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Living with unemployment: A grounded theory study

Henshaw, Sophie (2000) Living with unemployment: A grounded theory study. Professional Doctorate thesis, Murdoch University.

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The aim of this study was to discover what the experience of long-term unemployment a was like in Perth, Western Australia during a time of relative economic growth. In particular, it sought to examine people's intimate, lived experiences. The most appropriate method for the research question was deemed to be the grounded theory method which describes process as well as producing a substantive theory. The participants were 20 unemployed people, ranging in ages from 21 to 58, with an equal number of males and females. They were drawn from two job agencies: Winston, a predominantly middle class, high socioeconomic suburb and Borough, a predominantly working class, low socioeconomic suburb. The basic social problem facing these participants was the 'temporary membership of a stigmatised group' and the basic social process they used to cope with the problem was called 'incidentally reshaping self-identity'. The process involved existing in a context whereby unemployed people are highly stigmatised by the media, the government system, social relationships and employers. Participants entered a cycle of disappointment and failure whereby they were discriminated against and rejected for every job they applied for, regardless of their education, training or experience. This in tum led to them lowering their expectations around future employment. The cycle had mental health implications: it challenged their self-esteem and brought on a high incidence of negative emotional states which positive coping strategies failed to counteract effectively. In an effort to protect their previously positive self-identity, participants engaged in impression management strategies which involved dodging the stereotypes, giving an appearance of filling in time constructively, and adhering to their previous employment as a source of positive self-image. Some participants buffered themselves against the worst effects of stigmatisation by identifying with other roles, avoiding negative experiences and having sufficient instrumental resources with which to evade absolute poverty and lifestyle deprivation. Finally, the substantive theory was situated within the broader context of unemployment and self-concept research generally.

Item Type: Thesis (Professional Doctorate)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Division of Social Sciences, Humanities and Education
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): Payne, R., Henderson, S., Main, Alex and Innes, Mike
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