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Am J Community Psychol. 2005 Dec;36(3-4):327-41.

Democratic school climate and sense of community in school: a multilevel analysis.

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  • 1Department of Developmental and Social Psychology, University of Padova, Padua, Italy.


This study examines individual- and school-level predictors of sense of community in school among adolescents. Hierarchical linear modeling was used to examine the relationships between individual (demographics, control and monitoring by parents, and perception of democratic school climate), class, and school characteristics (mean democratic school climate, demographics, activities, school size, public/private governance of the school, and facilities) and students' sense of community in the school. Data were analyzed using a three-level model based on 4,092 10- to 18-year-old students nested within 248 classes (across three grade levels: 6th, 8th, and 10th grade level, where the median age was 11, 13, and 15, respectively) in 134 schools in the Veneto region of northeast Italy. Individual and contextual measures of the perception of a democratic school climate, modeled at the individual, class, and school levels simultaneously, were each significant predictor of school sense of community. More parental monitoring and less parental control were also predictive at the individual level. School-level SES predicted between school variation in sense of community, controlling for individual student SES and other student and school-level predictors. School size, facilities (physical spaces resources), level of interaction of the school with the community, public, or private governance, and number of extracurricular activities offered were all nonsignificant. The study demonstrates significant variation in school sense of community at the student, class, and school levels and the important role played by democratic school practices, such as student participation in making rules and organizing events, freedom of expression, and the perceived fairness of rules and teachers, in determining this variable.

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