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Transcripts of Selected Group Discussions on CYC-Net

Since it's founding in 1997, the CYC-Net discussion group has been asked thousands of questions. These questions often generate many replies from people in all spheres of the Child and Youth Care profession and contain personal experiences, viewpoints, as well as recommended resources.

Below are some of the threads of discussions on varying Child and Youth Care related topics.

Questions and Responses have been reproduced verbatim.

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Urie Bronfenbrenner

Hello, my name is Isabel I am a first year student at Vancouver Island University. I am doing a poster project about Urie Bronfenbrenner and I would like to know if somebody can help me with information on how Bronfenbrenner pushed for the understanding of the "holistic" child?


Isabel Jarvis

Bronfenbrenner pushed for a "holistic" understanding through what is probably known as his "ecological systems" theory approach, with the microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem, macrosystem, and added later, chronosystem concept. All these show how there are multiple interacting systems at all levels of society and all institutions of society, influencing the development of children.

Two seminal works, although you've undoubtedly found them:

Toward an experimental ecology of human development. American Psychologist, 1977

The Ecology of Human Development. Harvard U. Press, 1979.

If you google Urie Bronfenbrenner, you should find many valuable resources, not the least of which is a Wikipedia article.

Many in child and youth work have applied his ecological model to different areas of the field.

Karen VanderVen

Hi Isabel,

From my understanding Bronfenbrenner pushed for the understanding of the "holistic" child by speaking to the child in all contexts of their lives (school, family, government etc.). This is known as "An Ecological Perspective". When viewing Bronfenbrenner's model, it is perceived that a children experience themselves in relation to others; thus why it is important to take into account those whom they interract with (exosystem, mesosystem, microsystem etc.). Therefore, I think that he "pushed" through educating people via his model and creating a culture where people understand the "wholeness" of a child.

Hope this helps,
Lisa Azzopardi

Hi Isabel

As a second year student I am continually learning more about Bronfenbrenner.

The main focus would be the ecological systems theory including the micro,meso,exo,macro and chronosystems. In class we have talked a lot about how each of these systems have an effect on a child through each stage. They are bi-directional. One thing that really will be helpful for me to understand Bronfenbrenner and his theory is working with families and recognizing the relationships within a family and how they relate to how a child behaves.

I would suggest reading more of him through psychology text books and a basic understanding of the holistic child through wikapedia.

Good luck!

Kelly Adams

Jack Phelan wrote a helpful piece: /cycol-0904-phelan.html

And Aubey at /CYC-Online -feb2009-families.html

Also enter Bronfenbrenner in the search box on the front page at

– Eds.

Hi Isabel,

What makes Bronfenbrenner's model so useful, I think, is its elegance. While seemingly simple, it really captures the complexity of all of the different factors that affect a developing person in a way that encourages, and make more possible, to hold all of it in mind at once. It's important to consider what's happening for a child in each of the systems, as well as how the systems affect one another.

To really use this model to benefit kids, one must go beyond merely cataloguing what is going on for a kid in each system and to reflect on the implications. What are the implications of these elements/factors/goings-on on this kid's development (past and present)? What are the implications in terms of your assessment of need? How can other models of development (particularly as they are applied to your kid) be illuminated by considering all of the systems and their impact on one another? Again, what are the implications for that kid's development and assessment of need?

Anyway, my thoughts on Bronfenbrenner.

Laura Steckley

Wow, thank you for the helpful replies. I am so happy to finally get the help I needed. I hope you are enjoying your semester as much as I am.


Hi Isabel

I'm a 2nd year student at Mount Royal University. I'm not entirely sure if you've received many replies to this question or not, so I thought I'd have a go at it.

I completely agree with Bronfenbrenner's theory and his views on the "holistic" child. I think he wanted people to understand that children are simply not children with mundane experiences. From what I understand, he wanted us to know that children, and their lives, should be looked at from all directions. I believe this is where he brought in the micro, macro, exo and chrono system. He believes that children's lives are affected by many things including their peers, the relationship their parents have with teachers, their parents work schedule, what religious beliefs the child may have, and possibly even a certain war that occurred many years ago.

Bronfenbrenner wanted us to know that when assessing a child, we should look at all these systems in their lives, and try to get a better sense of who they are as a "whole" child.

I hope that made sense! Have a great day :)


Dear Isabel (and the others that responded),

The thing that I find most interesting about Bronfenbrenner's theory is its potential to expand Child and Youth Care (cyc) theory, specifically the concept of therapeutic milieu.

Therapeutic milieu is usually seen as applying to a residence or similar program where the CYCW is face-to-face with the child. This means that community and school-based CYCWs, and others who may have a lot less face-to-face time with kids appear to not be doing child and youth work or at least not using this fundamental aspect of cyc.

Bronfenbrenner helps to point out that there are levels of internvention, or levels of therapeutic milieu, beyond the building that houses the child, and that these levels may even have an impact on the part of the milieu inside the building (e.g., government funding).

And generally, the whole notion of levels of milieu is useful for explaining a lot of things in Child and Youth Care work, such as how changes within the building (e.g., a new director) can have a big effect on how therapeutic or not the milieu within the building will be.

For an idea of what this view of Child and Youth Care/therapeutic milieu might look like, have a look at my Child and Youth Care SWAT Team article on CYC-NET in the March 09 edition of CYC-Online : /CYC-Online -mar2009-mcdermottchapter.html

Dennis McDermott

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