Is group membership always helpful? An analysis of group normative content in identifying with stigmatized groups

Sathiavaani Gunaseelan (2015). Is group membership always helpful? An analysis of group normative content in identifying with stigmatized groups Professional Doctorate, School of Psychology, The University of Queensland.

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Author Sathiavaani Gunaseelan
Thesis Title Is group membership always helpful? An analysis of group normative content in identifying with stigmatized groups
School, Centre or Institute School of Psychology
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2015-10-01
Thesis type Professional Doctorate
Supervisor Dr Tegan Cruwys
Total pages 137
Language eng
Subjects 170106 Health, Clinical and Counselling Psychology
170113 Social and Community Psychology
Abstract/Summary Depression is a severely debilitating condition and at its extreme, can lead to suicide. Although the literature to date has focused largely on its affective, cognitive, and behavioural components, the social aspects of this condition cannot be ignored. Alongside this, while evidence-based antidepressant and psychotherapy are the main forms of treatment for depression, treatment-seeking remains low for a variety of reasons like cost, accessibility, availability of mental health practitioners, and at a more societal level, community stigma against mental illnesses. As such, it is imperative to consider and explore social modalities of intervention that provide alleviation of depression symptoms yet remaining cost-effective, accessible, and not subject to stigma. Building on previous research which found that social identification predicted a reduction in depression symptoms, two studies are presented to explore the role of group norms and stigma in determining when groups are beneficial in promoting psychological wellbeing in people with depression. In Study One (N = 242), participants with at least moderate levels of depression symptoms completed an online questionnaire on their perceptions of the depressed category (in terms of its norms, stigma, and centrality to their own identity), as well as several measures of wellbeing. In Study Two (N = 48), disadvantaged adults, the majority of whom had diagnosed mental illness, and who were members of community groups were interviewed about their experiences of these groups. Study One found that perceived group normative content moderated the relationship between perceived discrimination and wellbeing such that the more participants identified with the depressed category and endorsed depressogenic behavioural norms as characteristic of depressed people, the greater depression symptoms and poorer overall wellbeing they reported. Study Two augmented these findings by furnishing evidence of the perceived benefits accrued from joining meaningful (non-stigmatised) groups, including positive social influence, a sense of belongingness, meaning, purpose, and direction, and support. These findings imply that identification is potent in its ability to both worsen or improve depression outcomes and psychological wellbeing depending on the specific normative content of the group in question. This suggests the clinical utility of groups with adaptive norms to inform macro-level policies and initiatives around managing depression in a cost-effective manner, as well as to complement mainstream psychological treatment and maintain gains given the chronic nature of depression.
Keyword social cure
social identity
stigmatised identity

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Created: Thu, 01 Oct 2015, 10:38:02 EST by Sathiavaani Gunaseelan on behalf of Faculty of Health and Behavioural Sciences