Parenting and Self Esteem – Ecological Systems Theory

Bronfenbrenner (1999), the Russian-American psychologist known for his Ecological System Theory, stated the importance of the role of the environment to the ecology of human development, as a dynamic multilevel system wherein the environment and internal process of human development are intertwined and adjustable. Bronfenbrenner (1979) states:

Especially in its early phases, and to a great extent throughout the life course, human development takes place through processes of progressively more complex reciprocal interaction between an active, evolving biopsychological human organism and the persona, objects, and symbols in its immediate external environment. To be effective the interaction must occur on a fairly regular basis over extended periods of time…. Examples of enduring patterns of proximal process are found in parent-child and child-child activities…. (p.5).

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Furthermore, research result from Steinberg, Dornbusch and Brown (1992) illustrates that adolescents reared in democratic homes tend to show higher emotional/social competence than those living in authoritarian homes. It is implied that parent-child interaction is reciprocal and that parenting styles have an impact on the development of young children’s self-esteem. The quality of the child’s development is highly influenced by the environment which they grow up in. Family background and culture, parent and peer interaction, as well as parent-child interaction and welfare reform policies can impact young children’s development. Thus, these factors could significantly impact the early emotional development of a child.

As the environment of a child influences his or her emotional and social development, stakeholders such as parents, peers, teachers, neighbors, church members, community members and other elements such as social welfare policy could determine the characteristics of the child’s environment.

Therefore, the influence and importance of parent-child interactions and relationships must be identified as the learning process begins even in the early phases of the child’s life.


Bronfenbrennen, U. (1979). The Ecology of Human Development. : Theoretical and Operational Modes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Bronfenbrennen, U. (1999). Environments in Development Perspective: Theoretical and Operational Modes. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association Press.

Steinberg, L., Dornbusch, S. M. & Brown, B. B. (1992). Ethnic differences in adolescent achievement: an ecological perspective. American Psychologist, 47,723-729.

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