Academic journal article Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare

Family and Community Integrity

Academic journal article Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare

Family and Community Integrity

Article excerpt

Family and community are two of the most significant social institutions in the development and daily lives of individuals. This article offers a model to conceptualize the relationship between family and community derived from research conducted in Holyoke, Massachusetts between 1995 and 1997, and inspired by Erik Erikson's concept of individual integrity. A brief profile of the City of Holyoke is presented followed by a discussion about the relationship between family and community, including consideration of the relevance of group membership and social identity, and the importance of social cohesion and community efficacy. The research results are presented within a model framework of what constitutes family and community integrity.

**********

Family and community are two of the most significant social institutions in the development and daily lives of individuals. Together they shape who we are, instill us with values, define what we consider to be normal and abnormal and teach us about what is possible and not possible. Our families and communities print the many inner maps that we carry to orient ourselves to the world.

Although family and community are often studied independently, they are inextricably and reciprocally related to one another. The viability of the family as a social institution has always relied on the support of the local community (Bellah, Madsen, Sullivan, Swidler & Tipton, 1991) while vibrant communities are characterized by active and engaged families. Communities are the context where families prosper and flourish or flounder and fail. Practitioners, policy makers and researchers benefit by having a better understanding of the complex, dynamic relationship between family and community.

This article describes a paradigm of family and community integrity. The model is inspired by Erik Erikson's (1963; 1982) concept of individual integrity and evolved from exploratory research conducted with families and professionals in Holyoke, Massachusetts between 1995 and 1997. The research involved interviews with members of families representing a cross-section of the city as well as an extensive document review of historical and contemporary demographic data. The interviews explored the experience and meaning of the intersection of family and community.

For the purposes of this research, I focussed on families with children and defined a family as having the following characteristics:

* At least two people live together

* At least two generations, with at least one person below the age of 18

* Members of the family view themselves as family and rely on one another economically, socially, psychologically, and emotionally.

As the community studied was a small city, in this paper community refers to an urban environment: either a city or a neighborhood in a city. My working definition of community was as a geographic and political entity but beyond that I let the research participants define what community meant to them.

In this article, after offering a brief profile of Holyoke, I review literature about families and community, considering the relationship between family and community, the importance of group membership and social identity, and relevant research about social cohesion and community efficacy. The research methodology and results are briefly described leading to a discussion of what constitutes family and community integrity.

A Brief Profile of Holyoke

Holyoke was founded as a planned mill city by a group of Boston investors in 1847 (Green, 1939; Hartford, 1990). The early mills manufactured textiles, but eventually paper became the dominant product in Holyoke which was at one time known as the "Queen of Industrial Cities" and "The Paper Capital of the World" (Greater Holyoke Chamber of Commerce [GHCC], 1996). Holyoke's population peaked in 1920 at 60,203 and in 2000 is projected to be 43,310 (Pioneer Valley Planning Commission [PVPC], 1992). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.