Table 3

What happens within a group

System maintenance:

○ Who organises and leads the group? Is he/she internal or external to the group? How is he/she appointed or elected?

○ The leader's role in initiating, planning, setting up, organising and running the group

○ One or several group leaders/co-leaders? Similar or complementary leader attributes; continuity or rotation of leadership; fixed or flexible?

○ Is group content: flexible; repetitive; different over time; leader or participant determined?

○ Is there group member feedback? Formal or informal? How does feedback change group processes?

Leader attributes:

○ Socio-demographic characteristics, professional qualifications, training, personal experience of the behaviour or problem, interpersonal communication skills

○ To what extent is the leader able to attend to both the group task and the socio-emotional aspects of the group?

○ What is the leadership style: directive/nondirective; proactive/reactive; led (hierarchical)/facilitated (co-operative)/present (autonomous)?

○ How flexible is the leader and how does the leader change over time?

○ What are the benefits/rewards and costs/burdens of being a leader and how are they manifest?

Relationship between the leader and group:

○ How does the leader have legitimacy in the eyes of the group: e.g., expert knowledge; skills; competence; personal attributes; personal experience; conforming to group norms; acting fairly; group identity; geographical residence?

○ What techniques does the leader use: education; persuasion; providing a practical task or service; advocacy; advising: supporting; empowering; counselling; listening; providing vision; inspiration or motivation; selling?

○ What do the group initiators, leaders and group members view as the purpose (aims and objectives) of the group? How similar or different are their perspectives?

Attributes of the group participants

○ To what extent are the group task/goal or socio-emotionally orientated?

○ To what extent are there shared goals?

○ What does it mean to be a group member/non-member in terms of personal and social identity?

○ Do participants categorise themselves; adopt specific group roles or a hierarchical status?

○ What is the level of anonymity or public performance within the group? High with each individual speaking in turn or low as in a crowd where anonymity can be maintained?

Group relationships

○ To what extent are socio-emotional interactions positive or negative?

○ How do intra-, inter-group and non-group member relationships change over time?

○ Do group attitudes, beliefs and behaviours become more or less extreme over time?

○ How similar or different are the attitudes and behaviours of group members?

○ What are the group norms, how are the limits of acceptable behaviour defined and is difference tolerated?

○ Do the group norms encourage or inhibit goal attainment and/or positive socio-emotional interactions?

○ How cohesive is the group?

○ How much communication between group members occurs? Minimal, mostly non-verbal to in depth engagement?

○ Is communication within the group channelled through the leader, within subgroups or free with multiple conversations?

Hoddinott et al. BMC Public Health 2010 10:800   doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-800

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