Developed by psychologist Urie Bronfenbrenner, ecological systems theory explains how human development is influenced by different types of environmental systems. Researchers, policy makers, and practitioners are interested in the opportunities and risks associated with how youth spend their discretionary time outside the regular school day. One of the primary settings in which youth spend their out-of-school hours is in organized activities, which include extracurricular activities, after-school programs, and activities at community-based organizations. Much research on out-of-school activities has utilized ecological systems theory to understand how activities foster positive, healthy development of youth from different backgrounds.

Modern theories of human development propose that development occurs over time as part of a complex process involving a system of interactions within the individual and between the individual and the ...

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