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Abstract

Psychological sense of community (PSOC) has long been recognized as a key element of successful collaborative initiatives, particularly university-community partnerships. A critical challenge involves the development of auxiliary theories that guide the specification of measurement models in studies of PSOC and other theoretical constructs. Auxiliary theories can be especially useful in clarifying the differences between scales and indexes, and how each is uniquely specified and validated. Scales are based on reflective measurement in which classical test theory can be applied (e.g., reliability estimation, confirmatory factor analysis) to evaluate scores that are hypothesized to be highly correlated and as representing manifestations or reflections of underlying constructs. Indexes are based on formative measurement in which scores are not necessarily correlated but rather are hypothesized as inducing or forming constructs. We reanalyzed original Sense of Community Index (SCI) data from the Block Booster Project to demonstrate the differences between reflective and formative measures and the implications of model misspecification. Results of structural equation modeling showed that although the reflective model was a poor fit to the data, the SCI modeled with formative measures provided a good fit to the data. For more than a decade, researchers have debated the conceptualization and measurement of PSOC. Not addressed in this debate, however, has been the issue of measurement misspecification and how validation practices may lead to inaccuracies in our understanding of PSOC. Key differences between measurement perspectives on PSOC are described and recommendations for future work are discussed.