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Social Cure and Social Curse: Social Identity Resources & Adjustment to Acquired Brain Injury

Muldoon, Orla T and Walsh, R Stephen and Curtain, Mariah and Crawley, Lorraine and Kinsella, Elaine L (2018) Social Cure and Social Curse: Social Identity Resources & Adjustment to Acquired Brain Injury. European Journal of Social Psychology. ISSN 0046-2772

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Abstract

There is increasing evidence that identification with social groups can protect and enhance health, establishing a kind of ‘social cure’. However, for those affected by chronic or disabling conditions such as acquired brain injury (ABI), their identity may also represent a burden, a form of ‘social curse’. The present study explored the identity benefits and burdens available to 15 participants living with ABI using semi‐structured interviews. The qualitative data was then analysed systematically using thematic analysis. The findings highlight social identity changes as central to the experience of brain injury. Participants reported changes in their social networks and social group memberships after injury. Identity loss and reduced social support were described as disabling. Engagement in meaningful group activity with others affected by ABI and access to affected peers enabled new group‐based resources such as social support. In this way, group activity can be seen as a form of identity enactment that can drive social cure effects. Similarly, adaptation to life post injury was demonstrably linked to social identity processes pointing to the importance of a social cure approach to rehabilitation.

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