Ecological perspective children communities

Ecological perspective children communities - c01.fm Page 1...

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1 INTRODUCTION ECOLOGICAL THEORY AND ITS APPLICATION TO CHILD DEVELOPMENT AND PARENTING It has always been recognised that a child’s circumstances are likely to have an influence on their developmental progress. In the past psychologists in particular have focused predominantly on the behaviour and skills of parents, looking at the extent to which they have gained educational qualifications, attained employ- ment at different levels of the occupational ‘ladder’, or provided opportunities for their child – to play, to meet other children, to attend schools of good quality and so on. Personal characteristics of the parents such as their personality, attitudes or mental health were also considered to be of importance in understanding both their child’s development and their parenting behaviour. In contrast, sociologists paid more attention to community influences. What has changed in the past few decades is the acknowledgement by a number of disciplines concerned with child and family development, such as psychology, sociology, anthropology, psychiatry and social policy, that parents and children occupy systems beyond the family system, that they need to be understood in context, and that their environment makes a difference to their health, well-being and progress. Now it is recognised that individual, family and wider community factors need to be addressed together rather than being consid- ered separately. For instance, ‘broken windows’ in a neighbourhood have long been associated with levels of criminal and delinquent behaviour (Wilson & Kelling, 1982). Wilson and Kelling hold that if someone breaks a window in a building and it is not quickly repaired, others will be emboldened to break more windows. Eventually the broken windows create a sense of disorder that attracts criminals, who thrive in conditions of public apathy and neglect. Their argument in relation to interventions to reduce crime and delinquency was that, if you send the message that people care about this neighbourhood (by fixing windows), this also sends the message that if something happens someone may catch you or at the very least notice. The theory would predict that this attention to the structural ‘well-being’ of the neighbourhood will change people’s behaviour, not just about whether they break windows but whether they mug old ladies and whether or not they burgle houses and so forth. More recently structural aspects of a geographical community such as the broken windows indicator, or general community neglect, have been linked with a range of other issues including health c01.fm Page 1 Monday, February 27, 2006 1:54 PM
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2C H I L D R E N A N D F A M I L I E S I N C O M M U N I T I E S problems (Cohen etal., 2000), parenting problems (Garbarino & Eckenrode, 1997), children’s educational achievement (Gibbons, 2002) and child behaviour (Boyle & Lipman, 1998).
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This note was uploaded on 02/01/2012 for the course PSYCH 209 taught by Professor Goldstein during the Spring '11 term at Cornell University (Engineering School).

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