Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Gabriel Kuperminc - Chair

Second Advisor

James Emshoff

Third Advisor

Julia Perilla

Fourth Advisor

Lisa Armistead


This study examined sense of community (SOC) and participant engagement in the first 12 months of a longitudinal, group-based intervention program for parents, Legacy for ChildrenTM. Previous research in self-help/mutual support groups and alternative living environments for recovering addicts suggested SOC may positively influence engagement in programs and may be an active ingredient to the success of such programs. Literature on SOC has been limited by cross-sectional investigations and lacked a developmental perspective of changes in SOC over time. This study examined the following questions: 1) Does SOC with the parenting program differ between intervention and control participants at 6 months and 12 months following entry into Legacy? 2) How do baseline levels of social support, stress, and self-efficacy relate to sense of community with the parenting program? 3) Do intervention participants’ baseline demographic and psychological characteristics relate to attendance and engagement in the first 20 weeks of parent groups? 4) Does participant engagement predict SOC with the parenting program over time? Does early SOC predict later engagement? Study hypotheses were examined using repeated measures ANOVA, hierarchical linear regression, and structural equation modeling. The sample included 289 mothers recruited at the Miami Legacy for Children intervention site; eligible mothers were adults, received Medicaid, were English speaking, and had a newborn child. Mothers were randomly assigned to the intervention or control group. Results of the structural model using only intervention participants suggest that attendance and engagement in parent groups contributed significantly and positively to sense of community with the program over time. The intervention group had a slightly higher SOC with the program than the control group. However, levels of SOC with the program declined from 6 to 12 months among intervention participants while stability or slight increases in SOC characterized the control participants’ SOC during this time. Regardless of experimental condition, changes in SOC within the first year of the program were small in magnitude and suggest that changes in SOC between groups may take more time to evaluate fully. Implications of these findings to the development of SOC in intervention settings are discussed.


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