with the instances in Northern Ireland, action, education and scientific method came first and was a success. 

In New Jersey, laws passed without education, scientific method, correct action, and failed. We all must be vigilant, with our own children, children we know, as educators, parents, family members and professionals, to be able to recognize, address and educate ourselves and others on how to recognize bullying and properly address it. While laws are necessary, they are not always the answer. Action, education and scientific fact must all be the first and foremost things considered when dealing with victimization.

Further Education:


Monday, September 4, 2017

Shahada: My Second Volume of Poetry

This is now available on Kindle HERE 
In print HERE

I am thrilled to announce my second book of poetry, Shahada

Shahada is a noun meaning, To observe, witness, testify. 

This is a volume of pure stream of consciousness, poetry derived from years of talking with the world, myself, the human condition, based upon existentialism, raw sexuality, passion, the Divine Feminine and Sacred Masculine, Mother Earth, Father Sky, wind, water, wood, metal and fire. 

The art of survival in a time of dying.

These words are a result of years of paying attention to my intuition, to absolute stream of consciousness, to being alive, aware, mindful and grateful for all that is.

This is available Kindle and Print HERE.

Please support me in gifting words from a most open and grateful heart.

I promise you will NOT be disappointed. 

Please check out my Amazon Author page HERE.  

Read Reviews of Shahada HERE 

This book is also a part of --> Kindle Unlimited and the --> Kindle Owners' Lending Library.

Keep the peace people. Support the artists of our world.