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

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

6

Theoretical implications

Several theories have been proposed to explain the psychological effects of unemployment which were described in Chapter 2. In this chapter we will review these theories in the light of evidence gleaned from our data, as well as that from other, related studies.


STAGE THEORY

Several writers have proposed that the psychological response to unemployment can be described in terms of several discrete stages. For example, Eisenberg and Lazarsfeld (1938), in reviewing the 1930s studies state:

We find that all writers who have described the course of unemployment seem to agree on the following points: First there is shock, which is followed by an active hunt for a job, during which the individual is still optimistic and unresigned; he still maintains an unbroken attitude. Second, when all efforts fail, the individual becomes pessimistic, anxious, and suffers active distress; this is the most crucial state of all. And third, the individual becomes fatalistic and adapts himself to his new state but with narrower scope. He now has a broken attitude.

(Eisenberg and Lazarsfeld, 1938:378)

Similar versions of this stage theory have been proposed by Harrison (1976), Hayes and Nutman (1981) and others. Fryer (1985) provides a highly critical review of them, concluding that they are not well supported by the empirical evidence as well as being imprecise and inconsistent.

It should be recognised that stage theories are probably more applicable to the situation of the mature job loser than to that of the school leaver. It hardly seems appropriate, for example, to assume that the school leaver who fails to get a job will experience shock, given the current high unemployment rate amongst school leavers. On the other hand, a mature worker who has been in the same job for many years may well experience shock on being dismissed.

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