Theories of Development: Classical and Temporary

Classical development theories provide a framework for understanding the human growth, learning, and development. They are also useful in predicting various human behaviors. This essay provides a comparison and contrast of Bronfenbrenner’s ecological model and the evolutionary perspective (Kipp, 2009). The two theories have some differences although some ideas are similar.

To begin with, Bronfenbrenner’s ecological model, also known as ecological systems theory provides the perspective, from which the psychologists are able to study the relationships within the individual contexts, as well as the society in general. On the other hand, the evolutionary perspective’s main aim is the identification of the human psychological traits that have evolved over time due to either natural or sexual selection. Based on this fact, the earlier theory interprets the environment and person as the two entities that have to coexist while the later one considers the environment to be a superior force, on which the human behavior depends and with which it must go hand in hand.

Bronfenbrenner’s ecological model postulates that different types of environment have a significant influence on the human development. The five systems are microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem, macrosystem, and Chronosystem. However, according to the evolutionary perspective, various body parts undergo physiological adaptations, and the mind is no exception. It is suggested that the mind has the ability to adapt to different situations in order to give a particular output. As opposed to the earlier model, the latter theory considers that the behavior of the human beings is mainly a result of psychological adaptations brought about by the need to deal with the ongoing problems in their ancestral environment (Halpern, 2011).

Bronfenbrenner’s ecological model is based on the premise that the human development occurs along the progression of processes that involve a reciprocal interaction between the organism, which is the human being, and objects, people, as well as symbols in his or her immediate environment. This view is not exactly similar to what is asserted by the ecological perspective. The later theory is based on the principle that the nature of human beings is a result of a set of evolved universal psychological adaptations to recurrent problems. It can be seen from the above explanation that, in the evolutionary perspective, the environment remains static, and it is upon the organism to develop the ways of coping with it. It goes in contrast to what is perceived by the ecological model as a reciprocal interaction where both parties are important players with regard to the outcome.

In Bronfenbrenner’s ecological model, the emphasis is put on the need for human beings to coexist peacefully with the environment around them. It is more about maintaining harmony with the interaction process being the shaping factor. However, the ecological theory’s main emphasis is put on survival by means of solving the problems that exist in the environment. In the latter theory, the human behavior has to be modified to fit the prevailing conditions; otherwise, the organism will not survive.

However, despite the glaring differences between the two theories, there appears to be an overlap in their principle and suggestions. For example, both theories agree with each other as far as the brain is concerned. They both perceive it as a device for processing the information that produces certain behavior as a response to various external and internal inputs. The important role of the brain in shaping the human behavior has been manifested in both theories to a degree sufficient to make one believe that they are not very different after all.

The two theories hold the same opinion regarding the human psychology as consisting of specialized mechanisms, which have sensitivity to the inputs of different classes. The combination of these mechanisms is human behavior. According to the ecological theory, this notion is greatly influenced by reciprocal interactions while the evolutionary perspective views it as being greatly dependent on the adaptability of the human mind. Despite the minor differences in certain details, the broader picture of human psychology in both theories is the same.

Both theories recognize the role played by the genetic inheritance in the human development. In the ecological perspective, the process by which genotypes are turned to phenotypes is explained. Behavioral geneticists go ahead to explain the role of additive genetic variation in phenotypic variation and the influences of the environment on it. In the evolutionary perspective, human behavior is considered to have a genetic basis; therefore, it must have evolved through the process of natural selection just like other human systems in order to solve the problems of reproduction and survival. Although there are similarities in the recognition of the role of genetics, trivial differences exist (Bronfenbrenner, 2009).

Both theories use the environment as a context for the human development. In the ecological perspective, the environment is seen as a set of structures that are re-conceptualized to shape the human thinking and behavior. The role of different environments such as the macrosystem is discussed. The evolutionary perspective explains the role of the environment in the concept of variation. According to the later theory, different local environments interacting with the universal mechanisms cause different behavior.

In conclusion, it can be seen from the above discussion that the two theories, though not necessarily similar in propositions, have a lot of similarities in their principles. Both seek to explain the human development in the context of the environment, in which a human being lives, and how the two entities interact to shape the human behavior.