Professor Charles Abraham: How can small groups promote health-related behaviour change?

A seminar from Professor Charles Abraham from the University of Melbourne. Room 1.33-1.34. Hosted by M Conner.

Small groups are widely used to promote health, wellbeing and personal change. Group participation is assumed to generate change in members’ perceptions, beliefs, expectations and behaviour patterns. An extensive cross-disciplinary literature has articulated and tested theories explaining how such groups develop, function and facilitate change. Yet, surprisingly, this theoretical literature is rarely applied in the development, description and evaluation of health-promoting group-based behaviour-change interventions. Borek and Abraham (2018) searched databases, library catalogues, search engines, specific journals and reference lists for relevant texts. After reviewing core books and articles, new relevant texts were reviewed in relation to new explanatory concepts or theories describing change mechanisms. Identified mechanisms were then integrated into the developing conceptual structure. The resulting conceptual map has been extended in an ongoing projected funded by the UK National Institute of Health Research. A number of practical recommendations for design, delivery and evaluation of group-based, behaviour-change interventions have been derived from this conceptual map of change mechanisms.

Five core groups of interacting processes were identified, namely, (1) Group development processes, (2) Dynamic group processes, (3) Social or inter-personal change processes, (4) Personal or intra-personal change processes and (5) Group design and operating parameters. Collectively, these, and the categories of change mechanisms they encompass, provide a succinct, conceptual overview of key concepts used to explain how groups shape psychological and behaviour change. The conceptual map and recommendations provide a practical basis for linking research and theory explaining group functioning to the optimal design of group-based, behaviour-change interventions.