Psychology Ph.D. Dissertations


Citizen participation to promote social justice and individual well-being in Detroit Michigan

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Advisor

Catherine Stein (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Dryw Dworsky (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Michael Zickar (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Anita Simic (Committee Member)


The present study examined how citizens in Detroit Michigan work to promote social justice and individual well-being in their city. Detroit is a city with a history of serious social and economic problems that has been experiencing a revitalization through citizen participation in the past decade. Using a conceptual framework of wellness as fairness articulated by Prilletensky (2012), the present study examined four psychosocial processes that are said to compel individuals to confront social justice: critical experiences (events that leave a strong impression), critical consciousness (the perception and critique of oppression), righteous comparisons (evaluating one’s own injustices while perceiving others as having better opportunities), and critical action (citizen participation to actively confront injustice). A sample of 128 adults who were members of non-profit organizations involved in Detroit’s social and economic revitalization completed an online questionnaire. Hierarchical multiple regression techniques were used to examine the degree to which individual-level perceptions of injustice (self-reports of personal discrimination and righteous comparisons) can account for variance in adults’ views of critical consciousness beyond that of demographic characteristics. The study also investigated the relative contribution of demographic characteristics, individual-level perceptions of personal injustice, and sense of community and critical consciousness in accounting for variation in participants’ reports of perceived empowerment, well-being, and life satisfaction. Results suggest that higher scores of perceived personal discrimination and righteous comparisons best predicted adults’ scores on critical consciousness. Additionally, a greater sense of community was the best predictor of empowerment and well-being scores, while greater levels of critical consciousness predicted higher life satisfaction levels. Implications of findings for research and practice are discussed.