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Ecological Systems Theory-Based Model

The ecological systems theory developed by Urie Bronfenbrenner is helpful to understand what specific systems influence the development of children, as well as their views, perceptions, and behaviors. Therefore, this theoretical model is effective to support the collection and analysis of data to answer the main research question that guides this project: how do parents talk to their children about race? In the context of the topic of forming children’s views regarding nationalism and racism and the parents’ role in this process, it is necessary to determine the most influential environments for children.

Bronfenbrenner’s model consists of five key environments: microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem, macrosystem, and chronosystem. In this research, the focus is on the role of only four systems as chronosystem indicates the changes over time that are not examined in this project. The reason is that the focus of the study is on examining how children’s visions regarding race and racism can be formed at the current stage because of parents’ explanations at the microsystem level and interactions within other environments. Figure 1 provides the ecological systems theory-based model developed for this study, referring to four environments.

Ecological systems theory-based model
Figure 1. Ecological systems theory-based model

Exploring the microsystem of children, the key focus is on their relationships in families, and particularly, on relations with parents. The reason is that parents’ views regarding race, racism, and nationalism influence messages they share with their children. Parents’ attitudes to their own race and the race of other people, their possible obvious or hidden racism, or ideas associated with nationalism affect their discussion of these issues with children in terms of the position or attitude they support (Doucet et al., 2016). The family is the core for examining in the children’s microsystem because it can include the representatives of other races, and the variety of these interactions within a family influences children’s visions.

The mesosystem is important to be studied because the focus on it allows for analyzing how the links between different components of the microsystem influence development. For this research, it is important to examine how the connections between the family, peers, and school affect children’s perception of race (Smith et al., 2015). Although peers and school were not identified as core entities in the microsystem, they play an important role in the mesosystem because children’s interactions with representatives of different races and messages about race and nationalism at school become mixed with parents’ views.

The exosystem for this research includes mass media and interactions within the community. The reason is that regular interactions with the representatives of different races, and possible ethnic collaboration or conflicts have an impact on views regarding racism and nationalism, as well as the racial discourse (Smith et al., 2015). The key entities in the macrosystem include the demographics of the region where subjects live with the focus on the dominant race, culture, values, and the political course (Doucet et al., 2016). The culture of the territory and political views can influence parents’ visions regarding race.

The application of the four components or systems of the ecological systems theory-based model to this research allows for understanding what aspects influence parents’ views of race as well as their messages shared with children. These systems can explain what environments form children’s views in addition to parents’ talks. Therefore, it is possible to state that the use of this model contributes to this research significantly.


Doucet, F., Banerjee, M., & Parade, S. (2016). What should young black children know about race? Parents of preschoolers, preparation of bias, and promoting egalitarianism. Journal of Early Childhood Research, 16(1), 65-79.

Smith, S. M., Reynolds, J. E., Fincham, F. D., & Beach, S. R. H. (2015). Parental experiences of racial discrimination and youth racial socialization in two-parent African American families. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 22(2), 268-276.

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