Theses Doctoral

Coping with Unemployed Poverty: A Qualitative Study

Chambers, Debbie Ann S.

A century of psychological research exists on the impact of unemployment on individuals. However, missing from the literature is a consideration of the social context of unemployed persons and the ways in which persons cope with their unemployment. This study sought to examine the experiences of unemployed persons in poverty, poverty being a social context frequently ignored in psychological literature. In addition, the study aimed to explore the psychological impact of these experiences, the strategies used by the poor to cope, and the appraised effectiveness of coping strategies. Participants were 21 unemployed adults living in poverty. Face-to-face semi-structured interviews were conducted and analyzed using Consensual Qualitative Research (CQR) methodology. Fifteen domains emerged from the CQR analysis to show that unemployed poverty is an experience of widespread disruption to daily, social, and family life. Financial hardship and social isolation were commonplace and financial hardship was expressed to be the most stressful of experiences. Participants associated a range of emotions with their unemployment including sadness, hopelessness, anger, and a sense of low self-regard. However, a variety of emotion-focused, problem-focused, and religious coping strategies were utilized to cope. Religious coping and reliance on community resources that were empowering were reported to be the most effective coping strategies. Secondary analysis was conducted by examining the frequencies of categories by gender. Women more frequently reported financial hardship and were more socially isolated than men. Additionally, women more frequently reported sadness and hopelessness. The results are discussed with consideration to socio-political context of poverty and recommendations made for clinical practice and future research.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Counseling Psychology
Thesis Advisors
Smith, Laura
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
April 4, 2012