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Chapter 5 Abnormal Psychology for Sinclair Community College
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I am because we are and we are because I am. —Xhosa proverb 107 5 Neighborhoods and Communities Wide Strategy Could Reduce Local Impact Court ruling seen opening way for regional strategy; Wide reach reduces local impact Baltimore Sun By Eric Siegel January 7, 2005 Local and national public policy advocates expressed the hope Friday that a judge’s decision that the federal government should have taken a regional approach to desegregating Baltimore’s public housing could be the catalyst for the development of an area-wide housing strategy. “The big picture is we’ve got a housing crisis in this region,” said Michael A. Sarbanes, executive director of the Citizens Planning and Housing Association, which is working on a plan it hopes to unveil by the fall. “This decision is a piece of solving it. To the extent it can garner federal resources to help solve it, it can be a key step.” Yet lawyers still must struggle through another phase in the courts. While it’s not clear what the remedies will be, nothing in this 10-year-old case has come easily. And at least one substantive effort in the early 1990s to move some city public housing residents to the suburbs engendered fierce political and community opposition. David Rusk, a Washington-based urban policy consultant and author, pointed out that Montgomery County for the past three decades has had a model inclu- sionary zoning law that sets aside up to 15 percent of newly constructed housing units for low- and very-low-income households. It has become more racially diverse while continuing to be one of the country’s wealthiest jurisdictions. “If a Montgomery County policy was in effect in this region for a 20-year period, the problem addressed by the ruling would be substantially resolved,” said Rusk, who has studied the metropolitan area extensively. 05-4697-Belgrave.qxd 4/27/2005 5:44 PM Page 107

I am because we are and we are because I am.

—Xhosa proverb


5Neighborhoodsand Communities

Wide Strategy Could Reduce Local Impact

Court ruling seen opening way for regional strategy;Wide reach reduces local impact

Baltimore SunBy Eric Siegel

January 7, 2005

Local and national public policy advocates expressed the hope Friday that ajudge’s decision that the federal government should have taken a regionalapproach to desegregating Baltimore’s public housing could be the catalyst forthe development of an area-wide housing strategy.

“The big picture is we’ve got a housing crisis in this region,” said Michael A.Sarbanes, executive director of the Citizens Planning and Housing Association,which is working on a plan it hopes to unveil by the fall. “This decision is apiece of solving it. To the extent it can garner federal resources to help solve it,it can be a key step.”

Yet lawyers still must struggle through another phase in the courts. Whileit’s not clear what the remedies will be, nothing in this 10-year-old case hascome easily. And at least one substantive effort in the early 1990s to movesome city public housing residents to the suburbs engendered fierce political andcommunity opposition.

David Rusk, a Washington-based urban policy consultant and author, pointedout that Montgomery County for the past three decades has had a model inclu-sionary zoning law that sets aside up to 15 percent of newly constructed housingunits for low- and very-low-income households. It has become more raciallydiverse while continuing to be one of the country’s wealthiest jurisdictions.

“If a Montgomery County policy was in effect in this region for a 20-yearperiod, the problem addressed by the ruling would be substantially resolved,”said Rusk, who has studied the metropolitan area extensively.

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Introduction and Definitions

Whether in a high-rise apartment building in a bustling urban neighbor-hood, a farmhouse in a small rural community, or a house in a suburbandevelopment, we live in the context of a physical and social community.Race, historical forces, and social policy have shaped the racial composi-tion of neighborhoods and communities, and the availability of otherresources, such as housing, schools, libraries, and stores. As described inthe news article that opens this chapter, cities and communities continueto struggle with policy and issues of race that shape where people live. But


“People ought to view the decision as taking the region by the shouldersand saying, ‘Look, folks, you’ve got a problem you don’t have to have,’” hesaid.

On Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Marvin J. Garbis said that the U.S.Department of Housing and Urban Development violated federal fair housinglaw by failing to look beyond the city’s boundaries for ways to disperse theconcentration of public housing residents.

Ruling on a civil rights case brought by the American Civil Liberties Unionon behalf of African-American public housing residents, Garbis said he wouldschedule a conference soon to discuss possible remedies and said he wouldinvite representatives of the region’s counties.

In a 322-page decision, Garbis wrote, “HUD has failed adequately to con-sider regionalization over the past half-century and, absent judicial compul-sion, appears most unlikely to do so in the foreseeable future.”

As an example, he cited the agency’s failure to prod the city of Annapolisand several counties to agree to a report two years ago by the Maryland Centerfor Community Development proposing a regional fair housing action plan.

Becky Sherblom, executive director of the statewide nonprofit that seeks tospur neighborhood investment in affordable housing and economic develop-ment, said Friday that the report’s proposals included joint negotiations withlenders and creation of a single, region-wide waiting list for federally sub-sidized Section 8 housing vouchers. “As far as I know, nothing’s been done,”she said.

Sherblom said she hoped Garbis’s decision “can bring us all together andnot finger-point but say, ‘What can we do?’”

“It may be the impetus that gives us the political will that didn’t exist twoyears ago,” she said.

Rusk suggested that one way to make any solution more palatable to sub-urban jurisdictions would be to give a preference for any new units that arecreated within a given jurisdiction to public housing residents who work inthat jurisdiction.

“People shouldn’t see the judge’s decision as somehow unleashing welfarequeens and their drug-dealing boyfriends,” he said. “That’s not who they are.They are hard-working folks. They’re just not earning a lot of money. This isthe nursing home aide taking care of your elderly parent, the clerk at the laun-dry you’ve been taking your cleaning to for years.”

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a community is more than the houses or apartments in which people live.How are communities important to the psychology of African Americans?

In considering the construct of community relative to AfricanAmericans, we face a definitional challenge. What is the “Black commu-nity”? Are we talking about the predominately African American neigh-borhoods and geographic areas in southeast Washington, D.C., Harlem,Compton and Watts, and the Southside of Chicago? Or are we speakinginstead of a national community of Americans of African descent who arejoined by a sense of common peoplehood, history, heritage, and sociopo-litical experience and challenge. How does community make a differenceto African Americans? Does it really matter where Blacks live? What doescommunity provide? In this chapter, we address these questions. We beginwith definitions of community and neighborhood. Then, we provide adescription of African American communities, including historical per-spectives on the communities within which African Americans live andto which they move. We examine theories that help us understand howneighborhoods are relevant to the psychology of African Americans, andwe present lessons learned about the role that neighborhood and commu-nity play in the lives of African Americans. We provide an overview ofstrategies that have been used to study neighborhoods and community,and we close with a summary of the material covered in this chapter.


Definitions of Community

German sociologist Ferdinand Tonnies (1855–1936) provides somesupport in helping us define the African American community. He usesthe terms Gemeinschaft and Gessellschaft to describe the developmentof modern communities. For Tonnies, Gemeinschaft reflects our traditional,preindustrial sense of community that is defined as association basedon family and kinship relationships, neighborhood, and friendship. Thesesocial ties are linked through loyalty, affection, love, and closeness and arereflected in social structures of family households, villages, and smalltowns. In these settings, we think of individuals who know and care aboutone another and depend on each other not only for shelter, food, andclothing, but also for relationships. Current manifestations of Gemeinschaftwould include close-knit neighborhoods and areas that have retained theirsmall-town qualities. As industrialization began to change our senseof social connection, communities were organized and linked based on thestructures of a civil society. The term Gessellschaft, on the other hand,reflects the sense of community based on social interaction for the struc-tured exchange of resources. This type of community is more typicalof industrial society and the development of cities. Modern cities and

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professional associations would be reflections of Gessellschaft. Withinthese social structures, the roles that individuals play are specialized, andthere may be a greater risk of social isolation.

Chaskin and Richmond (1992) define community as:

the local context in which people live. It is referred to by its geographic iden-tity, but its place on the map is only one of its attributes. It is a place of ref-erence and belonging, and the community includes dimensions of space,place, and sentiment as well as of action. It is defined by a dynamic networkof associations that binds (albeit loosely) individuals, families, institutions,and organizations into a web of interconnections and interaction. (p. 113)

The local community is a functional unit in which goods and servicesare provided and consumed, interpersonal relationships are created andmaintained, participation in activities is shared, and commonality existsamong local residents. This definition of community is not necessarilydependent on clear geographic boundaries (different residents may haveslightly different conceptions of where the neighborhood begins andends), but it does assume that the community’s residents hold in commona range of mutual experiences and circumstances and share access to anarray of organizations, institutions, services, and activities.

This definition underlines that, when we speak of community, we arenot simply talking about a geographical location, but a sense of social con-nection and belonging. McMillan and Chavis (1986) describe this percep-tion as one’s “psychological sense of community”; “a feeling that membershave of belonging, a feeling that members matter to one another and to thegroup, and a shared faith that members’ needs will be met through theircommitment to be together” (p. 9). It also involves a sense of membership,influence, integration, needs fulfillment, and emotional connection.

Definitions of Neighborhood

Similar to definitions of community, definitions of neighborhood varyacross a range of professions and disciplines, and from within and outsideof the neighborhood. Chaskin (1998) notes that neighborhoods have beendefined “as a social unit, neighborhoods as a spatial unit and the neigh-borhood as networks of relationships, associations and patterns of use”(p. 1). Boundary designations of these areas have included politically definedneighborhoods, based in the community-based or residents’ civic organiza-tions designed for the legitimate representation of community residentsand their goals within the local political sphere; social neighborhoods,which reflect external boundary assessments for marketing, analytic, orprogrammatic efforts; and physical neighborhoods, which are based ondesignated bounded geographical areas for government administrative use


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(Chaskin, 1998). African Americans are more likely to define neighborhoodbased on social relationships rather than location (Lee & Campbell, 1990).

Although Tonnies (1925) considers “ethnic communities to be reflec-tions of Gesellschaft (society), not Gemeinschaft (community)” [PAGENUMBER], the African American experience can be captured by both.Historical experiences and continued structural supports of racial segre-gation in the United States have led to the continuation, formation, andconcentration of the majority of African Americans in small or circum-scribed neighborhoods and communities that vary widely in their resourcesand infrastructure. However, for many African Americans, their personalsense of identity includes a strong sense of membership in the Black com-munity, regardless of the racial composition of the neighborhood withinwhich they currently reside.

Community “Capacity” and WhyNeighborhoods Are Important to Study

Communities and neighborhoods vary in the extent to which they areable to provide resources or contain the infrastructure to meet the needsof their members and residents. Iscoe (1974) defines a competent commu-nity as “one that utilizes, develops, or obtains resources so that membersof the community may make reasoned decisions about issues confrontingthem” (p. 607). Cottrell explains:

A competent community is one in which its various parts are able to: (1)Collaborate effectively in identifying the problems and needs of a commu-nity; (2) Achieve a workable consensus on goals and priorities; (3) Agree onways and means to implement the agreed-upon goal; and (4) Collaborateeffectively in the required activity. (qtd. in Mattessich & Roy, 1997, p. 63)

One of the reasons that it is important to better understand neighbor-hoods and community is because of the impact that neighborhood andcommunity factors have on the well-being of African Americans. LaVeist(2003) matched data from the National Survey of Black Americans, anational multistage probability sample of 2,107 African Americans, withthe National Death Index. The author found that racial segregation pre-dicted mortality even after controlling for age, health status, sex, maritalstatus, and level of educational attainment. Earlier research (LaVeist, 1993)found racial segregation to predict differences in Black and White infantmortality rates. As neighborhood racial composition predicts these healthoutcomes, this work underlines the importance of examining neighbor-hood context in understanding the psychology of African Americans.

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Describing the African American Community

In understanding Black American community, it is useful to considerwhere African Americans live and the geographical areas within whichthey reside. Historical perspectives on the African American neighbor-hoods and communities provide a foundation for understanding contem-porary issues.


According to the 2000 U.S. Census, African Americans comprised 12.9%of the total U.S. population, and 86.5% of Blacks lived in metropolitancommunities (Iceland, Weinberg, & Steinmetz, 2002), with approximately53% living in central cities and an increasing number living in suburbs(34.9% in 2000, up from 27% in 1990). Although racial residential segre-gation declined for African Americans between 1980 and 2000, AfricanAmericans remain the most segregated ethnic group in the United States.Larger cities and metropolitan areas (with populations of one million ormore) showed higher levels of racial segregation than smaller cities.Although the majority of metropolitan areas showed some level of reduc-tion in Black-White segregation between 1980 and 2000, areas in the RustBelt1 have demonstrated the lowest levels of change in racial segregation(Lewis Mumford Center, 2001). Using national averages, the typical Blacklives in a neighborhood that is 51.4% Black, 33% White, 11.4% Hispanic,and 3.3% Asian. In contrast, the typical White lives in a neighborhood thatis 80.2% White, 6.7% Black, 7.9% Hispanic, and 3.9% Asian (LewisMumford Center, 2001).


Recent census data also suggest that the concentration of poverty inmany urban, predominately African American communities is declining.The number of census tracts characterized as poor, where more than 60%of residents were African American, dropped from 48% in 1980 to 39% in2000 (Kingsley & Pettit, 2003). This reflects a decline from 4.8 millionAfrican Americans living in high-poverty neighborhoods in 1980 to 3.1million in 2002, further indicating a reversal of trends from the prior20 years of increased concentration of urban poverty (Jargowsky, 1997).These historical trends in segregation are based on a range of documentedcauses including discriminatory housing practices, zoning laws thatsupport economic segregation, and economic disparities (Frey & Myers,2002). Although higher-income African Americans tend to live in more


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integrated neighborhoods, this difference tends to be minimal, and theneighbors of middle-class Blacks tend to be of lower economic status thanthe neighbors of their White peers at the same income level (Alba, Logan,& Stults, 2000). In addition, when African Americans own homes, thevalue of their residences is 35% lower than the homes of their EuropeanAmerican counterparts (National Urban League, 2004).


African Americans experienced decreases in their rates of residentialmobility over the second half of the 20th century. However, residentialmobility tended to remain stable or even to increase among those moreeconomically challenged (Fischer, 2002). This may be due in part to loweroverall rates of homeownership among African Americans (less than 50%as compared with more than 70% for European Americans). Homeownershipfor African Americans is linked to rates of loan denials for home mort-gages and home improvement that are twice those of Whites. Residentialmobility presents challenges to communities: Neighbors may not developstrong social connections or neighborhood-based support, and childrenmay move from school to school.

Wilson (1987) suggests that the sense of social connection and commu-nity within many predominately African American urban neighborhoodshas declined significantly over the past 30 years, and the loss of these socialconnections results in many individual- and community-level challenges.

Historical Perspectives onAfrican American Communities


In our look at community, it is important to consider the historicalrole of community for African Americans. Several factors in the earlyAmerican enslavement experience worked to undermine a sense of com-munity and social connection among Americans of African descent. Thehistory of slavery in West Africa was built in part on the selling of pri-soners from intertribal conflict and warfare into slavery, separating indi-viduals from their families and tribes. Slave traders and owners mixedmembers of different tribal groups so that there would be no commonlanguage and so that communication that might support rebellion couldbe undermined. Breakup and dispersion of families and of biologicallybased kinship networks through slave trade were common practices that

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further disrupted social connections among slaves. Despite these effortsand forces, historical narratives describe rich and complex social connec-tions among members of many slave communities. Separations fromblood kin supported the construction of social networks not bound bybiological relationship. We see such connections today among fictive kin(see Chapter 3 for further discussion). In addition, communities of freeblacks demonstrated the building of neighborhood capacity through thedevelopment of community infrastructures, frequently organized aroundreligious institutions (Horton & Horton, 1997).


After the Civil War, a trend toward northern migration began, based inpart on southern hostility, Jim Crow laws, economic crises in the South,and perceived employment opportunities in the North. Northern migra-tion slowed with the Great Depression, but expanded between the 1940sand 1950s and continued through the 1970s. Beginning in the 1970s,the migration of Blacks out of the South began to reverse, with popula-tion growth occurring in both metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas.Overall, these residential transitions resulted in greater geographic disper-sion of Blacks in the Northeast and Southwest and greater urbanization.For example, in 1860 when 85% of American Blacks were enslaved, 90%lived in the rural South. In contrast, U.S. Census estimates from 2000showed that 55% of African Americans reside in the South and 52% livein the central city of a metropolitan area (U. S. Census Bureau, 2002a). Thepatterns of racial residential mobility and government policies that havesupported ethnic variations and segregation in residence continue to playan important role in the experience of community by African Americans.

Theoretical Perspectives on Communities

There are important theories and research that can support our under-standing of the role of neighborhood and residential patterns. We considerthese in our examination of trends in neighborhood composition and theeffects of neighborhood on African Americans.


Africentric theory suggests that community, social connections, andrelationships may be particularly important for African Americans. Some


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Western theoretical perspectives have also emphasized the importance of asense of connection to the psychological functioning of individuals. Jung’sdescriptions of the collective unconscious expanded Freud’s ideas of theunconscious and depict a deeper structural layer of the unconscious thatis based on ancestral memory traces containing archetypes (i.e., patterns,themes, or dynamics). This collective unconscious is shared by all of human-ity because of our common ancestral heritage, and it reflects the universal-ity of themes and struggles experienced by humans. Examples of thesecommon archetypes are seen in cultural roles reflected in art, literature, andpersonal dynamics (e.g., roles of the Innocent, the Orphan, the Warrior, theCaregiver, the Seeker, the Destroyer, the Lover, the Creator, the Ruler, theMagician, the Sage, and the Fool; Pearson, 1991). Other theory and researchthat emphasize social connections, community environments, and neigh-borhood includes work on the collective sense of self (e.g., Crocker,Luhtanen, Blaine, & Broadnax, 1994; also see discussions in Chapter 9 onself and identity); Bronfenbrenner’s (1979) ecological theory underliningthe role of context in development (described in Chapter 10); and EmileDurkheim’s (1897/1951) sociological analyses of anomie and suicide.Durkheim’s analysis addresses the consequences of the lack of community.


Much recent theoretical work examining the effects of neighborhoodcontexts on psychological outcomes traces its origins to the work of theChicago School of Sociology’s social disorganization theory (Shaw &McKay, 1969). Social disorganization theory makes the assumption thatcriminality is linked to limitations in a community’s social resourcesand capacity to meet the needs of its residents. This results in an erosionof social controls. Factors such as limited community-level economicresources, ethnic heterogeneity, and high rates of residential mobilityreflect community social disorganization. Sampson Raudenbush, andEarls (1997), working on the Project on Human Development in ChicagoNeighborhoods (PHDCN), have found a negative relationship betweencommunity violence and residents’ sense of collective efficacy, that is,neighborhood resident’s beliefs that they can effectively have an impacton behavior within their communities. The PHDCN has provided a richsource of information on neighborhood factors that affect children andfamilies. (For additional information, see http://www.hms.harvard.edu/chase/projects/chicago/about/)

Related work has identified the physical environment as a potentialfocus for interventions. The “broken windows” theory suggests that crimeis more likely to occur in areas where the physical environment is disorga-nized and unkempt (Wilson & Kelling, 1982). The theory suggests that thedisorganization of the physical space in a neighborhood sends a message

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to potential criminals that residents do not care about their neighborhood.Although healthy and safe housing and neighborhoods are important toour physical, emotional, and social well-being, community interventionsthat only address “broken windows” may not be adequate to address thefull range of supports and resources needed by community residents.Research by Sampson and Raudenbusch (1999) suggests that the commu-nity’s sense of collective efficacy may be more important to indicators suchas neighborhood crime than the upkeep of the physical environment.


Another conceptual perspective on neighborhood effects comes fromJencks and Mayer’s (1990) analysis of conceptual pathways through whichneighborhoods may affect individual-level outcomes. The five modelsarticulated by Jencks and Mayer include contagion (epidemic) models, whichsuggest that community residents influence the behavior of their peersbased on the level of residents’ susceptibility to risk. Collective socializationmodels suggest that neighborhood adults serve as role models who monitorand socialize children and youth in the community. Institutional modelsemphasize the role of community-level infrastructure and institutionalresources (e.g., quality schools, libraries, recreational facilities, and police),whereas social competition models suggest that community residents maycompete for limited environmental resources. In contrast, relative depriva-tion models suggest that individuals engage in social comparison and eval-uate their status relative to peers within the community.

Kupersmidt, Greisler, DeRosier, Patterson, and Davis (1995) offer analternative set of neighborhood models. These include risk models thatsuggest that children growing up in high-risk neighborhoods are at greaterrisk of negative outcomes (e.g., social and behavioral problems) thanyouth living in low-risk settings. Protective models predict that low-riskcommunities may protect youth living in high-risk families, and potentia-tor models describe that living in low-risk environments may positivelyenhance the development of children in low-risk families. Finally, aperson-environment fit model suggests that the lack of match between indi-viduals and their environmental context may result in adaptive challenges.


“Social capital” (Coleman, 1988; Putnam, 1993) is an additional theo-retical perspective that can assist us in understanding the value and con-tribution of social relationships within neighborhood and communitycontexts. According to Coleman (1988), social capital involves three pri-mary components: (a) obligation and expectations involving reciprocity,


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(b) information channels based in relationships, and (3) shared normsand values with effective sanctions.

In contrast to Coleman’s emphasis on social capital’s as the relationsamong people, other conceptualizations of social capital have emphasizedmacro-level and political science perspectives that link social capital toorganized community structures and processes such as civic engagementand democratic participation (Putnam, 1993). This civic-democratic con-struction of community social capital is argued to facilitate “coordinatedactions” and “enable participants to act together more effectively to pursueshared objectives” (Putnam, 1995, pp. 664–665).

Portney and Berry (1997) examined social capital among differentethnic groups in Birmingham, Dayton, Portland (Oregon), St. Paul, and SanAntonio. They found that African Americans show higher levels of participa-tion in civic or neighborhood associations in contrast to issue-based groupssuch as crime watch organizations, or self-help/service organizations.


There are environmental health risks to which African Americansmay be disproportionately exposed because of their places of residence.African Americans in low-income communities are more likely to residenear transportation routes, industrial sites, and toxic waste sites that increasetheir exposure to airborne and other toxins (United Church of ChristCommission for Racial Justice, 1987). These toxins and other environ-mental pollutants may play a role in the high rates of asthma experiencedby African Americans. Due to the aging housing stock and limitations inthe comprehensive implementation of lead abatement programs, AfricanAmerican children have disproportionately higher rates of lead exposure,which can lead to a range of negative cognitive and behavioral effects andeven death (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1997).


Within the field of psychology, community psychology has emergedas a discipline specialization that focuses explicitly on the role of psy-chology in the community. Brookins (1999) provides a useful comparisonof community psychology to Afrikan psychology, noting both similaritiesand unique features of each paradigm. Brookins’s analysis notes that bothcommunity and Afrikan perspectives emphasize an ecological perspectivethat sees the individual within his or her broader social context. However,the conceptual foundations of an Afrikan psychology also emphasize Africanphilosophy, spirituality, and a liberation ideology. Both perspectives also

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operate from a humanitarian values orientation; however, the Afrikanperspective underlines the importance of integrating theory and researchand the “lived experience” of African Americans. Social change strate-gies within community psychology include prevention, empowerment,advocacy, and self-help. Afrikan perspectives also view empowerment as animportant change strategy, but emphasize empowerment a vehicle for thedevelopment of “race consciousness and self-actualization” (Brookins, 1999,p. 40). Brookins criticizes community psychology for its traditional focus onsupporting an individual’s skills in coping with a challenging communityas opposed to attempting to reduce the risk and challenge that AfricanAmericans experience within their communities. In general, research withinAfrikan psychology more strongly emphasizes community experience, par-ticipation, and dissemination. Brookins’s analysis underlines the need forongoing community change and the development of long-term perspectiveson change for African Americans and their communities.

Lessons From Research onAfrican American Communities

Research examining the role of neighborhood contexts in the livesof African Americans has expanded over the past 20 years. First we discussW. J. Wilson’s work in this regard, and then we present research on the linkbetween neighborhood characteristics and indicators of well-being (orlack thereof) for African Americans, especially children.


William Julius Wilson (1987, 1997) argues in The Truly Disadvantagedand When Work Disappears that the concentration of poverty and corre-lates (e.g., out-of-wedlock births and murder rates) in poor urban neigh-borhoods result from the loss of community resources, including theout-migration of higher socioeconomic status groups, that is, working-class and middle-class African Americans from the urban core. Wilsonproposes that these historical transitions in urban poor communities arelinked to neighborhood structures and processes that support limitedaccess to employment, social resources, and infrastructure.

Wilson rejects the culture of poverty hypothesis that focuses on indi-vidual-level dysfunction. Wilson describes the increasing inaccessibility ofjobs in many inner-city neighborhoods. The loss of jobs near urban coreshas been linked historically to the suburbanization of manufacturing,increased educational requirements for jobs because of technological


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advances, and automation that has reduced the number of industrial jobs.With working- and middle-class African American families moving tosuburban neighborhoods, the resulting depletion of community infra-structure and resources results in social isolation and concentrationof poverty in these urban neighborhoods. Wilson notes that more recentcensus data suggest that urban poverty is being dispersed over largergeographic areas with lower population density, resulting in more aban-doned housing and greater opportunities for neighborhood drug traffick-ing, drug use, and related crime.

Narratives from community residents illustrate the impact of historicalcommunity changes on the depletion of community resources and infra-structure. One resident described changes in her urban neighborhood inChicago:

I’ve been here since March 21, 1953. When I moved in, the neighborhoodwas intact. It was intact with homes, beautiful homes, mini mansions, withstores, Laundromats, with cleaners, with Chinese [cleaners]. We had drugstores. We had hotels. We had doctors over on Thirty-ninths Street [sic]. . . . Wehad the middle and upper class. It has gone from affluent to where it istoday. And I would like to see it come back, that we can have some of thethings we had. (Wilson, 1996, p. 3)

This conceptual analysis that emphasizes limited access to employmentand increased neighborhood-level risk helps explain the complex interplayof neighborhood-level changes in murder rates, out-of-wedlock births,and unemployment. In contrast to the oft-quoted proverb, “It takes a vil-lage to raise a child,” the decline of these urban neighborhoods reflects theloss or destruction of “the village” and its social connections and supports.

Employment challenges for urban community residents were docu-mented by the Gautreaux Project, a quasi-experimental study where familiesmoved to other residential areas in the city or to suburban areas followinga federal court decision finding discriminatory practices in the ChicagoHousing Authority. Adolescents within families who moved to the suburbshad higher rates of employment than peers who remained in the city(Kaufman & Rosenbaum, 1992; Popkin, Rosenbaum, & Meaden, 1993;Rosenbaum, Kulieke, & Rubinowitz, 1988; Rosenbaum & Popkin, 1991).


Parenting Strategies

Despite the challenges presented by high-risk neighborhoods, manyparents are effective in using a “community bridging” parenting style. This

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style encompasses three types of strategies: youth monitoring, resourceseeking, and in-home learning (Jarrett, 1999). Youth monitoring works toprotect teens from neighborhood risks through the close parental supervi-sion of the youth’s whereabouts and the management of peer relationships.Monitoring may also involve chaperonage. When more extreme measuresare deemed necessary to protect a child, the child may be removed from theneighborhood and sent to live with relatives. Resource-seeking strategiesinvolve parents promoting their children’s development by identifying andaccessing available institutional supports both within and outside of theirresidential neighborhoods, sometimes through the utilization of extendedkinship ties. In-home learning strategies involve the social reinforcementof desired behaviors and promotion of academic skills and competence.“Inner city neighborhoods with limited social, economic, and institutionalresources demand that parents be ‘super-parents’ to ensure conventionaldevelopment for their adolescents” (Jarrett, 1999, p. 49).

In contrast to Jarrett, Anderson (1994) suggests that the overwhelmingnegative influences and despair in many urban poor communities has“spawned an oppositional culture,” a street culture that emphasizes respectand deference. Anderson describes this as a cultural adaptation to a lack offaith in the police and judicial system. Families who accept street culturemay aggressively socialize and inconsistently discipline children; providelimited supervision; suffer from addiction or other types of maladaptivecoping, value toughness, and dominance; and utilize external objects tosupport their self-image and status in contrast to “decent” families whovalue hard work and self- reliance.

With respect to the effect of neighborhoods on early parenting, Crane(1991) found that levels of professional and managerial workers at theneighborhood level predicted adolescent childbearing and that theseeffects were stronger for Black adolescent females than for Whites.


Leventhal and Brooks-Gunn (2000) conducted an extensive litera-ture review examining neighborhood effects on child development. Theiranalysis suggests that neighborhood may affect young children and ado-lescents across a range of developmental outcomes, but that these effectsmay vary by race. For example, there were fewer cognitive benefits (mea-sured using I.Q. scores) for young African American children (aged 0–6)of having higher-income neighbors as compared with European Americanchildren (Brooks-Gunn, Duncan, Klebanov, & Sealand, 1993; Chase-Lansdale & Gordon, 1996; Chase-Lansdale, Gordon, Brooks-Gunn, &Klebanov, 1997; Duncan, Brooks-Gunn, & Klebanov, 1994). However, sev-eral academic performance indicators suggest that affluent neighbors and


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ethnically diverse neighborhoods benefit African American males(Duncan, 1994; Ensminger, Lamkin, & Jacobson, 1996; Halpern-Felsheret al., 1997). Affluent neighbors and ethnically diverse neighborhoods arecorrelated with higher academic achievement among African Americanmales. In a related study, Plybon, Edwards, Butler, Belgrave, and Allison(2003) found that positive perceptions of neighborhood cohesion wererelated to school self-efficacy and self-reported grades among a sampleof 84 urban African American adolescent females.

Residence in middle-income and ethnically diverse neighborhoods (ascompared with low-income and more racially segregated communities)has been associated with lower rates of peer aggression and internalizingbehavior problems for African American children (Chase-Lansdale et al.,1997). Within a community sample of 12- to 17-year-olds in Los Angeles,conduct disorders were highest among adolescents living in low-income,predominately African American neighborhoods, but oppositional defiantdisorder was lowest in these same neighborhoods (Aneshensel & Sucoff,1996).

According to Leventhal and Brooks-Gunn (2000), the benefit of highsocioeconomic status neighborhoods may be more important for EuropeanAmerican than for African American youth. This may be attributed to thefact that African American youth who reside in affluent neighborhoodsare more likely to live in closer geographic proximity to neighborhoodsthat are more disadvantaged, in contrast to their European Americanpeers. Though residing in similarly affluent neighborhoods, EuropeanAmerican youth are in closer geographic proximity to other affluent neigh-borhoods (i.e., larger environments that are more advantaged; Sampson,Morenoff, & Earls, in press).

Based on their review and analysis, Leventhal and Brooks-Gunn (2000)offer the following explanations for neighborhood effects:

1. Institutional resources: The availability, accessibility, affordability,and quality of learning, social, and recreational activities, child care,schools, medical facilities, and employment opportunities present in thecommunity

2. Relationships: Parental characteristics (mental health, irritability,coping skills, efficacy, and physical health), support networks availableto parents, parental behavior (responsivity/warmth, harshness/control,and supervision/monitoring), and the quality and structure of the homeenvironment

3. Norms/collective efficacy: The extent to which community-levelformal and informal institutions exist to supervise and monitor the behaviorof residents, particularly youth’s activities (deviant and antisocial peer-groupbehavior) and the presence of physical risk (violence and victimization andharmful substances) to residents, especially children and youth

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The consequence of this discrepancy in the broader environmentsin which European American and African American children live is thatthe influence of neighborhood characteristics, such as high socioeconomicstatus, may have less impact on the well-being of African American childrenthan on that of European American children.

Methodological and Applied Perspectiveson African American Community and Neighborhoods


When conducting research on neighborhood and community,researchers have several options. From an Africentric perspective,researchers can utilize the communalism scale developed by Boykin,Jagers, Ellison, and Albury (1997). This 31-item scale was developed usingfour samples of college students and assesses interdependence and indi-viduals’ sense of social obligation with items such as,“I believe that a personhas to work cooperatively with family and friends.” The measure has goodreliability and validity. Another available measure includes collective effi-cacy and neighborhood cohesion used by Sampson and Earls in the PHDCNstudies (Sampson et al., 1997). Neighborhood cohesion assesses the per-ceptions of community residents with respect to trust (e.g., “People aroundhere are willing to help their neighbors”) and collective efficacy is an indexof residents’ sense of control and influence reflected in their ratings ofitems whether they would intervene if children were engaging in behaviorsuch as showing disrespect to an adult. These measures are reliable. A scaleis also available to assess an individual’s sense of community index (Chavis,Hogge, McMillan, & Wandersman, 1986). This index is composed of threesubscales that measure connection (8 items, e.g., “People on this blockknow each other,”), support (4 items, e.g., “People on this block watch outfor each other,”) and belonging (4 items, e.g., “People on this block thinkof themselves as a community”).


Leventhal and Brooks-Gunn (2000) note that researchers use a varietyof strategies to study neighborhood effects, including national databases,city and regional studies, neighborhood-level studies, and experimentaldesigns. Units of analysis vary, and data are taken from the U. S. Census,boundaries and administrative districts set by local governments, govern-ment administration (e.g., police, local housing), and participant ratingsof their perceptions of neighborhood characteristics.


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Windshield surveys are also used as objective assessments of neighbor-hoods. For example, the Neighborhood Assessment of Community Char-acteristics (Burton, Price-Spratlen, & Spencer, 1997; Spencer, Cole, Jones,& Swanson 1997; Spencer, McDermott, Burton, & Kochman, 1997) is awindshield survey of social (presence of children playing, visibility of police,gender and ages of community members) and physical characteristics(housing stock, playgrounds and parks, churches) of neighborhoods. Thesurvey was developed by Margaret Spencer and subsequently adapted byLinda Burton and Kevin Allison. Different versions of the measure allowtrained evaluators or trained community residents to drove or walk throughdiscrete neighborhood sectors and rate them.


The research on the effects of neighborhood has a wide range of inter-vention and policy implications. Powell (1999) argues that racism and fed-eral housing and transportation policies that have supported urban sprawlhave subsidized white flight while simultaneously reducing investments inincreasingly poor urban neighborhoods. Government and banking policiesincluding redlining (i.e., refusing to lend in an area because of race) havepersisted. Some believe redlining grew worse in the 1980s because the fed-eral government decreased enforcement of fair-lending laws and the FairHousing Act of 1968. Several factors continue to support the concentrationof poverty in low-income neighborhoods within which African Americansare overrepresented. These include rising urban housing costs and dis-placement of lower-income residents by the gentrification of many urbanneighborhoods, the development of new rings of poverty in many oldersuburban neighborhoods, and the lack of effective regional cooperation inmost large metropolitan areas. Despite many of the problems of residentialsegregation of African Americans, many of their political gains have beenbased on the concentration of African Americans within specific votingdistricts. There are ongoing struggles to achieve and maintain voting dis-tricts that allow fair representation of African American communities.

A number of efforts to address community challenges take place withinthe policy arena. Strategies such as community empowerment and com-munity organization can be used to build on community assets (e.g.,Kretzmann & McKnight, 1993). Young-Laing’s (2003) analysis of commu-nity development and organizing strategies provides a historical analysisof community building efforts within the Black community. She discussesthe roles of the Universal Negro Improvement Association, the SouthernChristian Leadership Conference, and the Black Panther Party in commu-nity change. In her analysis, Young-Laing points to three primary strategiescurrently utilized among African Americans in promoting communitychange. These include political and social action (with the focus being on

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changing social policy through protest, political effort, and media);resource and capacity development (where individuals work to build localcommunity resource access and capacity); and cultural empowerment(emphasizing cultural education, raising cultural consciousness, and usingculture as a form of resistance). This work is consistent with the earlierProgressive Era strategies of figures such as Ida B. Wells-Barnett andLugenia Burns Hope, who organized and provided services and resourcesto individuals and families within challenged African American commu-nities during the late 1800s and early 1900s (O’Donnell, 1996). Recentneighborhood interventions, such as the Annie E. Casey Foundation’sPlain Talk strategies (http://www.aecf.org/initiatives/plaintalk/index.htm),similarly work with community residents to provide door-to-door out-reach, bringing resource information to their neighbors. The “Plain Talk”intervention has been used to address adolescent pregnancy. The programworks to create a shared view of community prevention needs, increasecommunity skills to communicate about and intervene regarding thespecific prevention issue, and improve youth access to adult and otherresources specific to the target behavior. Psychology has not been closelyaligned with many of these grassroots and broader community develop-ment interventions. However, there are many opportunities to learn fromand collaborate with community-level efforts of philanthropy, urban stud-ies and planning, social work, and public health (Brookins, 1999).

Many community psychologists work with individuals and groups atthe community level to increase individual-level coping, reduce neighbor-hood risk, and increase community capacity. Several capacity-buildingefforts have begun to emphasize the role that the community plays inshaping its own destiny. For example, the Urban Institute’s NationalNeighborhood Indicators Partnership involves several groups that work to“democratize data,” (that is, make data about the community easily acces-sible) so that communities can more effectively plan and advocate for thechange they want in their communities. For example, groups can monitorwhere crimes occur and work with police to address their concerns, orthey can examine the availability of public resources and advocate for newinitiatives. These efforts provide hope that many neighborhoods can moreeffectively address the challenges that result in neighborhood-level risk.


African Americans live in multiple-layered communities, that includebeing members of the group of Americans of African descent, as well asbeing members of diverse sets of neighborhoods. Important sociopoliticalfactors, including structural racism, have historically shaped—and con-tinue to shape—the places where African Americans live and the sets of


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social and infrastructural resources available in those communities.This has included the impact of the northern migration of Blacks duringthe late 1800s and early 1900s and the concentration of urban povertylinked to changes in job access, the impact of suburban development andjob relocation, and housing and banking policies. Several theories help us tounderstand the role of community in the psychology of African Americans,including the important role of communalism from an Africentric per-spective. The sense of connection among African Americans is theorizedto be an important component of our cultural heritage, and initialresearch suggests that this communalism functions to protect individualsand communities. African American parents may develop specific strate-gies to support the adaptive development of their children when theygrow up in challenged communities. Select educational achievement out-comes may be linked to neighborhood characteristics for AfricanAmerican males.

There are several ways of measuring community, including windshieldsurveys and the use of Census data. Other disciplines have a lot to offerin support of our understanding of ways to build community. Efforts at‘rebuilding the village’ will require a long-term perspective and a shift fromindividual-level interventions that support African Americans in copingwith challenges, to interventions that work to reduce the risk in theseneighborhoods. Building on the assets and strengths of African Americancommunities is crucial to the availability of resources within thesecommunities.

The Xhosa proverb, “I am because we are and we are because I am,”underlines the importance of the sense of social connection, senseof belonging, and sense of self based on community. Whether in neighbor-hoods, in social or political groups, or from one’s sense of self, the AfricanAmerican community is core. This sense is reflected in an excerpt fromMartin Luther King, Jr.’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail: “We are caught inan inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly” (King, 1963, p. 290).


1. The Rust Belt refers to areas in the northeastern and midwestern sectionof the United States that experienced declines in their industrial manufacturingduring the 1970s.

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Section III

Individual andDevelopmentalProcesses

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