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Urie Bronfenbrenner
Born April 29, 1917(1917-04-29)
Moscow, Russia
Died September 25, 2005 (aged 88)
Ithaca, New York
Occupation Psychologist
Known for Co-founder of the Head Start program

Urie Bronfenbrenner (April 29, 1917–September 25, 2005) was an Russian American psychologist, known for developing his Ecological Systems Theory, and as a co-founder of the Head Start program in the United States for disadvantaged pre-school children.


Background and career

Urie Bronfenbrenner was born to Russian Jews, Dr. Alexander Bronfenbrenner and Eugenie Kamenetski Bronfenbrenner, in Moscow, Russia. When he was 6, the family moved from the USSR to the United States.

Bronfenbrenner attended Cornell University on a scholarship,[1] completing a double major in psychology and music in 1938. After earning an M.A. at Harvard University in developmental psychology, he completed a Ph.D. at the University of Michigan in 1942. Thereafter he entered service in the United States Army as a psychologist. Following a brief stint at the Veterans' Administration following World War II, Bronfenbrenner began teaching. First an Assistant Professor in Psychology at the University of Michigan, he took a professorship at Cornell University in 1948. In the late 1960s to early 1970s, Bronfenbrenner served as a faculty-elected member of Cornell's . At his death in 2005, Bronfenbrenner was the Jacob Gould Schurman Professor Emeritus of Human Development and of Psychology in the Cornell University College of Human Ecology.

Ecological Systems Theory

Generally regarded as one of the world's leading scholars in the field of developmental psychology, Bronfenbrenner's primary contribution was his Ecological Systems Theory, in which he delineated four types of nested systems. He called these the microsystem (such as the family or classroom); the mesosystem (which is two microsystems in interaction); the exosystem (external environments which indirectly influence development, e.g., parental workplace); and the macrosystem (the larger socio-cultural context). He later added a fifth system, called the Chronosystem (the evolution of the external systems over time). Each system contains roles, norms and rules that can powerfully shape development.


Bronfenbrenner had six children: Kate Bronfenbrenner, is the Director of Labor Education Research at the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations. Mary Bronfenbrenner teaches German in the Ithaca Public School system. Michael Bronfenbrenner lives in Seal Beach, California, and works as a video artist/professional. Steven Bronfenbrenner directs an arts administration company in San Francisco, California. Beth Soll, who resides in New York City, is a choreographer, dancer, and writer. She directed the Dance Program at MIT from 1977-1997 and now teaches at Columbia University and Manhattanville College. Ann Stambler is a psychiatric social worker in Newton, Massachusetts.



  • 1972. Two Worlds of Childhood. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-671-21238-9
    • Two Worlds of Childhood: US and USSR. Penguin (paperback, 1975). ISBN 0-14-081104-4
  • 1973. Influencing Human Development. Holt, R & W. ISBN 0-03-089176-0
  • 1975. Influences on Human Development. Holt, R & W. ISBN 0-03-089413-1
  • 1979. The Ecology of Human Development: Experiments by Nature and Design. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-22457-4
  • 1981. On Making Human Beings Human. Sage Publications Inc. ISBN 0-7619-2711-3
  • 1996. The State of Americans: This Generation and the Next. New York: Free Press. ISBN 0-684-82336-5. Lony Tunes


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