Am J Community Psychol (2006) 38:9–21DOI 10.1007/s10464-006-9062-3
Community Psychology at the Crossroads:Prospects for Interdisciplinary Research
Kenneth I. Maton
Douglas D. Perkins
Published online: 22 August 2006
Business Media, Inc. 2006
Effective engagement in interdisciplinary workis critical if community psychology is to achieve its promiseas a ﬁeld of ecological inquiry and social action. Thepurpose of this paper and special issue is to help make thebeneﬁts of interdisciplinary community research clearer andto identify and begin to address its challenges. Althoughsome areas of psychology (e.g., biological, cognitive andhealth) have made substantial interdisciplinary strides inrecent decades, progress in community psychology (andrelated areas) is more modest. In this article we explore theprospects for expanding and improving interdisciplinarycommunity research. Challenges include designs, measures,and analytical frameworks that integrate multiple levelsof analysis from individuals through families, organiza-tions, and communities to policy jurisdictions, and thecomplexities involved in simultaneously bringing together multiple disciplinary collaborators and community partners.Challenges to interdisciplinary collaboration common toall disciplines include the disciplinary nature of academicculture and reward structures, limited funding for inter-
K. I. Maton (
)Psychology Department, University of Maryland,Baltimore County, Baltimore, MD 21250e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.orgD. D. PerkinsHuman and Organizational Development, Vanderbilt University,Peabody #90, 230 Appleton Place, Nashville, TN 37203-5721e-mail: email@example.comS. SaegertThe Graduate Center, Environmental Psychology, City Universityof New York, 365 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10016e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
disciplinary work and uncertainties related to professionalidentity and marketability. Overcoming these challengesrequires a synergy among facilitative factors at the levels of theinterdisciplinaryprojectteam(e.g.,theframingquestion;embedded relationships; leadership), the investigators (e.g.,commitment to new learning; time to invest), and theexternal context (e.g., physical, administrative, economicand intellectual resources and support for interdisciplinarywork). We conclude by identifying several exemplarsof effective interdisciplinary collaborations and concretesteps our ﬁeld can take to enhance our development as avibrant community-based, multilevel discipline increasinglydevoted to interdisciplinary inquiry and action.
Interdisciplinary.Community psychology.Levels of analysis.Ecological.Community partnerships.Transdisciplinary.Multidisciplinary.Collaborative research
The importance of interdisciplinarityfor community psychology
Community psychology has been struggling to heed the callfor interdisciplinary collaboration since the founding of theﬁeld. Those who met 40 years ago in Swampscott, MA, tolaunch and deﬁne the new ﬁeld emphasized that “if psychol-ogy wants to make an impact on large social processes
. . .
,it will have to step out of its immersion in strictly clinical-medicalsettings”(Andersonetal.,1966,p.5).Afullchapter
of the report was devoted to relations with other disciplinesand emphasized the importance of a training faculty and stu-dent body from multiple disciplines. Among ﬁelds singledout for interdisciplinary collaboration were sociology, socialwork, medicine, anthropology, political science, education,