Handbook of the Psychology of Aging


Three Environmental Systems



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Three Environmental Systems

The proposed framework includes three systems of influence at each developmental phase chronosystem, exosystem, and mesosystem. In the Bronfenbrenner model, after the family, the nearest and most direct environmental system, the
mesosystem
, is given first and primary consideration among the extra-famil- ial systems. However, the ordering of environmental systems is reversed in our framework, given our primary concern with the impact of broad sociocultural events on cohort differences. Thus, we first consider the
chronosystem

that is concerned with the changes and continuities overtime in environments that impact the individuals development. Two dimensions of the chronosystem are considered. First, the simplest form of chronosystem focuses on domain- specific life transitions. Two types of transitions have been distinguished in the psychological and sociological literatures ( Baltes, 1979; Riley et al., 1972 ): normative (school entry, puberty, work entry, marriage, childbearing, retirement) and non-normative death or severe illness, divorce, winning the lottery. These transitions are usually specific to a particular life domain (marriage, work, although there maybe spillover to other domains. These transitions are usually defined by a circumscribed relatively brief time period during which they occur. In contrast, a second dimension of the chronosystem deals with cumulative effects of an entire sequence of transitions or events occurring over a more extended time period in the individuals life (e.g., war, depression, technological advances. The impact of such historical or socio- cultural life course events on individual development has been an important focus of the work of social psychologists such as Elder (1974) , Stewart (2003) , and Helson and Moane (1987) . However, the developmental outcomes of interest in the prior work have primarily been factors such as well-being, stability, and success in work and marriage, rather than cognitive performance. Of critical importance is the expectation that the relative impact of these long-term historical or sociocultural events will vary depending on the developmental phase of the individual. Thus, the same historical event may result in very different outcomes for different cohorts experiencing the event at different developmental phases.
The
exosystem
deals with environments that are not directly experienced by the individual, but are important environments for significant others, such as the target individuals parents, spouse, or friends. Such environments external ” to the developing individual are referred to as exosystems. As the Kahn and Antonucci



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