Self-help groups are beneficial to millions of Americans who have used them as a resource. These groups differ in organization, diversification of leaders, recruitment, attendance, and length of group existence. What contributes to the survival of self-help groups? The few studies done on a certain concern or problem make it hard to generalize findings. These studies have found that national affiliation, professional involvement, and group concern help keep a group together.
This study on survival factors of self-help groups used the comprehensive database of the Self-Help Network of Kansas, a self-help clearinghouse at Wichita State University. The database has more than 2,000 groups listed. The information about these groups is updated annually.
From the database, these researchers from Wichita State University randomly selected 388 groups. Of those that responded, there were those for physical illness (38%), disability groups (11%), and groups for mental health concerns (10%). Twelve-step groups were not included in the study because they are accessible only through the central offices of these organizations.
Contact people in the responding groups were interviewed by telephone for 25 minutes. They were all asked the same questions. The main reasons for disbanding were attendance problems (76%), problems or changes in leadership (52%), group no longer needed (35%), problems between members (31%), and logistical problems (31%). Professional involvement did not seem to be a factor in group survival.
Because this study focused on groups in Kansas make these findings difficult to generalize. There also may be other ways to assess group survival, and there may be other factors not addressed in this study relevant for group survival. #1070
Wituk, S. A., Shepherd, M. D., Warren, M., & Meissen, G. (2002, June). Factors contributing to the survival of self-help groups. American Journal of Community Psychology 30(3), 349-366.
Keyword: Mutual help