Personality change following unemployment

Christopher J. Boyce, Alex M. Wood, Michael Daly, Constantine Sedikides

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

90 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Unemployment has a strongly negative influence on well-being, but it is unclear whether it also alters basic personality traits. Whether personality changes arise through natural maturation processes or contextual/environmental factors is still a matter of debate. Unemployment, a relatively unexpected and commonly occurring life event, may shed light on the relevance of context for personality change. 

We examined, using a latent change model, the influence of unemployment on the five-factor model of personality in a sample of 6,769 German adults, who completed personality measures at 2 time points 4 years apart. All participants were employed at the first time point, and a subset became unemployed over the course of the study. By the second time point, participants had either remained in employment, been unemployed from 1 to 4 years, or had experienced some unemployment but become reemployed. Compared with those who had remained in employment, unemployed men and women experienced significant patterns of change in their mean levels of agreeableness, conscientiousness, and openness, whereas reemployed individuals experienced limited change. 

The results indicate that unemployment has wider psychological implications than previously thought. In addition, the results are consistent with the view that personality changes as a function of contextual and environmental factors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)991-1011
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Applied Psychology
Volume100
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2015
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Five-factor model
  • Personality
  • Personality change
  • Unemployment
  • Well-being

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