The sociological issue I am interested in as it regards the Beacon project and one that I have been focusing on throughout the semester is within the area of social cohesion. Specifically, I am interested in looking at the relationship between informal social control/collective efficacy and neighborhoods. I believe this is not only relevant to the Beacon project but would be a useful addition to the Beacon project as it would broaden our understanding of how high or low levels of collective efficacy impacts neighborhoods on a more macro-level.
My research question is as follows: “What are the impacts of informal social control within neighborhoods?”
I hypothesize that informal social control has an impact on neighborhoods and that it impacts different neighborhoods differently. I hypothesize that communities with higher levels of informal social control and collective efficacy in general, have better interpersonal relations with fellow residents and that these communities are safer in comparison to communities with lower levels of collective efficacy as there is no one who is willing to “do something” if they saw something and as a result, more deviant behaviors occur in these communities.
Collective efficacy is defined as “the willingness of neighbors to effectively organize and intervene on behalf of their common goals” (Ma, Grogan-Kaylor, and Klein 2018). Similarly, another researcher describes it as “a dual-sided concept holding that mutual trust and commonly held values unlock a community’s latent capacity to self-regulate and to prevent crime and disorder” (Gau 2014). When we talk about informal social control and collective efficacy, we often think of instances of rowdy behavior and whether there is someone who is willing to do something about this behavior. This is where the research comes in, instead of looking at whether someone will do something, this research will look at the impact of informal social control and/or collective efficacy has on the macro-level.
Neighborhood Collective Efficacy and Children
In an article by Ma et al, they utilized secondary data analysis to examine the relationship that exists between neighborhood collective efficacy, parental spanking, and the involvement of child protective services (CPS). They found that parents who spanked their child had a higher risk of experiencing maltreatment. It was highlighted in the study that half of 3-year-olds were spanked in the given month and that about 70% of adults in the U.S. favored the practice. Though it appeared that a relationship between interaction between neighbors, and child maltreatment rates in the communities exist, this was not proven in their study. Furthermore, Ma et al found that children living in neighborhoods with lower levels of collective efficacy were more likely to be abused because their parents were more likely to be younger, less educated, least likely to be married to the “focal” father and also, more likely to be living in poverty in comparison to those living in neighborhoods with higher collective efficacy; this is important to note as the researchers did not express that parents were more likely to spank their children because they lived in neighborhoods with lower levels of social cohesion/trust, but rather because they are more likely to be younger, living in poverty, etc.
Ma et al did note, however that “parental spanking is a significant risk for CPS involvement, net of neighborhood conditions.” Factors such as household poverty, maternal substance abuse and depression were associated with the increased risk of CPS involvement. The researchers found that their hypothesis was not supported that parents are more likely to spank children when they reside in a neighborhood with lower levels of social cohesion and trust, but the effects observed in their research supports existing literature on the harmful effects that spanking has such as teaching children that it is ok to use physical force in instances of aggression.
Social Cohesion and Informal Social Control
While Ma, Grogan-Kaylor and Klein were able to look at the effects of neighborhood collective efficacy on parental spanking, and the risk of CPS involvement, Gau (2014) looked more into the relationship between social cohesion and informal social control. This article looks at the concept of collective efficacy and the relationships between social cohesion and informal social control.
In this article, collective efficacy is described as “a dual-sided concept holding that mutual trust and commonly held values unlock a community’s latent capacity to self-regulate and to prevent crime and disorder” also, the author believed that “collective efficacy, measured as a composite of social cohesion and informal social control, has been found to mediate the relationship between concentrated disadvantage and crime” (Gau 2014). By utilizing second-hand survey data that was conducted in 2012 in a mid-sized Florida city that was conducted between university researchers and police departments to evaluate residents’ perceptions of the police, quality of life, and the dynamics of resident’s social environments; by using the sampling and survey distribution followed the Dillman’s total design method. Gau divulged that there is a significant disjuncture between what survey respondents reported that they would do in light of their capacity to prevent crime and disorder; and what they think their neighbors would do. The author noted that it might be useful to separate informal control into those that involves direct actions and indirect actions such as the police.
Some of the findings of this research includes, resident’s perceptions of their likelihood of intervening and their perception of their neighbor’s actions demonstrated that they were more inclined to act indirectly by calling the police rather than getting involved directly to prevent crime and disorder. Carr (2003) and Wickes (2010) as cited in Gau (2014) notes, “this mirrors prior research suggesting that summoning the authorities is an increasingly popular method of informal social control. Also, it was revealed that there was a great deal of uncertainty on the respondent’s part whether their neighbors would indeed do something. The phrase “not sure” was highlighted as being the modal response category or close to it. According the Gau, “the only thing that respondents seemed relatively confident about was that their neighbors would call the police if they saw a suspicious person or event (nearly 70%).”
Effects of Mixed Housing Projects on Collective Efficacy
In this study, the researcher looked at whether mixed-income housing was beneficial for low-income residents at the Maverick Landing, a mixed housing rental development in Boston MA. The researcher utilized qualitative methods which included the use of ethnography, participant observations, and interviews. By using these methods, the researcher looked at whether there was a relationship between what other research had found and existing theoretical propositions. After living on site for 14 months, the researcher found that, both higher-income and lower-income residents influenced each other’s behavior; the higher-income households hardly worked on improving services offered in the neighborhood; higher-resourced individuals were found to promote greater informal social control, as did lower-income residents; and higher-income residents enhanced the social capital for low-income residents, this also included their access to employment opportunities. The limitations in this study included the lack of data that could enable comparisons of dynamics within the entirely subsidized housing or the market-rate housing or comparisons to other mixed income locations. Also, the time commitment of ethnographic research was also seen as a limitation. The researcher noted that it makes comparative ethnographic case studies difficult to perform.
Individual Contributions to Collective Efficacy
This article used data from the 311 systems to assess informal social control within Boston neighborhoods. The 311 system is a convenient way for residents to report or request services such the fixing of infrastructure. This study is quantitative in design and the 311 system, a big data source, “offers one or more convenient channels by which constituents can request non-emergency city services, typically including a telephone hotline (i.e., 3-1-1) and web-based applications” (O’Brien 2016). Furthermore, people utilize this system not only to request services within their communities, but also as a form of informal social control. According to O’Brien, “311 reports of public incivilities expose a particular behavior that contributes to informal social control with sufficient detail to study individual differences within and between communities, overcoming the weaknesses of other methodologies.” Through examining patterns of resident’s reports, which includes how often certain residents made reports, the types of reports, and so worth, researchers are able to observe patterns of informal social control within the different Boston neighborhoods. It was found that neighbors who utilized the 311 systems was indeed acting and doing something which is a form of informal social control because this involves both direct intervention and indirect intervention.
Social Ties and Shared Expectations
The focus of this study was on the ways in which the presence of informal social, due to social ties and shared expectations translates to the action of responding if there is a problem. This u\study utilized census and survey data from 1310 respondents in Australia. the study examined the impact of neighborhood ties, the influence of informal social control due to shared expectations, and the influence of actions because of social ties and shared expectations. The dependent variable was the reported actions participants took in response to a problem they witness in their neighborhood. The independent variable was the measure of social ties and shared expectation in social control. The study found that only slight evidence that social ties increase the likelihood that an individual will engage in a form of social control.
This research will utilize an integrated mixed-methods design to assess the impacts if informal social control within neighborhoods. The reason for this approach is because in this design, both the qualitative and quantitative methods are used concurrently, and both are given equal importance which is the aim for this project. I like that in this design, it places equal importance on both methods and none is seen as more important than the other. The simple random sampling technique will be employed to ensure all subjects have an equal chance of being selected. The quantitative portion of this research will utilize surveys. The qualitative portion of this research will include intensive interviewing and focus groups. The data obtained from the qualitative portion of the study will be analyzed with NVivo while the qualitative portion will be analyzed using SPSS to run cross tabulations, T-tests, etc.
The study “Neighborhood Collective Efficacy, Parental Spanking and Subsequent Risk of Household Child Protective Services,” by Julie Ma, Andrew Grogan-Kaylor, and Sacha Klein is an article that could be strengthen by using a mixed-methods design. The study utilized quantitative methods to analyze secondary data to examine the relationship between neighborhood collective efficacy, parental spanking, and the involvement of child protective services. A limitation of this article is that it was based on heavily on the mother’s responses and it was stated that some mothers may be reluctant to divulging about things such as parental spanking and also the extent of CPS involvement. Because of these reasons, this research could have benefited greatly from participant observations. This is so as the researches would not only have to rely exclusively on the mother’s account of things but also what they experienced in field.
As mentioned before, I intend on using the simple random technique when selecting the sampling frame to ensure that everyone has an equal chance of being selected. I plan on doing this similar to the Beacon Project by sending out letters to residents in different neighborhoods asking them to participate in a study that is aiming at improving community relations through research and later, by having speeches/ small informational sessions at YMCAs and community centers.
Some of the survey questions are listed below were taken from assignment four and all of these questions were composed by me but were influenced off of the Beacon survey questions. I think these questions are good questions to start off with and will be good in assessing the impact of informal social control or collective efficacy has on neighborhoods.
1. Please state the race/ethnicity you below ______________________________
2. Please list the sex you identify with ___________________
3. How old are you? _______________
4. How long have you been living in this neighborhood? ______________________
5. What are your perceptions of this neighborhood? _________________________
6. Have you ever seen a fight in your neighborhood? ________________________
? If you haven’t seen people fighting in your neighborhood, what do you think you would have done if you did?
? What do you think people in this neighborhood would do if they saw people fighting?
? What would you consider a fight? People verbally shouting at each other or physical aggression?
? If you or someone were to do something about the fight, what would that include? Calling the police or would someone try to break up the fight?
7. Have you ever seen teenagers in this neighborhood using drugs or alcohol?
? If you haven’t seen teenagers using drugs or alcohol, what do you think you would do if you saw this? Would you call someone, their parents, would you talk to them?
? What do you think people in this neighborhood would do if they saw teens using drugs and alcohol?
? Who do you consider a teenager? Someone who looks young?
? So why would you intervene or why would you not intervene?
? What exactly would you do?
8. Does this community have a neighborhood watch program? Do you watch over each other’s house or property when someone is out of town?
? What do you do in this community watch program? Do you invite each other over for coffee or things like that, hang out, etc.?
? Do you meet regularly to talk?
9. Have you ever seen a fellow neighbor’s (or someone you know) kid acting out of line?
? If you haven’t experienced this, do you know of anyone who has?
? What was the child doing?
? What did you do or what would you have done?
? What do you think people in this neighborhood would have done?
? What behaviors constitutes “acting out of line?”
10. Have you seen a child defacing (vandalizing, destroying) a public building?
? What do you consider a public building? Library, community center, etc.
? Do you know of an incident where someone else experienced or saw this happening?
? If you haven’t seen a child doing this, what do you think you would do if you did?
? What do you think people in this neighborhood would do? Talk them out of it? Call on formal authorities?
? Why or why not?
Interviewee’s willingness to intervene (IV)
Situation (DV) Yes No
Teens using drugs or alcohol
Kid acting out of line
To improve the reliability and validity, I will use multiple coders to see if the codes they identified are similar or are the same as the ones identified by me. I will also conduct a pretest with focus groups where I will measure and test the reliability of data collected in interviews and also surveys. Findings from this research could be generalized to other communities and other populations by cross-population generalizability. I intend to test my hypotheses by running T-tests which will indicate whether there is significance in variables being tested or not.
The integrated mixed-method design will allow us to get a more accurate picture of the impact of informal social control/collective efficacy has on neighborhoods. A mixed-methods design can add to measurement validity, generalizability, causal validity, and also authenticity. This is so as…. Also, the quantitative portion of this research while it is useful, it cannot tell us everything as numerical values cannot provide an explanation as to why something is happening. The “qualitative measures can be added to clarify the meaning of numerical scores” and the “quantitative measures can provide a more reliable indicator of the extent of variation between respondents that has already been described based on naturalistic observations or qualitative interviews” (Schutt 2015). The specific qualitative methods that will be utilized in this research includes the use of intensive interviewing and focus groups. These methods were selected because these methods will help to enhance the measurement validity. According to Schutt (2015) “measurement validity is enhanced when questions to be used in a structured qualitative survey are first refined through qualitative cognitive interviewing or focus groups” because they can be used to clarify the quantitative findings.
I will use the random sampling technique to sample cases for interviews. I plan on doing this by making a list of all the members in the sampling frame, then, I will assign numbers to each case and use a formula similar to N=20 to select people to participate in the study. Seeing that not everyone who is selected by using the formula above will participate or will want to participate, I will recruit about 300 individuals in hope that I can get at least 50 people to participate in the study. The sample size goal is about 50 people. I plan on recruiting people for my study by sending letters to their homes asking them to participate, by placing posters at community centers, YMCAs, supermarkets, convenient stores, etc. Word of mouth, where possible will be used an also email to a small extent. Also, I am hoping to provide a $20 incentive to participants who participated in all aspects of the project. I plan on building relations with participants by volunteering at different organizations and charities within the community in hopes that this will allow me to build rapport with at least some members of the community. I plan on taking notes during interviews and later transferring these notes to a zipped and password protected folder on a secured laptop owned and assessible only by me where they will be stored, and I will later use NVivo to code and analyze the findings. I will also ask a colleague to assist me in checking my notes to and analysis to try to minimize personal biases and to keep neutrality while analyzing the data which will also add as a reliability check.
I plan on doing the quantitative portion of this project first in hopes that the survey data can be used to help with the interviews and focus groups. I will use the quantitative portion of the research to test for validity and to provide a more accurate and concrete picture of the quantitative findings. Some possible challenges that may arise when using mixed-methods include the issue of social desirability. Some respondents may try to look good in their interviews by inflating their rate of participation in what is considered a socially desirable activity, or they may do the opposite and decrease their rate of participation in socially undesirable activities ((Brenner 2012) as cited in Schutt 2015:552). In trying to mitigate these challenges, I will communicate with respondents to let them know that I value their honest opinions and that it is not my place to pass judgement but to simply collect data.
I intend on protecting my human subjects by ensuring they are fully aware of what my research is about, it’s purpose, and goal. I will provide consent forms for all participants which will also go in great details to ensure that participants are fully aware of hat this research is about. I will communicate with them that their participation in this study is voluntary and that they may discontinue at any point without any penalties to them. I intend on keeping research subjects anonymous by not disclosing their names or other identifying aspects. Each respondent will be given an identification number that will be unique to them and that number will be used to identify them. Their names will only be on the consent forms (providing they consent to participate in the study) and these forms will be locked away in a drawer with key that is only assessable to the researcher. When reporting findings, I will assign pseudonyms to each person as well as names of places. Also, I do not intend on using deception in my study.
The data collected in assignment three was based off of information gathered from the Seattle Crime and Neighborhoods Survey 2002-3 dataset. I used the dataset to look at how likely residents were to do something if they saw deviant behavior taking place. The data collected in assignment four is similar to that of assignment three. In assignment four, I interviewed a bartender who had been living in Davis Square for less than a decade about how likely she and neighbors were in doing something to stop or prevent children from partaking in deviant behavior. Overall, the findings showed that the interviewee was more likely to intervene in instances that directly related to her. Some themes from this interview that seems relevant to answering current research question are community relations, investment in neighborhood, and willingness to act. Some illustrative quotes from assignment four are “It depends on the situation. If it’s late at night, then no; if it’s the middle of the day I might say something, but it depends on whether or not I am invested in the building” and “I don’t think may people would say anything – especially if the parents are present.”
I plan on analyzing the quantitative data by coding the data and assigning numerical values, looking for rends and distributions and by running different tests such as hypothesis testing, cross tabulations, etc. I will analyze the qualitative data with the help of the NVivo software by organizing, developing codes, and transcribing data, looking for themes, etc. I also plan on analyzing both the qualitative and quantitative data together to see if they complement each other, if and if they provide a more complete picture of looking at the impacts of collective efficacy on neighborhoods.
Statement of Limitations
The literature reviewed touched on the micro effects of varying levels of collective efficacy on neighborhoods, particularly, how it impacts those residing in the areas. My research will add a macro-level analysis of how collective efficacy impacts neighborhoods as a whole on the macro-level. I believe this will add to the literature that already exists about this issue and could perhaps help local governments understand the importance of this for neighborhoods with lower levels of collective efficacy. A strength of the research plan is that rather than focusing on the micro-level of the impact of collective efficacy, it takes a macro-level approach. This macro-level approach could also be seen as a weakness of this study as unless it is understood exactly the impacts of this phenomenon on the micro-level, it might be harder to deduce it’s impacts on a macro-level with understanding it at the micro-level.
Gau, Jacinta M. 2014. “Unpacking Collective Efficacy: The Relationship Between Social
Cohesion and Informal Social Control.” Criminal Justice Studies 27(2):210-225.
Graves, Erin M. 2011. “Mixed Outcome Developments.” Journal of the American Planning
Ma, Julie, Andrew Grogan-Kaylor, and Sacha Klein. 2018. “Neighborhood Collective Efficacy,
Parental Spanking, And Subsequent Risk of Household Child Protective Services Involvement.” Child Abuse ; Neglect 80:90-98.
O’Brien, Tumminelli Daniel. 2016. “Using Small Data to Interpret Big Data: 311 Reports as
Individual Contributions to Informal Social Control in Urban Neighborhoods.” Social Science Research 59:83-96.
Schutt, Russell K. 2015. Investigating the Social World: The Process and Practice of Research,
8th ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.
Wickes, Rebecca, Hipp, John, Sargeant, Elise, and Lorraine Mazerolle. 2016. “Neighborhood
Social Ties and Shared Expectations for Informal Social Control: Do They Influence Informal Social Control Actions?” Springer Science. 33:10 -129.