Social Exclusion and Marginalization

Man needs social relationships, and the evolutionary perspective suggests how basic belonging to the group is an essential element for survival in social life. Disruption of social interactions worsens health risk factors when disruption occurs, as they are deliberately excluded from other people. This experience can lead to an experience of severe psychological distress where strong negative feelings of sadness and depression end with high levels of stress. Why would this happen? For humans, group membership is a fundamental requirement for safety, reproductive success, mental health, and physical well-being, and the experience of social exclusion breaks all of these.

Being excluded is a very stressful experience that generates negative emotions and thoughts, and if prolonged over time, it can lead to weakening of the immune system and physical illness. The concept of belonging to the group is closely related to one’s self-esteem. Tajfel and Turner, two important authors for their work on identity, show how group membership defines social identity. Social identity is the self-image that emerges from the awareness of belonging to one or more social groups, characterized by its values ​​and characteristics. So what is social exclusion?

Eisenberger describes social exclusion as one of the most painful experiences people can have. Williams suggests that in a situation where a group marginalizes an individual, typically the term excluded is also defined as being ignored. In fact, it is how the experience of social exclusion can be experienced at worst if an individual is ignored by a single person or a group. Social exclusion can change the quality of life.

In this respect, in the research of Riva and her team, they explored how short or long term social exclusion can affect health. Their results show that the shorter duration allows the psychological needs to recover more quickly and instead become chronic when prolonged. In detail, the authors suggest the possibility that chronic exclusion and chronic pain cause common psychological responses with higher levels of negative emotions and worse prognosis. The comparative use of the words physical pain and social pain is supported by neuroimaging research. In fact, several studies on this topic show that brain regions that cause physical pain are involved during the experience of social exclusion.

The Impact of Social Exclusion

Social exclusion is often associated with poverty and risk of marginalization. Social problems related to exclusion are very important from various perspectives of all kinds of society, from sociological to economic. Such experiences are often associated with social situations and social categories at risk, such as job loss, single women, immigrants, the disabled and the homeless. Indeed, the experience of social exclusion can be painfully experienced by each of us when ignored or excluded from those we belong to or groups. 

There are times in life when people are more vulnerable and susceptible to this type of experience, such as adolescence. Adolescence is the most important period for social relationships with peers, when the need for group membership becomes the most important element of life. Two factors that greatly influence this stage with peers are acceptance and popularity. Peer-derived exclusion can create a break in acceptance and create a negative and intense painful experience that is often aroused by bullying. Bullying is a common phenomenon in many countries, characterized by violent physical and verbal behavior as well as indirect aggression such as psychological ones.

The bully does these behaviors on the victim deliberately and over time. It may be more difficult to detect bullying behaviors when done through social exclusion strategies from the group to which they belong. Nowadays, with the emergence of new forms of social exclusion such as cyberbullying and sexting, there are also risks associated with new technologies. In the first case, many adolescents are insulted, ridiculed, and attacked on social networks enough that they need to change schools. Another example of exclusion and social violence is sexual messaging and sending sexual messages via electronic devices.

This phenomenon represents a risk factor for suicidal tendency in adolescence and adolescent suicide is a very serious problem affecting all countries of the world. Koyanagi et al define this as a global public health problem. In this context, the authors report the need to implement interventions to address these problems associated with adolescent vulnerability to prevent suicide and suicide attempts among adolescents around the world. Suicide subject, religion, cultural traditions etc. It is very difficult to handle as it contains many aspects related to the culture of various countries. However, there are some facts in the world that have managed to overcome the stigma of suicide. An important example, given the religious traditions of Italian culture, is the Italian association La Tazza Blu, which deals with suicide prevention for adolescents (11-19 years) through a structured prevention and intervention program.

There are other things that are very important in the world in addition to this association, but it is important to be able to overcome cultural barriers that prevent dialogue and confrontation on these issues that are so sensitive and sometimes very difficult to confront in some cultures. It is important to remember that the fragility of the social exclusion experience is also a typical situation in old age that can lead to social isolation. Therefore, the concept of social exclusion concerns and can affect everyone, as it reflects the vulnerability of all people.

As reported by Brewer, the study of social exclusion is concerned with the investigation of a complex phenomenon that can be analyzed from different perspectives by different disciplines, with possible boundaries of convergence and divergence. It is the application of different research methodologies from the qualitative to the quantitative neuroscience of social psychology and sociology. It is also possible to deepen this theme to make a greater contribution to the understanding of the phenomenon. A better understanding of the risk factors of vulnerability can help create useful strategies for social inclusion. It is important to better understand this research topic because, as described in this introduction, the consequences of social exclusion experiences can also lead to suicide and therefore death.


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