‘Enemy of the people’: Family identity as social cure and curse dynamics in contexts of human rights violations

Blerina Këllezi*, Aurora Guxholli, Clifford Stevenson, Juliet Ruth Helen Wakefield, Mhairi Bowe, Kay Bridger

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
14 Downloads (Pure)


Although Social Cure research shows the importance of family identification in one's ability to cope with stress, there remains little understanding of family responses to human rights violations. This is the first study to explore the role of family identity in the collective experience of such violations: meanings ascribed to suffering, family coping strategies, and family-based understandings of justice. Semi-structured interviews (N = 27) with Albanian dictatorship survivors were analysed using Social Identity Theory informed thematic analysis. The accounts reveal Social Cure processes at work, whereby family groups facilitated shared meaning-making, uncertainty reduction, continuity, resilience-building, collective self-esteem, and support, enhanced through common fate experiences. As well as being curative, families were contexts for Social Curse processes, as relatives shared suffering and consequences collectively, while also experiencing intergenerational injustice and trauma. Although seeking and achieving justice remain important, the preservation of family identity is one of the triumphs in these stories of suffering.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)450-466
Number of pages17
JournalEuropean Journal of Social Psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021


  • dictatorship
  • family identity
  • justice
  • social cure
  • social curse
  • trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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