Community

For the next 8 months I will be involved in a community-based research project with Families First Edmonton (FFE).

I am excited and humbled by this opportunity to learn through applied research and to help a community organization discover what, if any, changes would improve the way services are provided to low-income families.

From the initial data FFE collected from over 1200 families, I hope to focus on the well-being of preschool-aged children – specifically on social and emotional development. I was introduced to this area of research through my masters thesis, and now I look forward to learning how this community-based research project can promote a decrease in behavioural and emotional problems during the preschool years.

In our research seminar this week, we talked about defining ‘community.’

Generally, the term brings about thoughts of a physical location like a neighbourhood, or a specific population that has shared characteristics. …I won’t attempt to define ‘online communities’ like Facebook …that’s another topic, maybe best discussed on Facebook 🙂

One source on community * summarizes why we can all benefit from community-based research.

Research results can help promote:

Healthy child development:

“Child development is powerfully shaped by social capital. Trust, networks, and norms of reciprocity within a child’s family, school, peer group, and larger community have far reaching effects on their opportunities and choices, and hence on their behaviour and development”

Encourage community organizations:

“Public spaces in high social-capital areas are cleaner, people are friendlier, and the streets are safer. Traditional neighbourhood “risk factors” such as high poverty and residential mobility are not as significant as most people assume. Places have higher crime rates in large part because people don’t participate in community organizations, don’t supervise younger people, and aren’t linked through networks of friends.”

Healthy people:

There appears to be a strong relationship between the possession of social capital and better health. ‘As a rough rule of thumb, if you belong to no groups but decide to join one, you cut your risk of dying over the next year in half. If you smoke and belong to no groups, it’s a toss-up statistically whether you should stop smoking or start joining.’ Regular club attendance, volunteering, entertaining, or church attendance is the happiness equivalent of getting a college degree or more than doubling your income. Civic connections rival marriage and affluence as predictors of life happiness.”

And even a healthy economy:

“A growing body of research suggests that where trust and social networks flourish, individuals, firms, neighbourhoods, and even nations prosper economically. Social capital can help to mitigate the insidious effects of socioeconomic disadvantage.”

Above quotes reproduced from the encyclopaedia of informal education: http://www.infed.org

By focusing on the connection between community and early child development through my research, I hope to encourage ‘collective responsibility’ – the whole idea of ‘it takes a village to raise a child.’

I am not parenting or teaching children…

but I wholeheartedly embrace the:

‘shared responsibility for educating children and helping families in crisis…’

because the early environment impacts brain and body development

– and strongly influences the rest of their life.

For more on helping children have the opportunity to grow, develop and thrive, check out http://www.health.alberta.ca/documents/CMOH-Lets-Talk-Early-Years-2011.pdf **

*thanks to Nicole N. for this link 🙂

**thanks to Laura T. for this one!

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