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Title: An evaluation of leadership roles and social capital in Northern Ireland's victim support groups : theory, policy and practice
Author: Graham, Laura Fowler
ISNI:       0000 0004 2746 5692
Awarding Body: University of Aberdeen
Current Institution: University of Aberdeen
Date of Award: 2012
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This thesis investigates the functions and roles of victim support groups and their leaders in Northern Ireland. In doing so, this thesis employs social capital theory as a conceptual apparatus for understanding leadership roles and the functions of victim support groups. This thesis is the product of a qualitative case study of victim leaders in Northern Ireland. The data was collected through qualitative semi-structured interviews with victim support group leaders and policymakers. In the findings chapters of this thesis, a typology of leadership emerges from the data, revealing three distinct types of leaders – Shepherds, In Loco Parentis and Social Innovators – that help explain the roles of victim leaders and the reasons why they engage in certain types of group activities over others, specifically, activities which contribute to bonding, constriction or bridging social capital. The findings reveal that one of the main roles of victim leaders centers around the bonding and bridging of social capital in their groups. Consequently, around 80 percent of victim support groups were found to be bonding, whereas only 20 percent of groups were bridging. Moreover, around 20 percent of victim support groups were engaged in dysfunctional bonding, possibly leading to constriction. These findings have negative implications for the social inclusion of victims, as well as the social cohesion of wider society. This thesis argues that the reasons why victim groups bond, bridge or constrict is directly related to two factors: the type of leadership employed in each group and government policies and funding strategies that reinforce exclusivity and fail to encourage bridging. This thesis also makes significant contributions to the scholarly literature on Northern Ireland’s victims, government policy and social capital theory. The conclusion of this thesis argues that social capital theory and constrict theory both fail to fully explain the roles of victim groups and their leaders because the conceptualizations of these theories do not take into account the effects of leadership in groups and social trust that has been traumatized by protracted political violence. Thus, this thesis re-conceptualizes social capital theory and constrict theory by adding traumatized trust and leadership as important variables which help explain the roles of victim support groups and their leaders in divided and transitional settings. Finally, this thesis offers suggestions for policymakers and victim leaders on a social capital strategy that aims to increase positive forms of social capital and discourage constriction.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Leverhulme Foundation
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Victims of violent crimes ; Self-help groups