Date of Award

1980

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Abstract

The research reported in this dissertation deals directly with an individual's perception of his or her community and family circumstances. The major question explored deals with what structural factors influence individuals' perceptions. In order to examine this question, the study primarily employs structural parameters such as age, sex, race, community, etc. to note differences or similarities among subpopulations. Specifically, the study explores the differences or similarities between adults and adolescents in rural communities. The data includes both an adult and adolescent sample taken in three rural communities in South Louisiana. The racial composition of the communities includes black, Indian, and white. The findings of the study suggest a different strategy for the derivation of the community evaluation scale. Instead of developing a scale from all samples combined, factor analysis procedures of subpopulations were employed to delineate a scale of greatest convergence for all respondents and subpopulations. This offers support to the contention that it is important to recognize potential subgroups within community settings whose perceptions may differ significantly from the total sample. Other findings indicate that age and race have influences upon community and family evaluations, particularly when subpopulations such as parent vs. child, racial categories, etc. are explored. Whites tend to rate aspects of community and family circumstances higher than do nonwhites, whereas adolescent offspring have a more positive view of family circumstances than do their parents, especially among nonwhites. Surprisingly, community residence has no impact upon community evaluation or family satisfaction. House condition and sex have no influence upon assessments of community, but both influence family satisfaction. The better the house condition among adults, the higher the score for family circumstances, whereas females tend to rate their family situation higher than males among the adolescents. The major implication of this study is that structural parameters like age and race are factors along which perceptions of community become organized. This is supported empirically in this study. This substantiates the importance of structural parameters in underlying the differentiation among groups, and their potential for governing social interaction. In addition, this study is a supportive case for continued examination and research into subjective indicators of social reality. The present study should be considered as part of a continuing development of community satisfaction research in rural communities. It is fairly evident from this study that the determination of community evaluative responses of residents is not easily captured. It is the task of sociologists to recognize potential subgroups within community settings whose realities may differ significantly from the representative residents. We cannot allow ourselves the luxury of making assumptions about people's beliefs and perceptions without some notion of relevant structural dimensions along which realities may be experienced and constructed.

Pages

227

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