Sense of Community

I have authored a theory of sense of community that is of interest to community psychologists. This page contains the academic articles I have written about this theory.

Defining A Community’s Developmental Paths

Stages of Community Development

This article will have many stages that have exactly the same organization. The article will have review of theories of human developmental stages. Then it will discuss our stages one at a time. Each stage will be defined first. Then the tasks to be accomplished at that stage will be discussed. Then the resources needed at that stage will be discussed. That will be followed by an historical example that illustrates that stage in history.

There are several renditions of how groups or communities move through various developmental stages. Most of these have five stages that have a great deal in common with Freud’s stages of human development. The most quoted article in psychology circles is Shepard and Bennis (1959). In business management theory there are the famous terms forming, storming, norming, and performing.

Changing a Community’s Climate

Assume for the moment that we know what the essential ingredients are to a community and its spirit; that we know the developmental path that communities follow; what we do not yet know is a community’s emotional climate? And how can a community psychologist help a community to transform its emotional climate? That is the focus of this article.

Psyche is the Greek word for the soul. And given that since the thing that creates and defines a community is spirit, community psychologists ultimately must tend to the soul and spirit of a community. Isomorphy in systems theory is essential to us in this endeavor as it was in the two previous chapters. What is lawful at the individual level is also lawful at other levels, including the community level.

Humans have nine basic emotions that are hard wired into their bodies and brains. These nine emotions express the current quality musical tone and color of their spirit. Communities derive their emotions from the same source as individuals.

A community can be angry (hence war) sad (hence depression) happy (hence celebrations of victory) startled and surprised (hence what happens when a power company announces that it is building a new power plant in the community). And we can go on. In addition to anger, sadness, joy and surprise the remaining five emotions are desire, fear, shame, disgust and relaxation.

Article 1

Sense of Community: A Definition and Theory
David W. McMillan and David M. Chavis
George Peabody College of Vanderbilt University

For several years many of us at Peabody College have participated in the evolution of a theory of community, the first conceptualization of which was presented in a working paper (McMillan, 1976) of the Center for Community Studies. To support the proposed definition, McMillan focused on the literature on group cohesiveness, and we build here on that original definition. This article attempts to describe the dynamics of the sense-of-community force—to identify the various elements in the force and to describe the process by which these elements work together to produce the experience of sense of community.

Article 2

Sense of Community
David W. McMillan
Nashville, Tennessee

This article revisits the theory of sense of community originally developed in 1976 and subsequently presented by McMillan and Chavis (1986). Chavis, Hogge, McMillan, and Wandersman (1986) demonstrated its empirical strength as a theory and developed the Sense of Community Questionnaire. This was essential work in getting the theory used. As reflected in the contents of this special issue, the theory has since stimulated considerable empirical research.

Article 3

Sense of Community
A Theory Not a Value: A Response to Nowell and Boyd

This is a response to the Nowell and Boyd (2010) article printed in this journal titled: Viewing Community as Responsibility as Well as Resource: Deconstructing the Theoretical Roots of Psychological Sense of Community.  In that article they argued that the McMillan theory of Sense of Community is a simplistic, needs-based theory that excludes responsibility as a part of Sense of Community. They base their critique of McMillan’s theory on March and Olsen’s many articles. In this article McMillan responds. He argues that Nowell and Boyd (2010) have yet to understand his theory and that they use a false dichotomy to critique it. He suggests that Third Position Thinking (Newbrough, 1995; Newbrough & McMillan, 2005) would help undo false dichotomies and provide a better description of the juxtaposition of human values. McMillan contends that responsibility is an inherent part of his theory.

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