Pamela Bretschneider

Department: Social/Organisational Psychology
Research Centre/Unit: Social, Economic and Organisational Psychology Research Group (SEORG) / Identity and the Psychology of Self in Society (IPSIS)

Project Summary

How to deal with Identity Loss and a Stigmatised Identity? -

Unemployment from a Social Identity Perspective

The unifying theme of this research project is how people who are out of work deal with the stigma of unemployment. Although this is a topic of continuing interdisciplinary interest, most of the extant psychological research on unemployment has tended to focus on individual experiences and responses, particularly the impact of unemployment on individual well-being. While such an approach is helpful, less research attention has been paid towards the fact that unemployed people are a low status and stigmatised group. Because responses to unemployment occur within a social context, acknowledging the social element is critical to understand how unemployment will be perceived and evaluated. In this research project we develop this idea by exploring ways in which the social identity approach can help us better understand how people respond to being unemployed. In doing so we conceptualise unemployed people in terms of their social identities, which provides us with an understanding of the strategies they might use to cope with unemployment.

The primary goals of this research are twofold: first, to demonstrate that there is a stigma of unemployment that can help account for unemployed people's diminished well-being. Second, to demonstrate that unemployed people can use psychological strategies to cope that are based on their group memberships. Therefore, we investigate how various aspects of individual’s social group memberships interact with perceptions of stigma to influence their coping behaviour and well-being.

For example, this research provides evidence that the stigma of unemployment not only impact on those who are registered as unemployed, but also on those who are not officially counted as unemployed, in this case, stay-at-home mothers. Results demonstrate that stay-at-home mothers perceive the stigma of unemployment too, but cope with it in different ways than registered unemployed people.

Supervisory Team

Supervisor: Prof Michelle Ryan , Co-Supervisor: Dr Joanne Smith