Psychodynamic Vs. Ecological Systems Theoretical Perspective

The psychodynamic theory, otherwise known as psychanalytical theory, describes that humans develop through phases where they encounter different challenges of bodily needs and societal demand standards. The ability to address these challenges as they grow describes a person’s potential to acquire knowledge and interact with other people to control uneasiness. Transitioning from these phases and the capability to overcome every encounter determines an individual’s personality; this defines the varying personalities of different people. Sigmund Freud, born in 1856, is the pioneer of psychodynamic theory. On the other hand, ecological systems theory describes how human development is influenced by various factors surrounding them. These factors, individually or collectively, have significant impacts on their development. Their effects reflect from the immediate surrounding, family, and friends to society in its entirety; interestingly, the impact of one level significantly influences the interrelationship of the other levels. Urie Bronfenbrenner, born in 1917, pioneered the ecological systems theory. There are differences between psychoanalytic and ecological systems theories; however, they are applicable in schools.

In psychoanalytic theory, the argument is based on the unconscious mind, unlike ecological system theory which is based on the environment. Psychoanalytic breaks down development into five stages: oral, anal, phallic, latency, and genital (Berk, 2018). In an oral stage, birth -1 year, the babies develop sucking desires toward the breast; if not met, they develop smoking as they grow. In the Anal stage, 1 – 3 years, children are excited to hold and release urine and feces; this determines children’s orderliness and disorderliness. In the phallic stage,3 – 6 years, children have genital stimulation and they feel guilty when they misuse it. In latency, 6 – 11 years, genital stimulation disappears, and children develop new social values from same-sex peers and adults. Finally, in adolescence, sexual impulse reappears, leading to marriage.

On the other hand, in ecological system theory, children’s general surroundings influence their development. Bronfenner divides it into four zones: microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem, and macrosystem (Berk, 2018). The microsystem, immediate family, school, and local playing ground, affect children’s and parents’ behavior; their relationship is bidirectional. Adults influence children’s behavior by guiding them, while on the other hand, children evoke adults’ reactions through their behavior; when it happens repeatedly, it impacts development. The mesosystem describes the interrelationship between different microsystems in the child’s development, for instance, the effect of the interrelationships between the school, parents, and teachers on the child’s development. The exosystem includes working places, religious institutions, and health facilities; the interactions and services offered in the places impact development. Finally, the macrosystem consists of factors that indirectly influence the development of dependents; it affects the other zones of their surroundings; for instance, the government’s favorable parenting policies, the macrosystem positively impacts the parents, microsystem, and thus the development of the child.

Psychoanalytic theories have individual weaknesses based on their research backgrounds. For instance, in Freud’s theory, research was based on adults who had problems with sexual repression in the nineteenth century, not children. This, therefore, does not give substantial evidence does not give verifiable evidence for its arguments. The research is limited and valid from birth to adolescence; it does not cover adulthood and old age (Berk, 2018). Furthermore, the research was only limited to Viennese society and made general assumptions about other cultures. On the other hand, ecological system theory is one of the most recent theories with up-to-date information, thus making it more valid than earlier research (Berk, 2018). It is based on the influence factors surrounding individuals and the effects on their development. The theory covers the development of all ages, from birth to old age. Ecological systems theory has a universal approach applicable in any cultural setting, making it more reliable and verifiable.

Psychoanalytic theory helps understand the reason or sources of certain behaviors in students. Educators can evaluate, identify possible reasons for specific performances, and initiate support if necessary. This will help create a proper and conducive environment to facilitate a smooth learning process. It emphasizes the importance of close teacher-student involvement in education, enhancing performance where the student can open up if there is any underlying affecting their performance or general well-being (Dimitrijević, 2018). Psychoanalysis theory also informs appropriate disciplinary measures for students that may not evoke memories of the painful experiences they might have had in the past.

Ecological systems theory enables educators to provide a conducive environment for students considering that it influences their development. It plays a critical role in the education of children with special needs by guiding the development of suitable learning systems to cater to their learning needs effectively; it engages the educator, parent, and school administrators in deciding how best to offer personalized learning. In addition, it has been used to combine educational and psychological theory that enables educators to consider other social factors of the student, such as family relationships that might contribute to their changing behaviors or poor performance (Dobson & Douglas, 2018). The educator will initiate appropriate steps and engage relevant parties in addressing the issue for students’ psychological well-being and overall school performance.

In conclusion, psychoanalytic theory’s argument is based on the unconscious, which breaks down development into oral, anal, phallic, latency, and genital stages, while ecological systems theory’s argument is based on the surroundings, including microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem, and macrosystem. Psychoanalytic theory has weaknesses compared to ecological systems theory since its research was conducted in adults around the 19th century in Vienna and is valid from birth to adolescence, while ecological systems theory is the most recent, universally suitable for all cultures, and valid from birth to old age. Both psychoanalytic and ecological system theories are applied in schools.


Berk, L. E. (2018). Development through the lifespan (7th ed.). Pearson.

Dimitrijević, A. (2018). A mixed-model for psychoanalytic education. International Forum of Psychoanalysis, 27(2), 121–125.

Dobson, G. J., & Douglas, G. (2018). Who would do that role? Understanding why teachers become SENCos through an ecological systems theory. Educational Review, 72(3), 298–318.