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Bronfenbrenner Bioecological Theory and Baumrind Parenting Style Th...

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Young People
Wordcount: 2278 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Zafi is the eldest child and he has two younger siblings. He was an average student in primary school with no discipline problems. When he was 11 years old, his father passed away. After the death of his father, his mother holds two jobs to make ends meet. His mother relies on him to take care of his two younger siblings as she is always not at home. Currently in secondary two, his academic result is very poor. In class, he would keep to himself and would shy away from classroom activities. He would sometimes cheat in tests and exams. The reasons he gave for cheating are, not having the ability to do it and he does not want his classmates to think that he is stupid. His form teacher tried many times to meet his mother to discuss about his cheating behaviour and poor academic performance but she is always busy with her work. After school, Zafi would meet up with his neighbourhood friends. Most of them are drop outs. They constantly told him to quit school and to enjoy life just like them. Zafi enjoys spending time with them as he thought they understand him best. They would also smoke and drink alcohol. He would only return home very late at night or not at all.

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Zafi’s father had passed away and his mother is too busy working to support the family. There is almost no interaction between Zafi and his mother and there is no other important adult to supervise him at home. In short, the parental involvement is almost non-existent. Using Bronfenbrenner Bioecological Theory and Baumrind Parenting Style Theory, I would relate how Zafi’s parental interactions and parenting style affects his context of development.

Bronfenbrenner Bioecological Theory

According to Bronfenbrenner, the lack of parental interaction is the most destructive force to a child’s development. [1] Urie Bronfenbrenner says that “there are two environmental conditions that are necessary for human development. The first is that one or more adults must love the child unconditionally; the second is that the adults must encourage the child and spend time doing joint activities with the child in and out of the home environment”. [2] Zafi’s mother loves him unconditionally but she is too busy to show it and she is also unable to spend time with any of her children. Therefore, the two important conditions are not met.

Bronfenbrenner also developed a Bioecological Theory to explain how the child’s environments can significantly influence his cognitive development and his growth. The theory consists of 4 systems nested around each other with the child being in the innermost. The 4 systems developed by Bronfenbrenner are: microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem, and macrosystem. [3] The microsystem is where a child has direct interactions with parents, teachers, peers and others. In Zafi’s case, he has very little interaction with his mother and he spends most of his time with his neighbourhood friends. Too little interactions with his mother causes a break down in his microsystem and the bad influence he is getting from his neighbourhood friends is not helping in his positive growth and development. The second level is the mesosystem. Mesosystem are linkages between microsystems such as between a child’s teacher and his parents, and relationships between students and peers. His teacher tried many times to create a linkage with his mother but failed due to her busy work schedule. This contributes to a break down in his mesosystem. The third level is the exosystem. Exosystem are external experiences in which a child does not have an active role but still influence the child’s developments. In this case, his mother’s busy work schedule is the exosystem. Her two jobs require her to work long hours and irregular shifts. This resulted in her having very little face time with her children. The last level is the macrosystem. Macrosystem consists of things that influence and sometimes support the child such as cultures, norms, and laws.

The break down in his microsystem will affect the other systems as it disabled him to explore other parts of his environment. Without the presence of proper supervision or love, Zafi will try looking for attention in inappropriate places. These behaviours will give rise to problems such as little self discipline and no self direction.

Neglectful Parenting

According to Diana Baumrind, parenting styles come in three main forms; authoritarian parenting, authoritative parenting, and indulgent parenting. Eleanor Maccoby and John Martin expanded Baumrind’s research and added another parenting style, Neglectful or Uninvolved Parenting (Maccoby & Martin, 1983). [4] The degree of supervision and discipline shown by Zafi’s mother is minimal, and there is no consequence for unacceptable behaviour. She does not deliberately encourage Zafi to self regulate his behaviour and there is very little communication between them. These are the characteristics of neglectful parenting. Even though she fulfills her children basic needs such as food and clothing, sadly, she is detached from their life. She is also psychologically unavailable to her children. Neglectful parenting style rank lowest across all life domains. Children with neglectful parents tend to lack self-control, have low self-esteem and are less competent than their peers. They often engage in high-risk behaviours and are vulnerable to substance abuse. [5]


Bronfenbrenner said that to ensure healthy child development, one or more adults must love the child unconditionally and they must spend time doing joint activities with the child in and out of the home environment. However, in Zafi’s case, this is not possible for his mother. What she could have done to increase the level of interaction with her son is by communicating with him more through the phone. During her short breaks at work, she could have called her son to ask about his day at school, find out whether he has eaten and to also provide psychological and emotional support in case his son is upset over a school event such as a failed test. This way, the child knows his mother cares for him and he can also feel his mother’s love and affection. She should also try to take at least a day off weekly to spend valuable face time with her children. If it is not possible, she should ask her parents for help in taking care of her children while she is at work. There must be at least one adult present at home so that the child would not feel neglected.

As for the teacher, he needs to be flexible to adjust to the parent’s inflexible work schedule. If meeting with the parent in person is not possible, he should at least keep in close contact with the parent through the phone and to update her about her son’s learning progress and behaviour. In doing so, he is successful in creating a linkage with the parent. Once there is a linkage, it will be much easier for both teacher and parent to work together to ensure the child’s healthy development. The teacher can also educate parents about the developmental needs of children. Research indicates that family involvement in schools increases student achievement (Henderson & Berla, 1994). [6] The benefits of parent and family involvement include higher test scores and grades, better attendance, more completion of homework and more positive attitudes and behavior.

Next, I would relate how Zafi’s parental interactions and parenting style affects his self and identity development.


Children look to parents and other important adults for evidence that they’re smart, capable, etc. This evidence may be in the form of encouragement, praise for accomplishments, awards, etc. If the evidence is not present, low self-esteem develops. [7] This explains why neglectful parenting results in children with low self-esteem. Low self-esteem can have a big negative impact on academic performance. Once a child does poorly in school, he will start to think poorly of himself and it may cause him to underachieve or make him give up completely. Children with low self-esteem tend to be lonely in school as they find it hard to make new friends. They would shy away from classroom activities as they do not want to appear incompetent. Resisting negative pressures would also seem difficult for these children. [8] Looking at Zafi’s case, it is obvious that he is suffering from low self-esteem. He is doing very poorly in school and at home he never gets the encouragement he needs to make him feel better. He is also not motivated to study as no matter how well he performs, his mother is not there to praise or acknowledge his accomplishments. In class, he is afraid to get involve in classroom activities and he constantly keeps to himself. He is also not able to resist negative pressures from his neighbourhood friends. As he spends more time with them, he developed a sense of belonging towards them and this sense makes him want to be like them.

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It is important that teachers look out for and help students who are suffering from low self-esteem as it can affect their academic performance and also their overall well-being. Teachers should be paying more attention to students like Zafi. They tend to have low self-esteem due to the lack of attention, love and affection. Students with low self-esteem will say things like, “I know that I will fail” or “I hate myself”. They tend to avoid getting involved in new activities and would have trouble making new friends and mixing around. Stresses faced at home such as parents arguing a lot and difficult lessons can have a negative impact on a child’s self esteem. Some of the things that teachers can do to improve students’ self-esteem are, to always accentuate the positive, avoid criticism, set realistic expectations for the students and give them the opportunity to tell the class things they like about themselves. Those with very low self-esteem will have problem with even saying two things they like about themselves therefore, the teacher have to provide prompts for these students.

Erikson’s Psychosocial Development Theory

Erik Erikson highlighted the importance of relationships with others in the formation of one’s own identity. He believed that personality develops through eight stages of life. He suggested that at each stage of life an individual is confronted by a crisis (Erikson, 1950). At this age, Zafi is going through stage 5 crisis of Erikson’s Psychosocial Development Theory which is Identity versus Role Confusion. In this stage, adolescents struggle to resolve the question of “Who am I?” They move from their parents to peers as a point of references. They strive to clarify their own personalities. They are often observed to imitate the attitudes and actions of others they admire. In Zafi’s case, his neighbourhood friends are his only point of reference. As he respects and admires them, he chose to imitate their attitudes and actions. He would smoke and drink alcohol with them till late at night.


In Identity versus Role Confusion stage, adolescents will move to peers as a point of reference. As Zafi is not close to anyone else in school, he is left with no choice but to see his neighbourhood friends as references. What can be done by the teacher is to introduce buddy system to pair up low self-esteem student such as Zafi with a higher self-esteem one. The higher self-esteem student may be able to help Zafi with his studies and thus increasing his confidence and self-esteem. Zafi may look up to his buddy as his role model and thus imitate him instead of his neighbourhood peers.

The teacher should also provide plenty of opportunities for students to explore identity issues as they relate to understanding who they are as individuals. An activity such as making a collage about themselves or writing their autobiography is a good way for them to explore themselves. The teacher can also enhance students’ self esteem by encouraging the students to substitute negative self-statements with a positive one.

Lastly, I would relate how Zafi’s parenting style affects his moral development.

His mother neglectful parenting style resulted in him lacking self-control, having low self-esteem and feeling less competent compared to his peers. His low self-esteem caused him to have low self-confidence which led him to believe that he does not have the ability to pass his examinations. As he does not want his classmates to think that he is stupid, he decided to cheat in his tests and examinations.

Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Development

The reason why Zafi cheated is based on self-interests. From his reasoning, his moral development is in Level 1: Preconventional Reasoning; Stage 1: Punishment-Obedience, of Kohlberg’s stages of moral development. His reasoning is characterised by a focus on the consequence experienced by him as a result of his actions.


To minimize cheating, teachers should clearly spell out the consequences of cheating and to consistently follow through with these when cheating does occur. Teachers can also help students overcome the need to cheat by providing the student with extra help and reducing student anxiety. Student anxiety can be reduced by emphasizing that mistakes are okay and a part of learning.


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