Ecological Systems Theory and the Theory of Triadic Influence

Please discuss and provide specific examples for some of the main differences and similarities between the Ecological Systems Theory and the Theory of Triadic Influence.


The Ecological Systems theory was developed by Urie Bronfenbrenner which is a multilevel system approach to understanding child development and behaviors are the result of the relationship between the individual child and their surrounding systems. The systems included in the Ecological Systems Theory are the microsystem, the mesosystem, the ecosystem, the macrosystem, and the Chronosystem. The microsystem is the system that is closest to the child examples of the microsystem include family, neighbors, daycare, and school.  The next closest system to the child is the mesosystem. The mesosystem examples would include programs like Girl Scouts or Boys Scouts, or faith organizations.  The ecosystem is the social system that surrounds the child. This would include programs like Women Infant and Children, social services, and other places or organizations that affect the child’s well-being. The macrosystem is the system around revolves around traditions, cultural customs, and societal rules and regulations that would affect the child’s development.  An example of this might be laws limit family leave or a law that limits women working.  The final system described in the Ecological Systems theory is the Chronosystem an example of this system would be a child growing up in an area where the school system is now well running for several years. The Chronosystem basically adds the component of time to the other system levels. Later Urie Bronfenbrenner expanded on this theory accounting for an individual’s biological processes to include psychological, cognitive, and genetic foundations. Adding these biological processes led to the differential between proximal and distal processes.

Proximal processes are developments that happens between a person and his or her surroundings. For example, I recently read a journal article that suggested that if a military member trainee witnesses a trainer or someone in leadership of the trainees smoking, they are more like to start smoking themselves. Other proximal processes in this example would include the service member’s point of view on how his fellow service members (peers) feel about smoking. This would be a proximal process as it relates to the service member trainee’s environment. Distal processes are things that happen with the person’s surroundings that affect the immediate or proximal interactions. Distal influences would include sizeable societal or environmental adjustments that happen outside the military members family, unit (i.e. platoon, squadron etc.), or peers that would advertise or curb smoking. An example of this would be an Army base banning smoking in all buildings and within 250 feet of the building. This

Developed by a team that was led by social psychologist Bran R Flay the Theory of Triadic Influence is organized based on the two basic ideas. The first idea is based on levels of causation and the second is streams of influence. Levels of causation are proximal, distal, and underlying. An example of causation can include general roles, social economic status, and family relations ships. Steams of influence are contributing factors to behaviors such as intrapersonal influences, social influences, or cultural-environmental influences. Examples of streams of influence could be socials media, peer groups, or programs like the boys and girls club.


Edberg, M. (2015). Essentials of health behavior: Social and behavioral theory in public health (2nd ed.). Jones & Bartlett Learning.

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