Handbook of Marriage and the Family

pp 781-813

Families and Communities: A Social Organization Theory of Action and Change

  • Jay A. ManciniAffiliated withDepartment of Human Development and Family Science, University of Georgia Email author 
  • , Gary L. BowenAffiliated withSchool of Social Work, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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Families and the community structures and processes that surround them are the focus of this chapter. A social organization theoretical framework is employed as a means of understanding prior work on how families and their communities intersect, and is also invoked to suggest new directions in this area of family science. As backdrop to presenting a theory of action and change, major works in family science, from the 1960s through the present, are analyzed regarding discussions of the families/communities interface. These major works include all sourcebooks and theory compilations centered on families. In addition, three principal journals in family science are analyzed for the period of 2000–2009, with a focus on family research centered on community contexts. This analysis provides a clear roadmap for directions future research might take. The chapter concludes by presenting the essential elements of a social organization theory of action and change, including its assumptions about families and their communities. Community antecedents (the social and physical infrastructures), social organizational processes (networks, social capital, and community capacity), intermediate results (sense of community), and important outcomes for individuals and their families are then elaborated.