Still misused after all these years? A re-evaluation of the uses of Bronfenbrenner’s bioecological theory of human development

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Jonathan R. Tudge, Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:

Abstract: A theoretical review published in 2009 revealed that scholars who stated that their research was based on Urie Bronfenbrenner's bioecological theory of human development rarely used it appropriately. To what extent has the situation changed since then? We used the same methods to identify relevant articles as had been used in the 2009 article and found 20 publications whose authors explicitly claimed that Bronfenbrenner provided the theoretical foundation for their study. Although 18 of those publications included citations to the mature (mid-1990s) version of Bronfenbrenner's theory, only two appropriately described, tested, and evaluated the four major concepts of Bronfenbrenner's theory—proximal processes, person characteristics, context, and time. Failure either to correctly describe the theory or to critically test its central concepts poses significant problems for the future of family studies and developmental science. We discuss potential ways to improve this situation through metatheoretical, methodological, and pedagogical reflections.

Additional Information

Journal of Family Theory and Review, 8, 427–445
Language: English
Date: 2016
Bioecological theory, ecological theory, ecological systems theory, PPCT model, proximal processes, Urie Bronfenbrenner

Email this document to