Youth Unemployment and Psychological Well-Being During Emerging Adulthood: Who is Having a Carefree Period?

Kirsty Taylor (2015). Youth Unemployment and Psychological Well-Being During Emerging Adulthood: Who is Having a Carefree Period? Professional Doctorate, School of Psychology, The University of Queensland.

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Author Kirsty Taylor
Thesis Title Youth Unemployment and Psychological Well-Being During Emerging Adulthood: Who is Having a Carefree Period?
School, Centre or Institute School of Psychology
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2015-09-14
Thesis type Professional Doctorate
Supervisor Dr. Melissa Johnstone
Total pages 190
Language eng
Subjects 170106 Health, Clinical and Counselling Psychology
170102 Developmental Psychology and Ageing
Abstract/Summary Extensive social-structural changes in Western, industrialised societies over the past half-century, including delays in the attainment of the traditional adult roles of marriage, parenthood, and stable employment, have altered the transition to adulthood for young people in their late teens and early twenties. Consequently, Arnett (2000, 2004) proposed that the period in-between adolescence and young adulthood constitutes a new, distinct period of the lifespan, emerging adulthood, characterised by intense identity explorations, instability, feeling ‘in-between’, a self-focused orientation, and high hopes for the future. However, the extent to which emerging adulthood is experienced psychosocially, in the way it is postulated, may depend on economic and socio-cultural trends, with criticisms about the applicability to those who are from more disadvantaged circumstances. In particular, unemployment is an important determinant of poor psychological and physical health. Exposure to youth unemployment, which has increased since the Global Financial Crisis, may have implications for the transition to adulthood, and for the psychological health of youth experiencing it. The first aim of this research was to examine how unemployed young people respond to, and cope with, unemployment during the context of the emerging adulthood period, and how their experiences resonate with the main tenets of emerging adulthood. Thus, Study One employed a qualitative research design and comprised of semi-structured interviews with individuals aged 18-24 years who had been unemployed for at least six months (n = 15). Through thematic analysis, five main themes were identified, along with a number of sub-themes. The five main themes were 1) Unemployment as a negative experience, 2) Perceived sense of being locked out of the system, 3) Forced dependence on parents, 4) Instability and change, and 5) Coping and remaining optimistic. Overall, the experiences of the unemployed young people showed several discrepancies with emerging adulthood theory, particularly as they expressed almost a desperation to obtain financial security and structure, which seemed to be more important than any self-focused identity exploration, they were concerned about the potential risk of social exclusion, and the instability in their lives was often described as overwhelming and driven by negative circumstances, rather than agentic and systematic. The aim of the second part of this study (Study Two) was to further investigate how individuals, theoretically in the emerging adulthood years, cope during difficult economic and socio-cultural times. It also investigated how trait narcissism, a personality construct theorised as highly prevalent amongst emerging adults, affects coping with the threat of unemployment. Participants aged 18-24 years (n = 163) completed questionnaire-based measures of grandiose and vulnerable narcissism (two phenotypic sub-types of narcissism) and outcome measures in response to a stimulus vignette depicting long-term youth unemployment. The study’s hypotheses were not supported, such that neither grandiose narcissism nor vulnerable narcissism were significant predictors of perceived threat of unemployment, and, furthermore, did not moderate the relationship between the threat of unemployment and psychological distress (operationalised in this study as negative affect, state anxiety, and worry). A consistent predictor of negative affect, state anxiety, and worry was threat, with those perceiving greater threat reporting higher scores on these variables. Trait anxiety was also a consistent predictor, such that those with higher trait anxiety reported greater negative affect, state anxiety, and worry. Implications for how messages about unemployment are presented to young people are discussed. Other theoretical and clinical implications of these findings are also discussed.
Keyword Emerging Adulthood
Youth unemployment

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Created: Sun, 13 Mar 2016, 19:12:12 EST by Kirsty Taylor on behalf of Faculty of Health and Behavioural Sciences