This paper is an investigation of the concept of community as it applies to social work theory. It uses the example of an 18-year-old Dominican Republic immigrant, whose recent move from the nurturing, close-knit community of her homeland to the confined and often hostile environment of a lower-class Brooklyn neighborhood provides an intriguing contrast between two types of communities. This paper uses a biopsychosocial perspective and looks at the issue using a systems theory approach to consider the topic. Because the subject is an adolescent, the environmental pressures are especially dramatic, showing some of the ways in which community has an impact on the individual, the family system, and the larger social, psychological, and political environment in which the individual lives.
Asenhat Gomez was born in a farming community in the Dominican Republic (Gonzalez, 1993, April 20, p. 2). Her hometown was a locality-based community, in which the individual social units, the Gomez family and other families living in the area, formed a social system, based principally on the needs of each unit to interact in order to achieve mutually beneficial goals (Systems Approach, p. 17). The community's boundaries were defined by the local geography and by the group's common needs and desires.
The immediate Gomez family consisted of father and mother, Vicente and Esperanza, and three children, son Harold and two daughters, Asenhat and Amalia (Gonzalez, 1993, April 20, p. 2). This basic social unit was part of a larger group, consisting of relatives that included Vicente's parents and brothers and Esperanza's sister. The community extended beyond these individual family units to encompass other family units living in the immediate area. This structure of relationships among social units enabled the community as a whole to work together to attain the goals of the individual members and meet the requirements of the whole group.