The experience of Community Programme, unemployment and employment : mental health and individual differences
This thesis explores some theoretical, conceptual, empirical and methodological issues concerning psychological research into unemployment. A review of the literature revealed some important limitations in the approach which has hitherto been taken to examine this phenomenon. Specific weaknesses included an undervaluation of the role of theory, a dearth of empirical research on intervention programmes or other responses to unemployment, as well as oversimplification, overgeneralisation, imprecision and unfalsifiability in the theoretical contributions which have been offered. Moreover, it was noted that there had been a lack of attention to dispositional factors in empirical research or theory, and inadequate (particularly undifferentiated) conceptualisation and operationalisation of mental health variables. The empirical part of the study, therefore, was developed as an initial exploration of (a) Individual differences in the mental health of unemployed adults, and (b) the experience of participation on Community Programme (CP), a UK government intervention for long-term unemployed adults. A multi-method, multivariate design was used adopting a theoretically grounded, guiding conceptual framework. Qualitative in-depth interviews (N = 60) were conducted with CP participants from two CP managing agencies. In addition, a large scale cross-sectional quantitative survey (N=484) was undertaken incorporating individuals who were: (a) Participating on CP (b) Employed (c) Unemployed. The findings of the stud demonstrated a number of relationships between personal characteristics (i. e. demographic and personality related variables), intervening variables and dimensions of mental health. Some theoretical and empirical implications of these findings were discussed and directions for future empirical research and theoretical development were suggested. With respect to the experience of Community Programme, the findings suggested that within these two managing agencies, the content of the scheme (i. e. the nature of the work) was evaluated positively by the respondents, but that the context of the scheme and its temporary nature were perceived in a negative light. Some suggestions are made as to how these different aspects of the scheme impacted upon the mental health of the participants.