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When it comes to the weaknesses, strengths, and biases of Uri Bronfenbrenner's Ecological System Theory, what are the implications for helping professionals?

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Brofenbrenner's Ecological Systems Theory draws its strength from the fact that it considers all the areas of influence. It defines areas of influence as the systems that will have an impact on a child. These include cultural and social values; different environments such as school, home, and playground; and parental values, for example. The influences can be direct or indirect. For example, a difficult relationship between one of the parents and their friend can impact the child's home life, and spill into the parent-child relationship.

Overall, the model is concerned with measuring and understanding individual childhood development. It is focused primarily on nurture factors, or environmental influences, rather than nature, meaning innate characteristics. In that sense, it may call on the psychologist to include these factors through additional cognitive or medical testing.

The strength of this model can be found in the holistic understanding it offers of a child. For example, in wanting to understand a child's behaviour pattern at school, the antecedents may be found in the home. This is useful when diagnosing a child with antisocial behavior. This model allows behavioral problems to be contextualized. They may be a result of social issues in the home or cultural stress. For example, if the family is from a different culture than the majority, the child may not feel as comfortable at school.

In considering the value to professionals, there are always limits on hand as to how many environments and influences can be directly studied. However, having an awareness of these quantifiable factors, and conducting a thorough evaluation, adds depth to the understanding of the child.

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Uri Bronfenbrenner's ecological system theory treats every action as something that takes place in an ecosystem. Essentially, for psychological professionals, this means that there is nothing that happens that wasn't influenced by something else, and vice versa.

This system of thought is extremely beneficial when dealing with large groups of people or long-term issues because they are so interwoven with the various effects of other people and situations in their lives. By treating this as a whole system, however, it does sometimes overlook individual aspects that can make it more difficult to interpret a person's behavior.

The implications, however, are extremely beneficial for helping professionals, because it offers a holistic approach and allows them to treat problems within the context they arise from. This approach gives a more dynamic healing ability because it allows the individual or group to address the external problems that are associated with their actions instead of simply their own thoughts and motivations.

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One of the most critical points in Bronfenbrenner's ecological systems theory is that human development is not devoid of context. Understanding how these contexts factor into the development of the human being is vitally important.  Depending on one's views, it could be a strength or weakness.  On one hand, it can be quite reductive to see nearly every aspect of being as a result of context.  At the same time, it can be quite liberating to understanding that human beings are the products of interaction with the systems that envelop them.  This is where biases, strengths, and weaknesses exist.  

A significant implication of Bronfenbrenner's theory for helping professionals is understanding how messages within these contexts must be concurrent.  A significant point of Bronfenbrenner's ecological systems model is that individual development is more thorough when there is convergence in belief systems. For example, challenges arise when the Microsystem of the home collides with normative behavior in the Mesosystem of school.  An example of this would be a child that is exposed to violent behavior at home as an acceptable means of communication coming to school and then interacting with others in a violent manner. Bronfenbrenner himself speaks to this:  "Development, it turns out, occurs through this process of progressively more complex exchange between a child and somebody else specially somebody who's crazy about that child."  For individuals in the helping fields, being able to fully grasp this "complex exchange" means sensing and articulating collisions between messages in ecological systems.  This is one way in which helping professionals can understand Bronfenbrenner's ecological systems theory and its impact on the individual.

Along these lines, Bronfenrenner's ecological systems theory allows the individual to understand context in understanding the individual.  Instead of reductive and sweeping judgments, individuals in the helping professions are able to understand the role that context plays within an individual's development.  As a result, a lack of development can be traced to a particular system.  Being able to recognize the messages being transmitted in this particular system and either supplementing it with messages accepted in other systems can become an intervention that those in the helping professions can offer.  In this way, Bronfenbrenner's theory of ecological systems is one whereby those in the helping professions can examine where divergence and potential breakdown in messages are being presented.  They can offer assistance and foster development as a response to it.

Bronfenbrenner's ecological system theory possesses implications in subjective and external levels. He understood that individuals in the helping professionals could embrace the transformative capacity on both levels:

In the planning and designing of new communities, housing projects, and urban renewal, the planners both public and private, need to give explicit consideration to the kind of world that is being created for the children who will be growing up in these settings. Particular attention should be given to the opportunities which the environment presents or precludes for involvement of children with persons both older and younger than themselves.

The hope for "new communities" and renewal is where the true implications of the ecological systems model exists for those in the helping professions.

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