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Using psychology and the power of collective identities to combat adversity


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Researchers Involved:

Prof. Orla Muldoon

RGN, BSc, PhD, c Psychology

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Prof. Stephen Gallagher

PHD, MSC, BSC

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Summary of the Impact:

Psychology has traditionally focused on biological, genetic or personality factors to explain why some people cope better or worse than others in adverse situations. However such a focus can lead to a therapeutic dead end as it is very difficult to change a person’s temperament or genetic predispositions. Researchers at the Centre for Social Issues Research at University of Limerick have addressed this problem by conducting highly regarded research on the benefits and burdens of so-called ‘collective identities’, such as nationality, socio-economic groups, and ethnicity. This work has shown how the collective or shared understandings of a person’s identity can profoundly shape their adaption to stressful, traumatic or adverse circumstances.

Our research findings on the benefits and burdens of collective identities have been translated into practical benefits

The centre members have worked with policy-makers, government departments and public service organisations to apply these research findings to national policy, public services, and training programmes for social and health care professionals. At local levels, the centre has worked closely with NGOs and voluntary groups. This engagement has translated the research findings into practical benefits for communities and statutory agencies living and working at the coalface of adversity.


Sustainable Development Goals

  • 10 Reduced Inequalities
  • 16 Peace and Justice

References to the research

Political Violence and Psychological well-being: the role of social identity

https://psycnet.apa.org/doi/10.1111/j.1464-0597.2008.00385.x

Authors: Muldoon, O.T., Schmid, K. & Downes, C.


Social identity influences stress appraisals and cardiovascular reactions to acute stress exposure

https://doi.org/10.1111/bjhp.12056

Authors: Gallagher, S., Meaney, S., & Muldoon, O.T.


Unemployment is associated with lower cortisol awakening and blunted dehydroepiandrosterone responses

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psyneuen.2016.03.011

Authors: Gallagher, S., Sumner, R. C., Muldoon, O. T., Creaven, A. M., & Hannigan, A.


Stigmatised identity and service usage in disadvantaged communities: Residents’, community workers’ and service providers’ perspectives

https://doi.org/10.1002/casp.2184

Authors: Stevenson, C., McNamara, N., & Muldoon, O.


Perceived Threat, Social Identification, and Psychological Well‐Being: The Effects of Political Conflict Exposure

https://doi.org/10.1111/pops.12073

Authors: Schmid, K., & Muldoon, O. T.


Shared national identification in Northern Ireland: An application of psychological models of group inclusion post conflict

https://doi.org/10.1177%2F1368430214525808

Authors: Lowe, R. D., & Muldoon, O. T.


Socio‐political context and accounts of national identity in adolescence

https://doi.org/10.1348/014466609x475972

Authors: Stevenson, C., & Muldoon, O. T.


‘Something That Unites Us All’: Understandings of St. Patrick’s Day Parades as Representing the Irish National Group

https://doi.org/10.1002/casp.2236

Authors: O’Donnell, A. T., Muldoon, O. T., Blaylock, D. L., Stevenson, C., Bryan, D., Reicher, S. D., & Pehrson, S.


Claiming and displaying national identity: Irish Travellers’ and students’ strategic use of ‘banal’and ‘hot’ national identity in talk.

https://doi.org/10.1111/j.2044-8309.2012.02097.x

Authors: Joyce, C., Stevenson, C., & Muldoon, O.


Community identity as resource and context: A mixed method investigation of coping and collective action in a disadvantaged community

https://doi.org/10.1002/ejsp.1953

Authors: McNamara, N., Stevenson, C., & Muldoon, O. T.


Self‐perception in overweight and obese children: a cross‐sectional study

https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2214.2008.00924.x

Authors: McCullough, N., Muldoon, O., & Dempster, M.


‘Ordinary decent domestic violence’: A discursive analysis of family law judges’ interviews

https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0957926514564738

Authors: Naughton, C. M., T O’Donnell, A., Greenwood, R. M., & Muldoon, O. T.


Family identification: a beneficial process for young adults who grow up in homes affected by parental intimate partner violence

https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01249

Authors: Naughton, C. M., O’Donnell, A. T., & Muldoon, O. T.


Is everyone Irish on St Patrick’s Day? Divergent expectations and experiences of collective self‐objectification at a multicultural parade

https://doi.org/10.1111/bjso.12029

Authors: Pehrson, S., Stevenson, C., Muldoon, O. T., & Reicher, S.


Understanding the Impact of Political Violence in Childhood: A Theoretical review using a Social Identity Approach

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cpr.2013.07.004

Authors: Muldoon, O. T.


Social Identity, Groups, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9221.2012.00874.x

Authors: Muldoon, O.T., & Lowe, R.D.


Social identity and PTS symptoms in Northern Ireland

https://doi.org/10.1192/bjp.bp.106.022038

Authors: Muldoon, O.T., & Downes C.


Perceived discrimination amongst young people in socio‐economically disadvantaged communities: Parental support and community identity buffer (some) negative impacts of stigma

https://doi.org/10.1111/bjdp.12120

Authors: Bradshaw, D., Jay, S., McNamara, N., Stevenson, C., & Muldoon, O. T.