Community Social Organization: A Conceptual Linchpin in Examining Families in the Context of Communities*


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    We appreciate the library research assistance of Gabriel Grass and Saralyn Sapp Grass.

**Jay A. Mancini is a Professor in the Department of Human Development, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA 24061 (

Gary L. Bowen is a Kenan Distinguished Professor of Social Work at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

James A. Martin is an Associate Professor of Social Work at Bryn Mawr College.


Abstract: The concept of social organization provides an important framework for understanding families in the context of communities and focuses our attention on norms, networks, and associated processes that typify community life. We discuss the significance of community for understanding family outcomes, discuss challenges in defining community context, define social organization and feature several of its associated components and their linkages, and assess research designs that inform the study of social organization. We conclude by suggesting implications for theory (elaborating social organization community processes), research (incorporating designs and measures that reflect collective processes), and practice (maximizing effects generated by informal and formal networks in communities).