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A qualitative approach to intergroup relations: exploring the applicability of the Social Identity Approach to 'messy' school contexts

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


Journal publication date2013
JournalQualitative Research in Psychology
Number of pages15
Original languageEnglish


The Social Identity Approach (SIA) is one of the most influential theories of group processes and intergroup relations worldwide. However, we argue that the dominance of (post)positivist research methods in SIA work limits the extent to which it enables an understanding of the complexities of intergroup relations in schools. Drawing on qualitative data from two research studies we highlight important questions and issues that are obscured by traditional psychological approaches to studying intergroup relations. We focus, in particular, on the complex interplay between discourses about popularity within schools, constructions of gender identities, and intergroup relations. In doing so, we demonstrate the benefits that qualitative research may have for social psychological intergroup theories (and their application), and specifically, the SIA. We highlight how qualitative data can add considerable richness to understandings of intergroup relations, and draw attention to inconsistencies and contradictions that otherwise may go unnoticed.