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by: Megan

Chapter Notes: PSCH 231 (community psychology)

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These notes cover what was discussed in class.
Community psychology
Sandra B. Adames
Class Notes
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This 12 page Class Notes was uploaded by Megan on Wednesday October 12, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to PSCH 231 (community psychology) at University of Illinois at Chicago taught by Sandra B. Adames in Fall 2016. Since its upload, it has received 8 views. For similar materials see Community psychology in Psychology (PSYC) at University of Illinois at Chicago.

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Date Created: 10/12/16
Understanding Community ~ Chapter 6 Community psychologists believe that people have emotional connections with their communities, and that the quality of these connections has important implications for people’s well-being and stability. It is these emotional connections that community psychologists refer to when they talk about “sense of community.” Community has been defined as: “a readily available, mutually supportive network of relationships on which one could depend” (Sarason, 1974, p. 1). What are your thoughts on these definitions of community and sense of community? How do you define or experience community, or sense of community, in various aspects of your life? It’s also been argued that the “absence or dilution of the psychological sense of community is the most destructive dynamic in the lives of people in our society” (Sarason, 1974, p. x). In which ways do you agree or disagree with this statement? What if you didn’t feel connected to a community or didn’t have a sense of community? In sociology and community psychology a distinction in made between definition of community as a locality (physical place) or a relational group (a social or recreational affiliation). Locality-based community is the more traditional concept of community. It includes physical locations, such as neighborhoods, schools, small towns, cities, or rural regions. The interpersonal connections that exist among members of locality-based communities are typically due to geographic proximity, not necessarily by choice. Relational-based community is defined by interpersonal connections and a sense of community that typically isn’t due to geographic proximity. For example, mutual help groups, student clubs, or religious congregations. Locality-based communities and relational-based communities represent a spectrum, rather than a dichotomy. In other words, a community isn’t necessarily defined as either of these two, but may fall anywhere between these two different “poles” or “ends.” Communities may also exist at any of the ecological levels we have been discussing, and as you had opportunity to consider in the activity you completed on Thursday. Some of you had very specific affiliations, like family and social circles; others had broader affiliations, such as ethnic/cultural groups, volunteering efforts, and LGBTQ activism. The strength of bonds among community members is very important to CP. Sarason (1974, p. 157) defined this psychological sense of community as:  the perception of similarity to others  an acknowledged interdependence with others  a willingness to maintain this interdependence by giving to or doing for others what one expects from them, and  the feeling that one is part of larger dependable and stable structure As a contrast, let’s consider the opposite of sense of community. How do you know you don’t belong in a certain community or how do you know it’s time to disengage from a certain community? McMillan and Chavis (1996) identified four elements that describe or comprise the characteristics of sense of community: membership, influence, integration and fulfillments of needs, and shared emotional connection. According to McMillan and Chavis, all four of these elements must be present to define a sense of community. Membership—has five attributes: 1) boundaries refer to the need to define what includes members and excludes non-members; 2) common symbols help define boundaries and identify members, such as Greek letters, colors, and others logos; 3) emotional safety could mean feeling physically and emotionally protected as a result of established clear boundaries; 4) personal investment is likely to happen when members experience safety and, consequently, make long term commitments to a community; and 5) belonging and identification ultimately takes place when members feel accepted by other members and considers membership in the community as an integral part of their personal identity Influence—refers to the power that members exercise over the group and to the reciprocal power that group dynamics exert on members. Therefore, individuals influence the group or community, and the community influences the views and actions of individuals. The most influential members in a group are often those to whom the needs and values of others matter most. Those who seek to dominate or exercise power too strongly are often isolated. Integration and fulfillment of needs—involves two aspects: shared values and exchange of resources. Shared values are mutual ideals that can be pursued throughout collective engagement, such as worship in a religious community, and improved educational quality in a parent-teacher group. Exchange of resources refers to the satisfying to mutual needs among community members. Shared emotional connection—refers to the spiritual bond in a community that is not easily defined, and yet easily recognizable to those who share it. It’s a bond that is deeper than behaviors, common terminology, or shared cues. This spiritual bond is demonstrated and strengthened through rituals, celebrations, and shared stories. Although different people have suggested different factors for defining or anchoring the concept of community psychology, measuring this concept poses a challenge. It’s possible that the concept of community psychology is contextual—varying across cultures and communities, and that definitions and models, such as those proposed by Sarason, and McMillan and Chavis are simply the foundation for more elaborate, and context specific definitions and conceptualizations. As an example, is sense of community primarily a cognitive-emotional construct or does it include such related behaviors as neighborly acts, or citizen participation in decision making or social change? What would you say about this idea that the definition of sense of community is context specific? What about the question of whether it includes cognitive-emotional components only or behavioral components too? What would you say makes studying and understanding sense of community important? For starters, as we’ve discussed before, no single person can tackle all of the issues they encounter on their own; because they wouldn’t have all of the necessary resources, and issues aren’t always about situations that are within individual control. Also, research has shown that positive psychological sense of community is correlated with a number of positive outcomes for individuals, such as adolescent identity formation, individual well-being, mental health, and recovery from substance abuse. In addition, sense of community has been linked with positive outcomes for the communities themselves, such as participation in neighborhood groups and religious institutions, as well as community members believing that working with others to take community action can be effective. At a national level, positive sense of community has been correlated with voter participation. What these positive outcomes related to sense of community are referring to is the social capital that is attained through or generated by participants acting together to more effectively pursue shared objectives (Putnam, 1996, p. 56). A person may have significant social capital even if he or she does not personally own a significant amount of material or economic capital. A good example of what is meant by social capital could be the case of a single parent who moves to a place where they don’t know anyone because they’re more likely to find better paying work. This person may end up making more money than before, but will have to pay for child care, given that s/he’s moved away from a community where s/he has multiple connections who could’ve provided this help for free. The single parent’s loss of this social capital may compromise their quality of life, even if s/he is earning more money than before. And we could find similar examples for what happens to neighborhoods, cities, and countries when people move away from them in search of better opportunities and don’t come back to invest in the social capital of their places of origin. The idea of buying local is, in some ways, about protecting and promoting social capital. Individuals may belong to multiple communities, which may or may not interact with each other or influence each other. The key to understanding how multiple communities affect a person is by being attentive to the role each of these communities play in their lives. Membership in communities change over time, as does the relative importance that different communities have in our lives. There may be even be times in our lives when we don’t feel the need for sense of community and aren’t actively engaged with any particular community, or we may feel like we need to disengage from a community that may not be contributing to our well-being. Not all communities have benevolent or inclusive intentions. Change is inevitable for communities because sense of community is ultimately a process that continuously evolves. According to some researchers modern, industrialized societies have yielded an increased sense of alienation among individuals. Others have discovered evidence for declines in involvement in civic associations, political participation, religious congregations, charitable giving, and even trust among fellow citizens. However, some researchers argue that these changes may have to do with changes in how people respond to specific events, and that what is needed is new ways of promoting social regulation and integration. One specific example of changes in collective endeavors are changes in structural features, such as a greater number of high-rise apartment buildings and a reduction in access to green spaces, have had a negative effect on opportunities for neighbor interactions and community development practices. On the other hand, online communities offer several advantages for community building, such as transcending geographic distance and social status boundaries. Understanding Human Diversity in Context ~ Chapter 7 When you hear the term “human diversity” or “diversity” what do you think about? What usually comes to mind when you hear these terms? How do you think they are particularly relevant to CP and a class like this one? In the field of CP a discussion on human diversity isn’t a discussion of just individual differences, but also a consideration of the variety of people within a certain context, and between various contexts. For example, the diversity of people within a school and how this compares to the diversity of people of the neighborhood where the school is, and at a larger level, how the diversity within the school and neighborhood compare to the diversity of the city where they are … and so on. Another important point to keep in mind when discussing issues of human diversity is the assumption that diversity refers to people who are different from a White, middle-class, heterosexual norm. It’s inaccurate to assume that issues of human diversity do not apply to you because you are not of color, not a foreigner, or not marginalized by socioeconomic, gender, sexual, religious, or political status. If we think of human diversity as being comprised of the multiple dimensions that shape a person’s social and personal experiences, then each person has a particular place along the continuum that is diversity. Each person has a cultural/ethnic background, racial background, gender affiliation, sexual orientation, and possibly a religious or political identification. The variabilities of profiles that are possible along all of these characteristics (and others—disability, marital status, being a parent, diagnosis of chronic condition) make up the range of possibilities for human diversity. It’s also important to be aware of the diversity that exists both between groups and within groups. Although members of a group or community may share a particular characteristic, this doesn’t mean that they are similar in all aspects of their beings or lives. A pluralistic outlook is also considered more appropriate because it doesn’t regard differences as indication of hierarchies or ranks. In other words, the differences that exist among people are all valuable and meaningful, and should be understood in their own terms not on comparisons of superiority. Dimensions of Human Diversity Common in CP—not meant as an exhaustive list, simply the concepts most commonly considered in CP. Culture—although there is no single definition of culture, there are certain key elements that are regarded as manifestations of culture. Key elements of culture include meanings and experiences shared by a group and communicated across generations. For example, shared language; social roles; thinking, feeling, and behavioral norms; traditions reflected in literature, religion, politics; concepts or folk proverbs; common values or principles; and routine cultural practices. Community psychologists seek to understand how settings have layers of cultural influences that impact their compositions, functioning, and interactions. To fully understand the cultural context of settings requires historical and sociopolitical data that can track patterns of change over time. Race—race is typically defined on the basis of physical criteria. Researchers from various fields have concluded that biological race differences aren’t meaningful because human racial groups are biologically more alike than they are dissimilar. It’s also been established that racial differences are actually attributable to geographic, historic, social, and economic variables, rather than biological variables. Yet, psychological and socially race is representative of a set of categories that are socially constructed, and are related to inequalities of status and power. Basically, race remains an important distinction among humans because racism makes it so. We seem to have a need to distinguish between those who have more power and those who have less, or those have greater access to better resources and those who have less access to better resources. Ethnicity—ethnicity is typically defined on the basis of cultural criteria, such as national origin, language, customs, and values. Ethnicity is a social identity that is based on one’s ancestry or culture of origin and modified by the culture in which one currently resides. This understanding of ethnicity accounts for the fact that ethnicity isn’t simply nationality because various nations are multiethnic, such as India and the US. In the US to be Latino is different than to be Latin American, to be Mexican is different than to be Chicano, and to be Chinese is different than to be Chinese American. Each of these incorporates a different set of historical and cultural experiences. Gender—gender refers to our understanding of what it means to be female or male, and how these categorizations are interpreted and reflected in attitudes, social roles, and the organization of social institutions (such as parental responsibilities, jobs considered appropriate or inappropriate for a specific gender, distribution of power and resources). Therefore, gender also includes expectations for female and male behavior, as well as potential consequences for those who act outside of these gendered expectations. Increasingly, CP psychologists are developing their understanding of the experiences of people who identify as transgender. Social class—social class is primarily in terms of income or material assets, and it also includes occupational and educational status (such as socioeconomic status), and implications about a person’s prospects for the future. Like other dimensions of human diversity, social class also marks differences in power, especially economic resources and opportunities. Culture, race, ethnicity, gender, and social class have been the dimensions of human diversity that have traditionally received most attention in CP. Possibly because they’re the most prominent characteristics that shape the experiences of individuals through various ecological settings. Nonetheless, there’s a growing awareness in CP about other aspects of human diversity that are becoming more prominent too. Ability/disability—although disabilities have implications for physical or cognitive functioning, community psychologists focus on the social experience of ability and disability. Some people with disabilities describe experiences of feeling invisible or being avoided by others who feel awkward in their presence. Others face negative judgements about their capabilities based solely on assumptions about the disability, which is often not based on fact or knowledge about the person’s actual abilities. Community psychologists emphasize the challenging of ability-based stigma, limits to opportunity, and accessibility challenges for people with disabilities. Sexual orientation—sexual orientation is best understood as a spectrum ranging from exclusively heterosexual to exclusively homosexual. It refers to an underlying orientation that involves sexual attraction, romantic affection, and related emotions. Sexual orientation is distinct from gender identity, which refers to one’s sense of being psychologically female or male. It is also distinct from gender role, which refers to one’s adherence to social norms for femininity or masculinity. Age—age has implications for interdependence and power dynamics in families, communities, schools, workplaces, and other settings. Community psychologists are beginning to attend to how age plays a role in structuring available roles for people, and opportunities for meaningful inclusion and participation across various contexts. Spirituality & religion—spirituality and religion are of interest to CP because of their relevance to personal well-being and their importance as institutions and communities. Also, spirituality and religion often interrelate with culture and ethnicity, although, many spiritual and religious traditions are multicultural, and various cultures contain multiple spiritual and religious traditions. Localities—differences among localities affect individual lives in many ways, creating differences in life experiences that comprise a form of human diversity. Localities are said to differ along dimensions of urban/rural/suburban communities, therefore, relationships between the physical environment and personal life are also different. Localities differ in the kind of economic resources, educational options, human and health services, transportation, and food choices that are available. Social inequities or inequalities are also relevant to discussions of human diversity because they occur when the lack of social and economic resources available to particular groups limit the opportunities they have for education, work, health care, services, and other elements that affect their quality of life. So, simply by virtue of being of a certain race, ethnicity, gender, social class, ability/disability, sexual orientation, age, or spiritual/religious affiliation, a group or community may face disadvantages that others may not. Another important term to keep in mind when we consider issues of human diversity is intersectionality, which refers to the effect that overlapping dimensions of diversity have on individuals. For example, gender biases don’t affect all women equally because to be a woman of color is a very different social experience than to be a White woman. Further, to be a poor woman is a very different social experience than to be an affluent woman; and to be a poor woman of color is a very different social experience than to be an affluent woman of color. This perspective of intersectionality became prevalent in the feminist movement in that there was documentation of what a dilemma this movement presented to women of color because they had been struggling all along with men of color against racial, ethnic, and cultural oppression; and the feminist movement called on them to now join a struggle against the men who all along had been their comrades in the fight against oppression. For many women of color, to join the feminist movements put them at odds with their struggles against racism, not only because they’d now be going against men of their race, but the aspirations of the feminist movement itself didn’t fully represent the aspirations of women of color. Women of color couldn’t just fight for the right of women to work and vote when they might not benefit from these rights simply because of the color of their skin. So the dilemma was who were they affiliating with and why? They couldn’t fully affiliate with men of color only and they couldn’t fully affiliate with White women only. The individualism – collectivism spectrum is yet another factor that is relevant to a discussion in human diversity. Cultures and communities vary along this continuum based on how much they emphasize individualistic values and practices (such as self-reliance, assertion, competition, individual achievement, and unique identities) versus collectivistic values and practices (such as maintaining harmony within the group, personal achievement through group success, and interdependent sense of self). Two groups of communities that vary along this continuum may both value health and well-being, but how this is defined and attained may differ depending on where they fall on the individualist – collectivistic spectrum. In an individualistic culture asserting your needs and wishes is considered important for good functioning, but in a collectivistic culture individual assertion may be considered a detriment to good functioning because it’s not in accord with the group’s or community’s interests. Another topic meaningful to a discussion on human diversity is acculturation, which refers to the changes in individuals that result from the contact of two or more cultures that the person experiences. Culture in this instance is being used broadly to refer to contact between ethnic groups, racial groups, nationalities, or other dimensions of diversity. Four strategies of acculturation have been identified by researchers: separation happens when identification with the original culture is strong and interaction with the new culture is limited (e.g.—my mother); assimilation occurs when identification with the original culture is given up and identification with the new culture is strong (e.g.—my cousins “passing”); marginality takes place when identification with neither the original nor new culture does not or cannot happen (e.g.—refugees); and biculturality happens when people are able to identify in meaningful ways to both the culture of origin and the new culture (e.g.— competence in language and social circles of both cultures, values and practices from both cultures—“too North American and too ethnic”). Issues of acculturation are important to human diversity because a group or community may vary along these four strategies; therefore, we cannot assume that all people in this group or community share completely equal identities. Also, the way a person responds to and interacts with others (including health professionals and researchers) may be influenced by their acculturative experiences. For example, people who are separated may respond better to people from their culture of origin and who speak to them in their language of origin, whereas the opposite may be true for people who are marginalized; they may prefer to interact with people from the new culture. These interaction styles have implications for how interventions are developed and implemented. Also important to acculturation in CP is to consider not just how individuals entering the new culture adapt to the host culture, but also how the host culture adapts to the new individuals. In other words, the contextual or ecological adjustments made because the make-up of groups, communities, schools, neighborhoods, and cities changes. Cultural/Cross-cultural Competence Definitions and descriptions of cultural competence for community researchers and practitioners vary, but there are particularly important elements, some of which parallel characteristics of the bicultural strategy of acculturation described earlier:  curiosity about other cultures  general respect for the strengths of a cultural tradition  willingness to address differences of privilege and oppression  knowledge of the history of a community’s concerns, challenges, and social change efforts A collaborative approach to research and intervention is representative of a multicultural perspective, or cross-cultural competence, because it entails the incorporation of a diverse set of views, preferences, and skills. Cross-cultural competence basically refers to the acknowledgement of and respect for the differences that exist among and between human beings.


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