Growing Up with Unemployment: A Longitudinal Study of Its Psychological Impact

By Anthony H. Winefield; Marika Tiggemann et al. | Go to book overview

3

Methods used to study the psychological effects of unemployment

OVERVIEW

This chapter sets out some of the methodological issues and pitfalls involved in assessing the effects of unemployment in general. Within this context, we then give details of the method used in our own longitudinal study and then present a profile of the young people in our sample that includes data on their work attitudes and expectations.


INTRODUCTION

There are many different ways to study the effects of unemployment. The most direct way is just to ask an unemployed person about their experience. They might tell us about their lack of money and resultant curtailment of social activities, their feelings of frustration and powerlessness, their feelings of boredom and having nothing to do. However the notion of 'just' asking someone is more complicated than it seems. It in fact involves many hidden decisions: who to ask? Another person may describe to us a different set of circumstances and experiences. Both will be equally valid, but we need to make a choice. How do we ask our questions? Do we ask our questions in a face-to-face interview, in which the person may be embarrassed in expressing their real feelings? Or do we ask in a written questionnaire which is anonymous, but which they may not bother to post back to us? Then we have the question about what to ask them. Do we just let them talk in a free manner, or do we pose specific questions that we are interested in for them. The answers to these questions of who, how and what will determine not only how we conduct our study, but also the nature and generalisability of the information we obtain. The method is an important, integral part of any study.

In the last decade or so, a number of different general methodologies have been adopted in the study of the effects of unemployment. Each has its

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