1. UNDERSTANDING INDIVIDUALS
1.1 Ecological principles
There are four key ecological principles proposed by James Kelly et al in understanding human environments and they are interdependence, cycling of resources, adaptation, and succession.
Interdependence- As with biological ecosystems, any social system has multiple related parts and multiple relationships with other systems. Changes in one of these parts can affect the others; they are interdependent. A corollary of the principle of interdependence is that any change in a system will have multiple consequences—some of them unanticipated and perhaps unwanted. An example of interdependence could be, when the primary caregiver gets the flu, meal preparation, washing, transportation, and a host of other daily operations for every other member of the family are affected.
Cycling of Resources- It specifies that any system can be understood by examining how resources are used, distributed, conserved, and transformed. Personal resources include individual talents, knowledge, experiences, strengths, or other qualities that can address challenges in a setting. Social resources occur in relationships among members of the setting, including shared beliefs, values, formal rules, informal norms, group events, and shared sense of community. Even physical aspects of a setting are resources: a library with rooms for group study, quiet nooks for individual study, and a place to take a break.
Adaptation- this principle concerns the transactions between person and environment. This is a two-way process; individuals cope with the constraints or demands of an environment and environments adapt to their members. While starting a new job in order to adapt, you probably learned new skills without losing your unique identity. Some jobs require changes in appearance, changes in relating to people, or changes in schedules. Environments also adapt to their members. Think about the changes in a family triggered by such events as the birth of a child, a parent starting a new job, or children moving away from home.
Succession- Settings and social systems change over time. Interdependence, resource cycling, and adaptation must be understood in that perspective. An implication of understanding succession in settings is that psychologists need to understand a system’s history before they plan an intervention in that system. In trying to make a neighbourhood a safer place, what have people tried to do in the past? What worked? How did the problems develop? Psychologists should also carefully consider the likely consequences of the intervention, including possible unintended consequences. How can the community continue the intervention after the formal involvement of the psychologist ends?
Social Climate Dimensions
The social climate approach to understanding environments is based on three primary dimensions that can characterize any setting: how they organize social relationships, how they encourage personal development and their focus on maintenance or change in the setting. Relationships -This dimension of settings concerns mutual supportiveness, involvement, and cohesion of its members. The social climate approach looks for evidence of relationship qualities in each setting.
Personal Development -This dimension of settings concerns whether individual autonomy, growth, and skill development are fostered in the settings.
System Maintenance and Change- This dimension of settings concerns settings’ emphasis on order, clarity of rules and expectations, and control of behaviour.
Social Regularities Social regularities, defined as the routine patterns of social relations among the elements (e.g., persons) within a setting. The patterns of social relationships in communities can affect distribution of resources, access to opportunities, and authority to address social issues. To discover social regularities, search for patterns of behaviour that reveal roles and power relationships among setting members (e.g., teacher-student, therapist-client, employer-employee, parent-child). Roles are enacted in a specific setting in ways that affect power, decision making, resources, and inequalities. A historical social regularity is that U.S. schools have been a sorting mechanism for separating students by achievement or test scores and then preparing them for different roles in society. Segregated schools once also sorted students by race. When the courts mandated an end to segregation, communities brought Black and White students into the same schools.
Ecological psychology Behaviour Settings- this concept is the primary unit of analysis for ecological psychology. A behaviour setting is defined by having a place, time, and a standing pattern of behaviour. It is important to note that a behaviour setting is not simply a physical place. The sanctuary of the Methodist church in Midwest was a physical setting but not a behaviour setting. Instead, several behaviour settings occurred within it, each with a time and standing behaviour pattern (e.g., worship services, choir practices, and weddings).
Activity Settings While similar to ecological psychology in focusing on settings, activity setting theory takes subjective experiences and cultural social meanings into account. An activity setting is not simply a physical setting and not just the behaviour of persons who meet there but also the subjective meanings that develop there among setting participants, especially intersubjectivities: beliefs, assumptions, values, and emotional experiences that are shared by setting participants. Key elements of an activity setting include the physical setting, positions (roles), people and the interpersonal relationships they form, time, and symbols that setting members create and use.
Environmental Psychology Environmental psychology examines the influence of physical characteristics of a setting (especially built environments) on behaviour. A major focus of environmental psychology is the study of the psychological effects of environmental stressors, such as noise, air pollution, hazardous waste, and crowded housing. Environmental Design- Environmental psychologists also study the psychological effects of architectural and neighbourhood design features. Examples include studies of enclosed workspaces, windows, and aspects of housing design.
1.3 The importance of understanding individuals within a context From a community psychology perspective, a better understanding of what contributes to problems forms the basis of choosing where to intervene. Community psychologists do not believe that interventions that change environmental conditions of settings are necessarily sufficient to address social issues. Rather, they place an emphasis on understanding environmental factors of social problems because they are so often overlooked. If the ecological context of social issues is left unaddressed, the interventions chosen will likely be limited in their effectiveness.
2. UNDERSTANDING COMMUNITY
2.1 Community refers to relationships that are multidimensional and are valued in their own right, not just as a means to an end. But society refers to relationships that are based on a specific transaction. The relationship is instrumental in the sense that the participants view the relationship fundamentally as a means to an end, not as something that has value in its own right. This is a relationship you engage in solely because you expect to benefit in some way from the interaction, and the same is true for the other person.
2.2 Types of community
Locality-Based Community- This is the traditional conception of community. It includes city blocks, neighbourhoods, small towns, cities, and rural regions. Interpersonal ties exist among community members (residents); they are based on geographic proximity, not necessarily choice.
Relational Community -These communities are defined by interpersonal relationships and a sense of community but are not limited by geography. Internet discussion groups are communities completely without geographic limits. Mutual help groups, student clubs, and religious congregations are defined by relational bonds.
Levels of community ▪ Microsystems (e.g., classrooms, mutual help groups) ▪ Organizations (e.g., workplaces, religious congregations, civic groups) ▪ Localities (e.g., city blocks, neighbourhoods, cities, towns, rural areas) ▪ Macro systems (e.g., the Filipino community, political parties, nations)
2.3 Sense of community
According to Sarason (1974) he defined it 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, the feeling that one is part of a larger dependable and stable structure.
There are four elements identified in sense of community:
Membership: it refers to the sense among community members of personal investment in the community and of belonging to such as Boundaries, Common symbols, Emotional safety, Personal investment, Sense of belonging, Identification with community.
Mutual influence between individual and community: It refers both to the power that members exercise over the group and to the reciprocal power that group dynamics exert on members.
Integration and fulfilment of needs among members: Integration is concerned with horizontal relations among members such as Shared values, Satisfying needs and Exchanging resources.
Shared emotional connection: it refers to the shared dramatic moments, celebrations and rituals among members of the community.
2.3.1 Social Capital
Social capital refers to connections among citizens and reciprocity and trust based on them. It may be formal or informal and involve bonding or bridging.
2.3.2 Social Support
Social Support refers to the help provided by others to promote coping with stress.
2.4 How communities are built
In order to build a strong community, members should develop a set of common symbols, celebrations, and narratives that describe and reflect the meaning they assign the community and also set norms that support a sense of personal safety that ensures all members have a level of influence over the community.
3. UNDERSTANDING DIVERSITY
3.1 Key dimensions of human diversity
The term culture has been stretched to refer not only to ethnic and cultural groups but also to nation-states, religious groups, racial groupings, and corporations (Betancourt & Lopez, 1993).
Cultural influences can be seen in the functioning of individuals and families, organizational practices, and norms of local communities and societies. Community psychologists have sought to understand how settings have layers of cultural influences that impact the composition, functioning, and interactions of its members.
A contextual, ecological understanding of cultural influences on communities seeks to understand how cultural influences structure community norms and processes for how decisions are made, how conflict is addressed, and how resources are distributed.
Race does have psychological and social meaning in many societies: as a socially constructed set of categories related to inequalities of status and power. Even as racial categories shift over time and across locations, race remains important because racism makes it so. No terminology is entirely satisfactory to describe the racial diversity. Use of almost any terminology and definition of race reflects and perpetuates racial oppression in some way. Yet community psychology cannot ignore race, despite the drawbacks of vocabulary for discussing it.
Ethnicity can be defined as a social identity, based on one’s ancestry or culture of origin, as modified by the culture in which one currently resides and it could also be defined by language, customs, values, social ties, and other aspects of subjective culture
Gender refers to our understanding of what it means to be female or male and how these categories are interpreted and reflected in attitudes, social roles, and the organization of social institutions.
Social class comprises a key dimension for community psychology. While often studied only as a demographic descriptor, social class actually marks differences in power, especially economic resources and opportunities. It influences identity and self-image, interpersonal relationships, socialization, well-being, living environment, educational opportunities, and many other psychological issues.
It refers to the tendency of members in a society to discriminate based on ableism which leads disabled individuals to many barriers for participation in community life as a valued and contributing member.
This is best understood as a spectrum from exclusively heterosexual to exclusively homosexual, with intermediate points. It refers to an underlying orientation, involving sexual attraction, romantic affection, and related emotions.
Children, adolescents, and younger and older adults differ in psychological and health-related concerns, developmental transitions, and community involvement. Similarly, aging also brings changes in relationships and power dynamics for families, communities, workplaces, and societies.
SPIRITUALITY AND RELIGION
Spirituality and religion often interrelate with culture and ethnicity. Moreover, many religions and spiritual traditions are multicultural, and many cultures contain multiple religious and spiritual communities. Therefore it is impossible to understand many cultures without understanding their religious institutions and spiritual practices.
Social inequities occur when the lack of social and economic resources available to particular groups lead to reduced opportunities for education, health care, or work. In more extreme cases, a group’s reduced social status can lead to group members having their property rights, voting rights, freedom of speech and assembly, and citizenship challenged.
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