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Uses and Misuses of Bronfenbrenner's Bioecological Theory of Human Development


Department of Human Development and Family Studies, PO Box 26170, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro NC 27402-6170. (


This paper evaluates the application of Bronfenbrenner's bioecological theory as it is represented in empirical work on families and their relationships. We describe the “mature” form of bioecological theory of the mid-1990s and beyond, with its focus on proximal processes at the center of the Process-Person-Context-Time model. We then examine 25 papers published since 2001, all explicitly described as being based on Bronfenbrenner's theory, and show that all but 4 rely on outmoded versions of the theory, resulting in conceptual confusion and inadequate testing of the theory.