The unemployment experience: psychological factors influencing mental health, coping behaviours, and employment outcomes

PhD Thesis


Hoare, Patricia Nancey. 2007. The unemployment experience: psychological factors influencing mental health, coping behaviours, and employment outcomes. PhD Thesis Doctor of Philosophy. University of Southern Queensland.
Title

The unemployment experience: psychological factors influencing mental health, coping behaviours, and employment outcomes

TypePhD Thesis
Authors
AuthorHoare, Patricia Nancey
SupervisorMachin, Tony
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
Qualification NameDoctor of Philosophy
Number of Pages303
Year2007
Abstract

[Abstract]:

A stress and coping framework was used to explore psychological factors influencing coping behaviours, mental health, and employment outcomes among the unemployed. Jahoda’s (1982) deprivation theory was also incorporated in the exploration. Jahoda proposed that unemployment not only deprives individuals of the manifest, or financial benefits, of employment, but it also deprives them of five latent, or psychosocial benefits, including collective purpose, social contact, status, time structure, and activity. Two studies were carried out, the first being a cross-sectional paper-based survey of 371 unemployed participants (214 males and 157 females, aged between 16 and 65 years) from South East Queensland. A follow-up survey was then carried out 6 months later on 115 of those same participants (59 males and 56 females, aged between 17 and 64). At Time 2, 58 participants had found jobs and 57 had remained unemployed. The variables measured in Study One included coping resources, cognitive appraisals, coping behaviours, and mental health. The coping resources included the personal resources of self-esteem, job seeking efficacy, positive affect, negative affect, and employment commitment, along with financial resources, measured by net fortnightly income, and social resources, measured by social contact during leisure. Job seeking efficacy was measured by self-promotion efficacy and task-focused efficacy. The former involves interpersonal tasks, such as promoting oneself to others as a job seeker, whilst the latter is more impersonal and involves tasks such as writing a resume. The cognitive appraisal variables included employment expectation, satisfaction with employment status, leisure meaningfulness, economic deprivation, and perceived access to the five latent benefits of employment, outlined by Jahoda. The coping behaviours included leisure activity and job search behaviours, including job applications, job search intensity, and job search methods. Mental health was measured by the GHQ-12 (Goldberg, 1972). The same variables were measured in Study Two, with the exception of the leisure variables. Other variables measured in Study Two included job satisfaction and job quality. Study One found that the most consistent predictors of job search behaviours were geographic region, employment commitment, and self-promotion efficacy, with participants living in the metropolitan area, those with a higher commitment to work, and those with greater efficacy being more actively engaged in job seeking. Leisure activity was significantly correlated with mental health and was predicted by availability of financial resources, positive affect, time structure, leisure meaningfulness, and level of education. That is, more frequent leisure activity was associated with being less financially restricted, higher positive affect, greater time structure, more meaningful leisure, and higher levels of education. Mental health was predicted by self-esteem, positive affect, negative affect, employment commitment, satisfaction with employment status, and financial hardship. Participants with better personal coping resources, greater satisfaction with their employment status, and less financial hardship were less likely to have clinical symptoms. The aforementioned variables accounted for 56% of the variance in mental health, and the logistic regression model correctly classified over 84% of cases as having clinical or non-clinical symptoms. The same model, with the exception of employment commitment, was tested in Study Two for the 57 continuously unemployed participants. It accounted for 62% of the variance in mental health, with similar classification accuracy to that at Time 1. The mental health of the 58 employed participants at Time 2 was predicted by occupation, collective purpose, activity, positive affect, and negative affect. Participants in higher skilled occupations, with higher collective purpose, greater activity, higher positive affect, and lower negative affect were less likely to have clinical symptoms. Those variables accounted for 62% of the variance in mental health and correctly classified 84.5% of cases as being clinical or non-clinical. One of the consistent predictors of job search behaviours at Time 2 was job search training. Participants who had completed a training program some time during the 6 months of the research project were more actively looking for work. Training did not, however, enhance participants’ job seeking efficacy or employment expectations. Study Two demonstrated that self-promotion efficacy, employment expectations, and job search behaviours had deteriorated over the 6 month research period, whilst task-focused efficacy increased. Employment status (i.e., gaining employment or remaining unemployed) was predicted by age, job applications, satisfaction with employment status, self-promotion efficacy, employment commitment, and time structure. Job acquisition was predicted by being younger, having submitted more job applications, being dissatisfied with employment status, having higher self-promotion efficacy, having higher employment commitment, and having less structured time. The logistic regression model including those variables accounted for 28% of the variance in employment status (employed or unemployed). Results of a mixed design analysis of variance in Study Two demonstrated that self-esteem, negative affect, satisfaction with employment status, financial hardship, financial strain, social contact, time structure, and mental health were all positively influenced by gaining employment, but showed either very little change or deteriorated for participants who remained unemployed. This research identified important predictors of coping behaviours, mental health, and job acquisition that can be used as a guide for developing suitable intervention strategies for the unemployed.

Keywordsunemployed; unemployment; psychological factors; mental health; coping behaviours; employment outcomes; Jahoda; deprivation theory
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020520599. Social and personality psychology not elsewhere classified
520104. Industrial and organisational psychology (incl. human factors)
Byline AffiliationsStudent Management Division
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