sense of community

Sense of community (or psychological sense of community) is a concept in community psychology and social psychology, as well as in several other research disciplines, such as urban sociology, which focuses on the experience of community rather than its structure, formation, setting, or other features. Sociologists, social psychologists, anthropologists, and others have theorized about and carried out empirical research on community, but the psychological approach asks questions about the individual’s perception, understanding, attitudes, feelings, etc. about community and his or her relationship to it and to others’ participation—indeed to the complete, multifaceted community experience. In his seminal 1974 book, psychologist Seymour B. Sarason proposed that psychological sense of community become the conceptual center for the psychology of community, asserting that it “is one of the major bases for self-definition.” By 1986 it was regarded as a central overarching concept for community psychology (Sarason, 1986; Chavis & Pretty, 1999). Among theories of sense of community proposed by psychologists, McMillan & Chavis’s (1986) is by far the most influential, and is the starting point for most of the recent research in the field. It is discussed in detail below.