Assessing Community Participation: Comparing Self-Reported Participation Data with Organizational Attendance Records

Brian D. Christens, Paul W. Speer, N. Andrew Peterson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


How well do self-reported levels of community and organizational participation align with recorded acts of community and organizational participation? This study explores this question among participants in social action community organizing initiatives by comparing responses on a community participation scale designed to retrospectively assess community participation (T1, n = 482; T2, n = 220) with individual participants' attendance records in various social action organizing activities over two 1-year periods. By testing the self-reported measure's overall and item-by-item association with documented participation in various types of organizing activities, we find that the self-report measure is positively, but weakly correlated with actual participation levels in community organizing activities. Moreover, associations between self-report and recorded acts of participation differ by types of activity. Examining this unique source of data raises important questions about how community participation is conceptualized and measured in our field. Implications are explored for theory and measurement of participation in community and organizational contexts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)415-425
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican Journal of Community Psychology
StatePublished - Jun 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • Applied Psychology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


  • Civic engagement
  • Community organizing
  • Community participation
  • Organizational participation

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