Academic journal article
By Frost, David M.; Meyer, Ilan H.
The Journal of Sex Research , Vol. 49, No. 1
Feeling connected to one's community represents an extension of the fundamental human need to belong, is associated with positive individual and social outcomes (Baumeister & Leary, 1995), and is central to establishing collective identity (Ashmore, Deaux, & McLaughlin-Volpe, 2004; Gamson, 1997). Among sexual minorities-lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals--connectedness to a community of similar others is important to understanding involvement, identity, and related health outcomes (Kertzner, Meyer, Frost, & Stirratt, 2009; Meyer, 2003; Omoto & Snyder, 2002). To date, studies employing measures of connectedness to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community have focused primarily on gay and bisexual male populations that were primarily White (e.g., Herek & Glunt, 1995; Proescholdbell, Roosa, & Nemeroff, 2006; Stall et al., 2001). Researchers have not yet established a reliable and valid way to assess this construct across the diverse subgroups of sexual minorities. We present an analysis of a measure of connectedness to the LGBT community (Herek & Glunt, 1995; Stall et al., 2001) and discuss the reliability, validity, and distribution of scores among White, Black, and Latino sexual minority men and women.
Defining and Measuring Community Connectedness
Community connectedness is defined as the convergence of individuals' desires to belong to a larger collective, establish a mutually influential relationship with that collective, satisfy their individual needs and be rewarded through their collective affiliation, and construct a shared emotional connection (McMillan, 1996; McMillan & Chavis, 1986; Whitlock, 2007). Theorists have distinguished community connectedness from community participation (Ashmore et al., 2004; Gamson, 1997). Community participation refers to behavioral participation in a community, such as through recreational activities or professional groups. Community connectedness can be conceptualized as a more cognitive/affective construct. The differences between community connectedness and participation present distinct methodological issues for researchers: Community participation can be operationalized as concrete behaviors (e.g., the number of organizations to which an individual belongs), but community connectedness reflects cognitive and affective components of community affiliation, such as ideological solidarity, that are more difficult to operationalize.
One of the most widely used measures of community connectedness is the Sense of Community Index (SCI) developed by Perkins and colleagues (Long & Perkins, 2003; Perkins, Florin, Rich, Wandersman, & Chavis, 1990). This 12-item scale was developed for use in the general population and is focused on assessing community connectedness in relation to geographically specific neighborhoods. However, researchers have questioned the psychometric properties of the scores resulting from this measure (Chipuer & Pretty, 1999; Long & Perkins, 2003). Measures like this one, which are theoretically grounded in general notions of community that are specific to geographic neighborhoods, may not adequately assess connectedness to the LGBT community given LGBT communities face particular concerns not common within the general population. Furthermore, one's sense of community is not always restricted to geographically specific neighborhoods. It often exists at the neighborhood, town and/or city level, as well as at the level of geographically undefined psychological constructs (Omoto & Snyder, 2002).
Measuring Connectedness to the LGBT Community
Some attempts have been made at designing a psychometrically sound measure of community connectedness specific to sexual minority communities. One example is the Psychological Sense of Community among Gay Men Scale (Proescholdbell et al., 2006). This 26-item measure includes items from the SCI and other measures designed for use within the general population, which were adapted for the purposes of assessing psychological sense of community specifically among gay men. …