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Community studies are a field of academics that borrows largely from both anthropological and sociological disciplines. Community studies utilize various research methods: ethnography, social research methods and observation, especially participants, in the process of studying communities (Jupp 2006). Within the academic field, all over the world, community studies have been considered as sub-disciplines of both sociology and anthropology. It is important to note that both sociology and anthropology are concerned with the issues of communities and society as a whole. Community studies, as a discipline within the academic field, constitute an interdisciplinary area of academics that is more practical oriented than theoretical.

Community studies are always combined with other disciplines. In this case, community studies are studied in the forms such as community health, urban community studies and family and community studies amongst other disciplines (Reich 2007).

The scope of community studies normally includes physical and mental health, immigration, ethnicity, race, crime, gender, environment and the psychosocial dimensions of the society (Zajda 2009). It is critical to note that with the constant changes taking place within the society as a whole, the scope of community studies is subject to expansion. This is because global changes come with new issues in the society. For instance, in Britain, community studies were established for the colonial rulers who were working within East Africa, especially Kenya. From then, the discipline of community studies has grown to cover a wider geographical region, in fact, it covers the whole world.

Community studies can, therefore, be described as the study of experiences by human beings living or found within a specific locality; it also involves the study of broad forces, influencing community development over a given period of time.

Community studies

Community studies are a discipline that has been used in studying community issues for a long time now. Before moving on, it is worthwhile to define what a community really means. Social science scholars have not come up with a strict definition of the term community. Several definitions have been advanced. Traditional anthropological scholars have been inclined towards defining community with specific reference to a geographical region of familial context. However, street ethnographers utilize both relational and locality definitions of community for their work (Bruhn 2011).

Some sociologists have defined the term community as consisting of individuals in a social interaction within a specified geographical area and sharing one of more common relational ties. Moreover, some sociologists have also offered their definition of the term. They have defined a community as a system of territory, where individuals share space for purposes of residence, sustenance and other social functions that may involve common wants. Again, other scholars have added the dimension of socio-cultural system to the definition of a community (Salamon 2007).

It is important to understand that the definition of community is never fixed. Various disciplines have their own ways of defining community to suite their scope of work. It is, therefore, good to note that the definition of community continuously varies.

Contemporary social problems facing communities

There many contemporary social problems, affecting the community today. These are especially attributed to the constantly changing social systems and the various social classes. But what are social problems? Social problems are a set of negative circumstances that are detrimental to the quality of life of members of a community as whole or just individuals and their most adored norms and values. Social problems are situations that a reasonable number of community members believe should be taken care of via collective actions (Rury 2005).

One of the contemporary social problems is deviant behaviours and crimes. Deviant behaviours are considered as social problems because the actions are against the universally favoured social norms. Therefore, deviances are considered as antisocial behaviours that require a systematic approach to deal with. Another contemporary social problem is moral decay. Moral decay, as a contemporary social problem, stems from various causative factors. Some of these factors include breakdown of family units and constant transformation of the social norms.

The relevance of community studies in understanding contemporary social problems facing communities

As earlier discussed, community studies borrow much from both sociology and anthropology. Both sociology and anthropology are concerned with the study of the society as a whole. The discipline studies the interactions amongst the members of the society and cultural interplay of different social groups. A community involves individuals who have a common culture or way of doing things. The members identify themselves with certain norms. These community members experience problems during the process of their interactions with one another (Milofsky 2007). In light of this, community studies have become necessary to aid in identifying these problems.

Even though there are many problems, facing communities, it is important to know the specific categories of the problems. Hence, social problems may be political, cultural or economic. The way each of these categories is dealt with varies from one group of actors to the other. Community studies provide an in-depth understanding of all the contemporary social problems and also political and economic problems, facing the communities.

In order to gain understanding of the contemporary problems, it is important to conduct social assessments. This can only be effectively achieved through systematic research activities (Crone 2010). However, conducting research is not sufficient enough; it is important to have a general comprehension of the structures of communities, their way of life and the norms that guide their daily behaviour. In this case, community studies as a discipline come into play. The scope of community studies includes research. Through research, coupled with an understanding of what community is, finding what the real issues are becomes possible. Therefore, community studies help in finding out the contemporary social problems, facing communities through scientific research.

Community studies provide an understanding of the intercultural way as well as intercultural issues intersect in terms of communication experience (Ding 2007). It also enables an understanding between the local and the global communities. Hence, the discipline of community studies equips individuals with the ability to have a reflexive thought on the world with diversities as they connect with the local and international communities. Due to this, it is possible to compare the difference in cultures amongst communities and, hence, be able to know the appropriate approach of dealing with social problems, facing the communities (Ding 2007).

The society is stratified and the members of the society occupy various classes. The commonly known social classes include upper, middle and lower classes. The difference in classes is a recipe for various community problems. These differences are well captured in the discipline of community studies. Therefore, with the knowledge, gained from community studies, it is possible to identify contemporary problems that arise due to social stratification and social interactions amongst different members of the society. In order to understand the contemporary social problems affecting communities, it is also important to engage with the community members. This requires the application of varied and appropriate approaches to help the effective identification of the social problems, affecting the members. These approaches can best be understood through community studies. Community engagement gives the members an opportunity to contribute on the real problems, affecting them. In fact, the conduct of research in the community can only be successful, when community members are engaged in the process. It is, therefore, crucial for researchers to gain an understanding of the community (Anderson et al., 2010). In this scenario, community studies help in gaining the appropriate information about every community and the different approaches, used by different communities in handling social problems.

Moreover, with the knowledge of various communities, it is possible to identify the antisocial behaviours not accepted within a community. These behaviours may be drug addictions and delinquency, crime amongst the youths within a given community.

Community studies offer an insight of what a healthy community is. As such, the knowledge, gained from community studies, can be used to assess and evaluate the problems, suffered by a given community in terms of illnesses. Community problems may range from intrapersonal to interpersonal. These social problems should be separated and dealt with, using varied approaches. By understanding the social problems, relevant and appropriate interventions can be designed, according to the uniqueness of every social problem.

Community psychology is very important in understanding the contemporary social problems, facing communities. Community psychology is an important component of community studies. Through the discipline, it is possible to understand the contemporary social problems amongst the minority groups found within a community. It helps in understanding the reasons some members of the community may be disadvantaged or disenfranchised. Besides, it also helps in evaluating communities, organizations and governments in order to find specific social issues that need attention (Orford 2008).

The concept of a community has been given varied definition by various social science disciplines. Community studies are within a field of academics that borrow largely from both anthropological and sociological disciplines. Community studies utilize various research methods: ethnography, social research methods and observation, especially participants, in the process of studying communities. Community studies have been used in understanding the contemporary social problems, facing communities (Jupp 2006).

Community studies provide an understanding of the intercultural way as well as intercultural issues intersect in terms of communication experience. It also enables an understanding between the local and the global communities. In order to gain an effective understanding of the contemporary social problems facing communities, research is vital. Through a systematic and scientific enquiry, it is possible to understand how the modern social problems affect the community, how they are caused and what sustain the problems. For instance, research can help establish the existence of delinquency amongst the youths, rise in criminal activities and even outbreak of certain diseases or health conditions.

Community psychology is a very important discipline that goes hand in hand with community studies. In fact, studying communities also entails gaining knowledge on the psychological aspects of the communities. Through community psychology, it is possible to understand the contemporary social problems amongst the minority groups found within a community. Overall, community studies are within a sub-discipline of social science, used in understanding both the classical and contemporary social problems, facing communities.

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