Community togetherness plays vital role in coping with tragedies

Dec 19, 2012

Community solidarity and support have remarkable benefits for people coping with traumatic mass shootings, according to an American-Finnish research study recently published by the University of Turku.

James Hawdon and John Ryan, both professors of sociology at Virginia Tech, with Finnish researchers Atte Oksanen and Pekka Räsänen, investigated the responses of four that suffered from similar tragedies in the United States and Finland.

People in all four communities expressed their need for belonging after the shootings, and this appeared to have remarkable benefits for their well-being. The study, published Oct. 30, compared responses to tragedies at a in Omaha, Neb., and at schools in Jokela and Kauhajoki, Finland, and Blacksburg, Va.

After each of these incidents, the afflicted communities responded with displays of solidarity. , community vigils, and spontaneously erected monuments to the victims all demonstrated that the community was in shock, yet united, the researchers said. The residents gathered to express their collective grief, and the intense rituals focused their attention on their collective loss and on each other.

While there were similarities in how the communities responded to the tragedies, there were also differences. Community response was more evident in the United States, and the state, the media, and residents played an active role in promoting solidarity. In Finland, however, it appeared that neither the state nor the media emphasized informal social support generated by community solidarity.

The reliance on state-sponsored crisis counseling and the media's tendency to focus stories primarily on the shooters, rather than the victims or communities, may have hindered the emergence of a beneficial solidarity and instead contributed to the emergence of a more stigmatizing behavior.

Researchers say people assisting communities after tragedies should be careful not to let efforts to provide counseling interfere with the community's activities. Based on the team's research, participating in the activities of local businesses, religious establishments, volunteer organizations, and social clubs shortly after a tragedy promoted solidarity but seeing a crisis counselor did not.

Explore further: Study finds law dramatically curbing need for speed

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Do we no longer care about the collective good?

Feb 06, 2012

The Transformation of Solidarity, a book co-edited by University of Queensland sociologist Dr Mara Yerkes, tackles the subject of globalisation of national economies and societies where we put a high value ...

Elder abuse affects Latinos disproportionately

Jul 19, 2012

A sobering new study by researchers from the University of Southern California Davis School of Gerontology finds that elder abuse in low-income Latino communities goes largely unreported. More than 40 percent of Latino elders ...

Recommended for you

Study finds law dramatically curbing need for speed

Apr 18, 2014

Almost seven years have passed since Ontario's street-racing legislation hit the books and, according to one Western researcher, it has succeeded in putting the brakes on the number of convictions and, more importantly, injuries ...

Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

Apr 17, 2014

A statistical analysis of the gift "fulfillments" at several hundred online wedding gift registries suggests that wedding guests are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to buying an appropriate gift for the ...

Can new understanding avert tragedy?

Apr 17, 2014

As a boy growing up in Syracuse, NY, Sol Hsiang ran an experiment for a school project testing whether plants grow better sprinkled with water vs orange juice. Today, 20 years later, he applies complex statistical ...

Creative activities outside work can improve job performance

Apr 16, 2014

Employees who pursue creative activities outside of work may find that these activities boost their performance on the job, according to a new study by San Francisco State University organizational psychologist Kevin Eschleman ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.