How families construct their relationship to their community: A reflective research approach

Date of Completion

January 1997


Social Work|Sociology, Individual and Family Studies|Sociology, Ethnic and Racial Studies|Urban and Regional Planning




The City of Holyoke is a small city in Western Massachusetts that has experienced progressive deindustrialization and urban decline. There has been a steady increase in the Hispanic population, which is predominantly Puerto Rican, in the city over the past 35 years. Hispanics made up 31% of the population in Holyoke in 1990 and there are simmering tensions between Anglo and Hispanic residents. In-depth interviews were conducted with members of seven families who lived in Holyoke, three Anglo and four Hispanic, to understand their relationship to their community. Participants discussed the history of their family in Holyoke, their experience of living in the city and what their community means to them. A profile of the city was created by doing a document review and by interviewing six key informants who work in the city.^ The core methodology of the project relied on in-depth interviews, designed, conducted and analyzed by a team of family therapists. The project was reflective as it was designed to understand phenomena from multiple perspectives. Profiles of the research participants were created and themes from the interviews extracted and compared.^ The major findings revolved around the tensions between Anglos and Hispanics in the city, the nature of family integrity and its implications for community life and the nature of community integrity and the meaning of this for families. Recommendations are made for policies, programs and services. ^