Ecological theories of human development consider the complex interactions between humans and their changing social and physical environments. Every member of society experiences these interactions in a different manner, depending on factors such as the amount of resources available to them or the interconnectedness of their support system at birth. As people age and as the macrosystem itself changes in response to events, people within the system shift to occupy different positions in society. People's psychological reactions to their evolving statuses reflect the culmination of a lifetime's worth of experiences. At each juncture within people's lives, their statuses are subject to norms and rules belonging to society.
Understood from the vantage of Bronfenbrenner's ecolological systems approach, initial transactions in a person's life are the result of direct interrelationships between the infant and members of the microsystem (church, family, peers, school, neighborhood, play area, and health services). Microsystems, in turn, are shaped by a host of higher-up systems, which are also acting on each other at the same time.
When the children in Bronfenbrenner's model mature into adulthood, they are likely to occupy new roles within the macrosystem. These acquired roles may be transient because familial roles, career placement, financial status and other factors may vary throughout people's lifetimes. Age, however, is one factor that invariably affects people's lives, and society - to a large part - determines the extent of that effect.
Deep-rooted in the mentality of members of a system are beliefs about which members are suited to which roles. If a society assigns a value to the knowledge gained through a lifetime of experience, then people in late adulthood and beyond will perceive themselves as vital. Alternatively, if a society chooses not to recognize that elders have an important contribution to make in society, then the elders of...