On the reciprocal effects between multiple group identifications and mental health: A longitudinal study of Scottish adolescents

Kirsty Miller, Juliet R. H. Wakefield (Lead / Corresponding author), Fabio Sani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)
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Objectives: The aim of the study was to investigate the link between social group identification and mental health outcomes in a sample of secondary school pupils. Based on previous work, it was predicted that multiple high group identifications would protect against psychological illhealth. Furthermore, it was predicted that better mental health would also predict greater number of group identifications, thus creating a ‘virtuous circle’.

Design: A longitudinal questionnaire design was used.

Methods: 409 Scottish secondary school pupils aged 13-17 completed a questionnaire twice over a year. Pupils’ responses regarding their mental health and the extent of their identification with three groups (the family, school, and friends) were measured.

Results: A path analysis of the data showed that greater number of high group identifications predicted better mental health outcomes amongst participants. However, better mental health also predicted greater number of high group identifications, suggesting that there is a cyclical relationship between both variables. These results remained even when age and gender were controlled for.

Conclusions: The findings have both theoretical and practical implications. They highlight the importance of conceptualizing the link between group identification and mental health as cyclical, rather than uni-directional. This reconceptualization has implications for mental health promotion strategies, as it highlights the importance of attempting to turn a potentially ‘vicious cycle’ of social dis-identification and mental ill-health into a ‘virtuous cycle’ of social identification and mental health.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)357-371
Number of pages15
JournalBritish Journal of Clinical Psychology
Issue number4
Early online date8 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2017


  • adolescents
  • groups
  • longitudinal
  • mental health
  • social determinants of health
  • social identity


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