Date of Conferral







Charles T. Diebold


A certain community within the southern region of Texas has consistently been linked to escalating poverty, high crime rates, low educational achievement, and poor physical and mental health. For the purpose of this research, this community will be referred to as Community X. Although some researchers have found that sense of community and supportive social networks are associated with healthy mental and physical functioning, others have suggested that in a debilitated community social networks can facilitate psychological distress and a strong sense of community is difficult to develop. Guided by Bronfenbrenner's ecological model, the purpose of this quantitative correlational study was to examine the combination of 3 Social Network Index (SNI) scores and 4 Sense of Community Index 2 (SCI-2) scores that affect Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K10) scores. For the 106 Community X resident participants, as the SNI number of embedded networks increased, K10 scores tended to increase, indicating higher levels of psychological distress (consistent with the negative effect research). In a cluster analysis, two clusters emerged in which one cluster (n = 67) had positive z-score means on all SNI indices and all SCI-2 subscales, while the other cluster (n = 39) had all negative z-score means. The cluster with all positive scores had lower K10 psychological distress scores (consistent with the positive effect research), but the difference was not statistically significant. The mixed results indicated that comparative research is needed to control for communities of varying ecological distress to better relate psychological distress to sense of community and the valence of social networks to facilitate positive social change health policies and interventions that are ecological-distress sensitive.