Social and Behavioral Theories

4. Important Theories and Their Key Constructs

Social Ecological Model

The social ecological model helps to understand factors affecting behavior and also provides guidance for developing successful programs through social environments. Social ecological models emphasize multiple levels of influence (such as individual, interpersonal, organizational, community and public policy) and the idea that behaviors both shape and are shaped by the social environment. The principles of social ecological models are consistent with social cognitive theory concepts which suggest that creating an environment conducive to change is important to making it easier to adopt healthy behaviors.

Example 2

Given the growing epidemic of obesity in the United States and other developed countries, more attention is being focused toward examining and improving the health-promoting features of communities and neighborhoods and reducing the ubiquity of high-calorie, high-fat food choices.

Figure 4

Social Ecological Model

An illustration of the Social Ecological Model.

Adapted from: Bronfenbrenner, U. (1977). Toward an experimental ecology of human development. American Psychologist, 32(7), 513-531.