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Community Psychology lies at the intersection of social psychology, political science, and community development. It is an approach to mental health that uses an analysis of social processes and interactions to design social interventions amongst groups and communities to improve psychological wellbeing. There is substantial evidence for the social causes of illness and many of these can be remediated by improved community cohesion.

The basic tenets of community psychology are:

  1. Any non-biological mental illness, and many biologically caused illnesses, can either be caused by or aggravated by a mismatch between a person's personality, attitudes and valuesetc and the community environment in which he or she exists.
  2. It is often cheaper and more effective to change the environment than to treat multiple patients within it.
  3. Primary interventions (those aimed at preventing problems before they start) are much more effective than secondary or tertiary interventions (those that treat patients or incipient patients).


Community Psychology is division 27 of the American Psychological Association, represented by the Society for Community Research & Action (SCRA). Their official description is as follows:

The Division of Community Psychology encourages the development of theory, research, and practice relevant to the reciprocal relationships between individuals and the social system which constitute the community context. The Division supports 23 regional groups promoting communication among community psychologists in six U.S. regions, Canada, Western Europe, and the South Pacific. The Division hosts a three day biennial conference and has formed interest groups in the areas of international community psychology, rural psychology, aging, applied settings, and children and youth (prevention issues). Members receive the bimonthly American Journal of Community Psychology and The Community Psychologist, published five times per year.


Community Psychology found a proposed "conceptual center" in the idea of Psychological Sense of Community (or simply Sense of Community), introduced in 1974 by Seymour Sarason. In 1986 a major step was taken by theoretician David McMillan and operationalizer David Chavis with the publication of their Theory of Sense of Community and Sense of Community Index. Originally designed primarily in reference to neighborhoods, the Sense of Community Index (SCI) can be adapted to study other communities as well, including the workplace, schools, religious communities, communities of interest, etc.

Peer-reviewed journalsEdit

See alsoEdit


BibliographyEdit

Key texts – BooksEdit

PapersEdit

  • Bostock, J., & Freeman, J. (2003). ‘No limits’: Doing participatory action research with young people in Northumberland. Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology, 13, 464-474.
  • Burton, M., & Kagan, C. (2003). Community psychology: why this gap in Britain? History and Philosophy of Psychology, 4(2), 10-23.
  • Burton, M., Boyle, S., Harris, C., & Kagan, C. (2007). Community psychology in Britain. In S. M. Reich, M. Riemer, I. Prilleltensky, and M Montero. International Community Psychology: History and Theories (pp. 219-237). New York: Springer.
  • Colic-Peisker, V., & Walker I. (2003). Human capital, acculturation and social identity. Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology, 13, 337-360.
  • Fairweather, G. W. (1972). Social change: The challenge to survival. New Jersey: General Learning Press.
  • Fryer, D. (1987). Monmouthshire and Marienthal: Sociographies of two unemployed communities. In D. Fryer and P. Ullah (Eds.) Unemployed People: Social and Psychological Perspectives (pp. 74-93). Milton Keynes: Open University Press.
  • Fryer, D. (1990). The mental health costs of unemployment: Towards a social psychological concept of poverty? British Journal of Clinical and Social Psychiatry, 7, 164-175.
  • Fryer, D. (2008). Some questions about ‘the history of community psychology’. Journal of Community Psychology, 36, 5, 572-586.
  • Fryer, D., & Fagan, R. (2003). Toward a critical community psychological perspective on unemployment and mental health research. American Journal of Community Psychology, 32, 89-96.
  • Hays, R. B., Rebchook, G. M., & Kegeles, S. M. (2003). The Mpowerment project: Community-building with young gay and bisexual men to prevent HIV. American Journal of Community Psychology, 31, 301-312.
  • Holland, S., (1992). From social abuse to social action: A neighbourhood psychotherapy and social action project for women. In J. Usher and P. Nicholson (eds), Gender Issues in Clinical Psychology (pp. 66-77). London: Routledge.
  • Kagan C., & Burton, M. (2005). Marginalization. In G. Nelson & I. Prilleltensky (eds), Community psychology: In pursuit of liberation and well-being, (pp. 293-308). New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Kagan, C., Castile, S., & Stewart, A. (2005). Participation: Are some more equal than others? Clinical Psychology Forum, 153, 30-34.
  • Jahoda, M. (1983). The emergence of social psychology in Vienna: An exercise in long-term memory. British Journal of Social Psychology, 22, 342-349.
  • Jahoda, M., Lazarsfeld, P.F. & Zeisel, H. (1972). Marienthal: The Sociography of an Unemployed Community. London: Tavistock.
  • Lazarsfeld, P. F. (1932). An unemployed village. Character and Personality, 1, 147-151.
  • Lazarsfeld-Jahoda, M. & Zeisel, H. (1933). Die Arbeitslosen von Marienthal. Leipzig : Hirzel.
  • Meritt, D.N., Greene, G.J., Jopp, D.A., & Kelly, J.G. (1999). A history of Division 27. In D.A. Dewsbury (Ed.). Unification through Division: Histories of the divisions of the American Psychological Association (Vol. 3, pp. 73-99). Washington , D.C. American Psychological Association.
  • Pearce, J., Witten, K., & Bartie, P. (2006). Neighbourhoods and health: A GIS approach to measuring community resource accessibility. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 60, 389-395.
  • Prezza M., & Constantini, S. (1998). Sense of community and life satisfaction: Investigation in three different territorial contexts. Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology, 8, 181-194.
  • Sarason, S. (2000). Barometers of social change. In J. Rappaport and E. Seidman (Eds.). Handbook of Community Psychology (pp919-929). Dordrecht : Kluwer.
  • Speer, P. W., & Hughey, J. (1995). Community organizing: and ecological route to empowerment and power. American Journal of Community Psychology, 23, 729-748.
  • Tsemberis, S. J., Moran, L., Shinn, M., Asmussen, S. M., & Shern, D. L. (2003). Consumer preference programs for individuals who are homeless and have psychiatric disabilities. American Journal of Community Psychology, 32, 305-317.

Additional material – BooksEdit

  • Campbell, C. (1999). Social capital and health. London: Health Education Authority.
  • Fryer, D. & Ullah, P. (1987) (Eds.) Unemployed People: Social and Psychological Perspectives. Milton Keynes: Open University Press.

Key texts – PapersEdit

  • Chavis, D.M., & Wandersman, A. (1990). Sense of community in the urban environment: A catalyst for participation and community development. American Journal of Community Psychology, 18(1), 55-81.
  • McMillan, D.W., & Chavis, D.M. (1986). Sense of community: A definition and theory. American Journal of Community Psychology, 14(1), 6-23.


External linksEdit

  • http://www.compsy.org.uk[1] is a British based site that takes the following orientation to Community Psychology:- Community Psychology is orientated to the community rather than the individual as the basic unit of analysis and intervention4. (It is not just the practice of individual applied psychology in community contexts. For this reason we sometimes call our orientation Community Social Psychology, the term used widely in Latin America). Our orientation is broadly radical, underpinned by values of social justice, liberation, empowerment and inclusion of people marginalised by the existing order. However we also emphasise conceptual and methodological rigour, in the practice and the theory of community psychology - as research and as collaboration with diverse communities.
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