Systemic Practice and Action Research

, Volume 28, Issue 4, pp 297–314 | Cite as

The Power of Group Discussion: Enhancing Reflexivity in Professionals’ Practice When Dealing with Family Diversity

  • Marina EverriEmail author
  • Laura Fruggeri
  • Elena Venturelli
Original Paper


This paper describes an action research study that illustrates the potential of group discussion to enhance reflexivity on professionals’ theoretical and technical models that foster a change in their practice when facing contemporary family diversity. Focus groups were carried out with thirty-five experienced professionals (females, N = 22; males, N = 12; mean age = 45 years) working in the Italian Health Care System (IHCS). Group discussions centered on clinical cases involving same-sex families, an emerging phenomenon in Italy and still subject to social stigma. Our results showed that group discussion allowed professionals to develop a communicative process through which they changed their initial prejudiced positions. This process was named the group re-orienting process and four progressive phases were recognized: (a) defense (b) familiarization with novelty (c) self-reflection and (d) generation. Each phase is described in detail using extracts from focus group data. Implications for training and intervention are discussed.


Focus group Reflexivity Action research Communicative processes Same-sex families Professional practice 


  1. Beier L, Hofacker D, Marchese E, Rupp M (2010) Family structures and family forms. Working report. Family platform. Accessed 21 July 2012
  2. Bernal G (2006) Intervention development and cultural adaptation research with diverse families. Fam Process 45:143–151CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Binger JJ, Gottlieb AR (eds) (2007) Interventions with families of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people: from the inside out. Taylor & Francis, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  4. Borrill CS, Carletta J, Carter AJ, Dawson J, Garrod S, Rees A, Richards A, Shapiro D, West MA (2000) The effectiveness of health care teams in the National Health Service. Aston Centre for Health Service Organization Research, BirminghamGoogle Scholar
  5. Brits H, du Plessis L (2007) Application of focus group interviews for quality management: an action research project. Syst Pract Action Res 2:117–126CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Capozzi P, Lingiardi V (2003) Happy Italy? The Mediterranean experience of homosexuality, psychoanalysis and mental health professions. J Gay Lesbian Psychother 5:29–57Google Scholar
  7. Chiu LF (1998) Woman-To-Woman: promoting cervical screening among minority ethnic women in primary care, a participatory action research project (1995–1997). A research report. Rotherham: Department of Health Promotion, Rotherham Health AuthorityGoogle Scholar
  8. Chiu LF (2003) Transformational potential of focus group practice in participatory action research. Action Res 1:165–183CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Daniels H (2011) Analyzing trajectories of professional learning in changing workplaces. Cult Psychol 3:359–377CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. De Dreu C (2002) Team innovation and team effectiveness: the importance of minority dissent and reflexivity. Eur J Work Organ Psychol 3:285–298CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Duveen G, Lloyd B (eds) (1990) Social representations and the development of knowledge. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  12. Fruggeri L (2005) Diverse normalità. Psicologia sociale delle relazioni familiari. Carocci, RomaGoogle Scholar
  13. Ganong LH, Coleman M (2004) Stepfamily relationships: development, dynamics and interventions. Plenum, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gergen KJ (2009) Dialogue as collaborative action. Journal fur Psychologie, Retrieved:
  15. Gergen KJ, McNamee S, Barrett FJ (2001) Toward transformative dialogue. Int J Public Adm 24:679–707CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gergen MM, Gergen KJ, Barrett F (2004) Appreciative inquiry as dialogue: generative and transformative. In: Cooperrider DL, Avital M (eds) Constructive discourse and human organization. Advances in appreciative inquiry, vol 1. Emerald Group Publishing Limited, pp 3–27Google Scholar
  17. Gilmore T, Krantz J, Ramirez R (1986) Action based modes of inquiry and the host-researcher relationship. Consultation 5:160–176Google Scholar
  18. Hart E, Bond M (1995) Action research for health and social care: A guide to practice. Open University Press, Milton KeynesGoogle Scholar
  19. Hill ME, Augustinus M (2001) Stereotype change and prejudice reduction: short and long-term evaluation of a cross-cultural awareness program. J Commun Appl Soc Psychol 11:243–262CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hoffman L (1990) Constructing realities: an art of lenses. Fam Process 29:1–12CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Istat 2011 I cittadini non comunitari regolarmente soggiornanti. Accessed 21 July 2012
  22. Jodelet D (1991) Madness and social representations. Harvester/Wheatsheaf, LondonGoogle Scholar
  23. Kreppner K (2002) Retrospect and prospect in the psychological studies of families as a system. In: McHale J, Grolnick W (eds) Retrospect and prospect in the psychological study of families. Lawrence Erlbaum, Mahwah, pp 225–257Google Scholar
  24. Krueger RA (1994) Focus groups: a practical guide for applied research. Sage, Thousand OaksGoogle Scholar
  25. Lingiardi V, Falanga S, D’Augelli A (2005) The evaluation of homophobia in an Italian sample: an exploratory study. Arch Sex Behav 34:81–94CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Madriz E (2003) Focus group in feminist research. In: Denzin NK, Lincoln YS (eds) Collecting and interpreting qualitative materials, 2nd edn. Sage, London, pp 363–388Google Scholar
  27. Mazzoni S (2002) Nuove costellazioni familiari. Giuffre, MilanoGoogle Scholar
  28. McNamee S (1992) Social construction and process of inquiry. AFTA Newslett 47:37–39Google Scholar
  29. Moscovici S (1961) La psychanalyse, son image et son public. Presses Universitaires de France, ParisGoogle Scholar
  30. Moscovici S, Doise W (1994) Conflict & consensus. A general theory of collective decisions. Sage, LondonGoogle Scholar
  31. Pearce B (1994) Interpersonal communications. Making social worlds. Harper Collins, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  32. Rapaport R (1989) Ideologies about family forms: towards diversity. In: Boh K, Bak M, Clason C, Pankratova M, Qvortrup J, Sgritta G, Waerness K (eds) Changing patterns of European family life. Routledge, LondonGoogle Scholar
  33. Rosenblatt PC (1995) Metaphors of family systems theory. Guilford Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  34. Schippers MC, Den Hartog DN, Koopman PL (2007) Reflexivity in teams: a measure and correlates. Appl Psychol 56:189–211CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Seal DW, Bogart LM, Ehrhardt AA (1998) Small group dynamics: the utility of focus group discussions as a research method. Gr Dyn 4:253–266CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Stringer ET (2007) Action research, 3rd edn. Sage, Thousand OaksGoogle Scholar
  37. Van Custem C (1998) La famille recompose. Editions Erès, ToulouseGoogle Scholar
  38. Walsh F (2012) Normal family processes. Growing diversity and complexity. Guilford Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  39. West M (2002) Sparkling fountains or stagnant ponds: an integrative model of creativity and innovation implementation in work groups. Appl Psychol 51:355–424CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Wilkinson S (1998) Focus group in feminist research: power, interaction and the co-construction of meaning. Women’s Stud Int Forum 21:111–125CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marina Everri
    • 1
    Email author
  • Laura Fruggeri
    • 1
  • Elena Venturelli
    • 1
  1. 1.University of ParmaParmaItaly

Personalised recommendations