Being part of positive groups boosts resilience amongst RAF personnel, study finds

Researchers from Loughborough University have been working with the Royal Air Force to examine what social factors have a positive impact on the resilience of its personnel.

The study, led by Loughborough PhD student Wing Commander Craig White, looked at the relationship between the social groups – such as work, family, friends, hobbies and sports – that RAF personnel belong to and their resilience.

It also examined the relationships between the participants’ immediate work teams and line managers and their resilience, along with the level of social identity leadership displayed by their line managers and their resilience.

Service personnel from across 18 RAF bases, both within the UK and abroad, were involved in the research. Participants were asked to physically map out and assess the groups they belong to, using an innovative research method called social identity mapping.

The findings from the study show that belonging to fewer groups, feeling positive about the groups that you belong to and higher levels of social identification are associated with higher resilience amongst RAF personnel.

Speaking about the research Wing Commander Craig White said: “The RAF wanted us to explore the factors that influence the resilience of its personnel, to enable it to be able to develop meaningful ways of helping its service personnel improve their resilience.

“Our findings highlight the importance of the relationship between belonging to positive groups – both within and outside work – and resilience; and feeling connected to your immediate work team and resilience. Counter to our expectations, belonging to more groups was associated with having lower resilience.

“Following this research, we feel social identity mapping could be a useful intervention through which personnel gain an understanding of their social relationships in a group context as part of their initial training.

“Social identity mapping is an organic process, providing the participants with a framework and a free choice in determining how many and which groups they include on their map. Moreover, the construction of the social identity map provokes reflection in some participants as they made sense of their connections.”

The research was a collaboration between the Royal Air Force, Loughborough University, Staffordshire University and Manchester Metropolitan University. Wing Commander Craig White’s PhD is being sponsored by the RAF.

The academic paper, More positive group memberships and social identification are associated with greater resilience in Royal Air Force personnel, has been published today in the British Journal of Social Psychology and can be viewed here:

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