Behaviorism Vs. Ecological Systems Theory

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Human Growth & Development Behaviorism vs. Ecological Systems Theory There are many ways in which the behaviorist and the ecological theory of development are similar and ways in which they are different. While behaviorism focuses on a narrow, cause and effect process of development, ecological systems theory puts forth that development takes place within the interplay of biological, familial, societal and governmental forces. On the subject of “nature versus nurture” they are essentially in agreement and fall on the side of nurture however, ecological theory goes deeper into the sources of that “nurture”. In the behaviorist model, the assumption is that we come into the world an unformed ball of clay and are then molded by positive or negative feedback, or as behaviorist B.F. Skinner terms it “reinforcement”. Ecological systems theory recognizes that both nature and nurture work together to form behavior. While ecological theory acknowledge that development takes place in a social context, they put forth that that process is about the interaction of an individual within her/ his specific environmental context. As ecological theorist, Urie Bronfenbrenner puts forth, the focus must be on the two-way interactions between parent and child and not simply focused on either a biological or child rearing causes of behavior. In the behaviorist model, behavior is shaped by positive or negative “reinforcers”, such as praise or attention, this feedback then forms a person’s behavior. Conversely, ecological systems theory sees that the process of development is a permeable one, and development occurs as the individual and his/her environment reciprocally interact. So while the two theories agree that development is a process of learning through feedback, ecological theory goes further by saying that it is not a one sided or top down process, but one
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