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Bronfenbrenner's Macrosystem: Definition, Examples & Quiz

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Yolanda Williams

Yolanda has taught college Information Technology, and Literacy and has a master's in counseling psychology and business administration.

The ecological systems theory was introduced by Urie Bronfenbrenner in 1979. Learn more about the five layers of the ecological systems theory from examples and test your knowledge with a quiz.


The macrosystem is the cultural environment in which the child resides. The macrosystem is a part of the ecological systems theory.

Introduction to Bronfenbrenner's Ecological Systems Theory

Urie Bronfenbrenner developed the ecological systems theory in 1979 in an attempt to explain the role in which the environment plays in childhood development. There are five environmental systems that affect how children develop. When a change in one of the five systems occurs, it has the potential to influence the other systems. The five systems are:

  • Microsystem
  • Mesosystem
  • Exosystem
  • Macrosystem
  • Chronosystem

The following image depicts the five environmental systems of Bronfenbrenner's ecological systems theory.


If you look closely, you can see a child in the center of the image. Each circle that surrounds the child represents one of the five systems that influence the way the child develops.

The first circle depicted in green is the microsystem, which is the environmental system where the child's immediate interactions happen. The child's school and family are both microsystems.

The tan circle shows the mesosystem, which contains interactions between two microsystems. An example of a mesosystem is having your parents (family microsystem) chaperone a school field trip (school microsystem).

The information in the blue circle is the exosystem, which consists of the settings in the environment that have a significant influence on the child, although the child does not directly participate in the settings. An example of an exosystem is the death of a family friend.

The purple circle contains the macrosystem.

The white crescent shape outside of the circle contains the chronosystem, which consists of life transitions and events. This includes any sociohistorical events. An example of a chronosystem is the birth of a sibling when the child is five years old.

Bronfenbrenner's Macrosystem

The macrosystem is the fourth level of Bronfenbrenner's theory. Cultural values, health and public policy, and laws are all a part of the macrosystem. The culture's belief systems and ideology influence the child directly, even though the child does not have much freedom in determining his or her cultural values. For example, a child cannot determine the political norms of his or her culture, which are a part of the macrosystem.

The principles of the macrosystem influence the exosystems, mesosystems, and the microsystems. For example, if it is a cultural belief that mothers should have the sole responsibility of staying at home and raising the children (macrosystem), the mother would be less likely to pursue work outside of the home (parent's workplace is part of the exosystem). This in turn would affect the amount of time that the child's mother has to interact with the child's school and neighborhood (mesosystem). The mother's ability to carry out the responsibility of taking care of her child within the family (microsystem) would also be affected.

Other examples of macrosystems include socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and poverty.

Lesson Summary

The microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem, macrosystem, and the chonosystem are the five environmental levels that influence child development according to Bronfenbrenner's ecological theory. The macrosystem is the fourth layer and consists of the cultural context in which the child resides. The effects of the macrosystem also trickle down to the exosystem, mesosystem, and microsystem.

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