Schools as Communities: The Relationships Among Communal School Organization, Student Bonding, and School Disorder

Allison Ann Payne, The College of New Jersey
Denise C. Gottfredson, University of Maryland at College Park
Gary D. Gottfredson, Gottfredson Associates, Inc.

Research has illustrated the importance of school social organization as a predictor of school disorder (Gottfredson, 2001). This study focuses on a specific perspective of school social organization: communal school organization, which views the school as a community (Bryk and Driscoll, 1988). Communal school organization includes supportive and collaborative relationships among school members and a common set of goals and norms. Research has shown that schools which are communally organized have more positive student attitudes, better teacher morale, and less student problem behavior (Bryk and Driscoll, 1988; Battistich, Solomon, Kim, Watson, and Schaps, 1995; Battistich and Hom, 1997). Prior research, however, has not examined the process leading from communal school organization to these positive outcomes, although it does suggest that members of communally organized schools become more bonded to other school members, more committed to the school's mission and goals, and are more likely to internalize and abide by the school's norms and rules. These ideas naturally lead to student bonding, another important predictor of delinquency. As described by Hirschi (1969), the student bond is the link between the student and the school which restrains the student from delinquency because he or she values the bond and does not want to damage it. The importance of student bonding and its effect on problem behavior is supported by research (Krohn and Massey, 1980; Cernkovich and Giordano, 1992; Jenkins, 1997; Welsh et al., 1999; Gottfredson, et al., 2000). This study explores the school-level relationships between communal school organization, student bonding, and school disorder using structural equation modeling. The hypotheses of this study are: Hypothesis One: Schools with higher levels of communal school organization will have lower levels of school disorder. Hypothesis Two: Schools with higher levels of communal school organization will have higher levels of student bonding. Hypothesis Three: The effect of levels of communal school organization on levels of school disorder will be mediated by levels of student bonding. The data used for this study are from the National Study of Delinquency Prevention in Schools (NSDPS; G. Gottfredson et al., 2000). The final sample used in this study consists of the 307 secondary schools that have data from both teachers and students.

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Updated 05/20/2006