Academic journal article Journal of the Community Development Society

Levels of Analysis and Conceptual Clarification in Community Attachment and Satisfaction Research: Connections to Community Development

Academic journal article Journal of the Community Development Society

Levels of Analysis and Conceptual Clarification in Community Attachment and Satisfaction Research: Connections to Community Development

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Two conceptual concerns in the community attachment and satisfaction literature are addressed here: (1) identification and utilization of a proper level of analysis, and (2) clarification of the meanings of community attachment and satisfaction. First, each conceptual issue is introduced and justification provided for the attention paid to these concerns. Next, theoretical, methodological, and measurement issues associated with these concerns are identified and discussed. Lastly, illustrations of how each issue relates to the practice of community development are provided, as are suggestions for future research.

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INTRODUCTION

Despite the fact that defining "community" has been and continues to be a difficult and arduous task (e.g., Arensberg, 1955, 1961; Effrat, 1973; Freilich, 1963; Gusfield, 1975; Hillery, 1955, 1968; McMillan & Chavis, 1986; Poplin, 1972; Sutton & Kolaja, 1960), there exists an extensive body of literature in the social sciences generally referred to as "community studies." Such a label, though, is somewhat ambiguous. The overwhelming majority of community studies research should not be labeled "studies of community." Instead, given that these investigations are generally empirical examinations of a particular aspect in the community, a more appropriate classification might be "studies in community." In essence, what community academicians have created is a rather large, community-related-topics literature. (1)

Two community-related topics of continuing interest to community scholars are satisfaction and attachment. While numerous researchers have reported individuals' levels of community satisfaction and attachment, the usefulness and meaningfulness of their findings for social scientists and policy makers were not always clear. In fact, Ladewig and McCann (1980) recognized that several conceptual matters needed to be addressed in the community satisfaction literature before the measurement of community satisfaction could make a relevant contribution to the formation of public policy. These matters included:

    ... [the] development of a common frame of reference, utilization of
    a meaningful measure of the structural concept 'community' that has
    relevance to public policy, and development of a conceptual
    framework that accounts for the transient nature of satisfaction and
    the formation of salient standards for gauging such satisfaction
    (Ladewig & McCann, 1980, p. 113).

Building upon Ladewig and McCann's (1980) work, I propose that two conceptual concerns need to be addressed in both the community satisfaction and community attachment literature before results from such studies can contribute to policy formation and applied efforts associated with community development. These concerns include (1) identification and utilization of a proper level of analysis, and (2) clarification of the meanings of community satisfaction and attachment. First each conceptual issue is introduced and justification provided for the attention paid to these concerns. Theoretical, methodological, and measurement issues which are related to these concerns are identified and discussed. Lastly, how these concerns relate to the practice of community development and conclude with suggested directions for future research are explained.

CONCEPTUAL CONCERNS

Identification of a Proper Level of Analysis

Following Ladewig and McCann (1980), it is first proposed that researchers adopt a common frame of reference when considering community satisfaction and community attachment. For the purpose of this paper, "frame of reference" is synonymous with "level of analysis." It is important to note that the level of analysis is distinguishable from the more vernacular notion of "unit of analysis." The unit of analysis refers to what or whom researchers study. The unit of analysis may be an individual, a household, a group, an organization, a community, or any number of other things including social objects (e. …

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