In 2016 at the Democratic National Convention, Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton in front of a large-packed convention room quoted, “It takes a village to raise a child.” The quote was also the title of her 1996 book named It Takes a Village. For over thirty-five years, Clinton’s conviction of the role of villages has only strengthened. But what does “It takes a village” actually mean and why did Clinton spend thirty-five years passionately educating Americans on its importance? It takes a village reflects the reality that children are not only influenced by their parents but also by everyone around them (hence a village). Through villages, researchers McMillan & Chavis theorized that children learn four psychological elements: membership, influence, integration, and emotional connection in order to become smart, capable, and resilient adults. These four psychological elements are known as “sense of community.” In order to understand the sense of community theory, we first have to understand each element.
Membership, the first of the psychological elements, refers to the idea of belonging. According to McMillian & Chavis’ 1986 study, people need to experience the feeling of belonging which is received through membership. Children learn membership through their families, with their own classroom at school, a specific church group, or belonging to an individual sports team. Through membership, children also learn boundaries, emotional safety, personal investment, and identification. This element is the first due to its importance, and it is pivotal for children to learn membership to develop a healthy self-esteem.
Influence, the second element learned, is the idea that people need to be able to influence a group. Children need to learn that their opinions, ideas, or voice matter. They need to feel that they have some influence over their groups. Parents and teachers play an important role by listening and allowing children to make decisions. This element not only builds confidence but allows children to learn leadership skills.
Integration also known as reinforcement, the third element, is the idea that a successful community engages in a value exchange. Without the ability to receive or offer value, membership won’t endure. For example, observe a friendship between two kids, there is a constant exchange, one makes the other feel good by promoting how good they are at a subject, and the other might make their friend feel valued asking to be mentored through a game or sport.
Emotional Connection, the last element, is the idea of a common bond. This is achieved through members sharing a dramatic event, emotional connection, or a powerful exchange. The more time members spend together, influence each other, exchange reinforcement; the stronger the emotional connection. An example of this is when child buddies grow into adult friendships. The connection between the child grows, and the bond becomes not only strong but emotional. In closing, Clinton’s speech at the DNC captured her vision of America working towards a communal and unifying goal. The quote “It takes a village,” was used nicely to connect her vision and to remind the American people of the power of community. Since children learn through play and their environments, sense of community offers a clear path to understanding how children can receive an emotionally, intellectually, and physically strong foundation. Reminding children that they matter, they belong, and that they make a difference empowers them be happy and eventually become adults who give back to their communities.
Karen Cervantes Jimenez
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