Unemployment Develops an Agreeableness Which Later Dissipates as Unemployment Grows Longer


Getting a job at last after being jobless for a long time may not erase whatever negative personality traits that a person develops while being in limbo. A recent study noted that prolonged unemployment has a way of developing characteristics in a person that he/she may not overcome as long as he or she lives.

The researchers were able to portray with perfect clarity how one’s dominant personality traits are influenced by the events that he/she experiences while being unemployed.

What are the five character attribute one learns while contemplating his/her future during the time that they are out of work? They are the following: extraversion, neuroticism, openness, agreeableness and conscientiousness. The last 3 are the direct result of unemployment, but they didn’t happen overnight. The changes happen in gradual manner.

Christopher J. Boyce, PhD, from the University of Stirling in the United Kingdom says: “The results challenge the idea that our personalities are ‘fixed’ and show that the effects of external factors such as unemployment can have large impacts on our basic personality. This indicates that unemployment has wider psychological implications than previously thought.”

The researchers wrote, “In early unemployment stages, there may be incentives for individuals to behave agreeably in an effort to secure another job or placate those around them but in later years when the situation becomes endemic, such incentives may weaken.”

The changes, the researchers learned, affect men and women in a different manner. Men are more agreeable within two years after being unemployed. However, after two years their agreeableness level will slowly wane, bottoming out at levels lower than those who are working.

Contentiousness will as well drop in men during unemployment, but not in women. They even become more conscientious.

Boyce discusses awareness in regards to this trend: “Public policy therefore has a key role to play in preventing adverse personality change in society through both lower unemployment rates and offering greater support for the unemployed. Policies to reduce unemployment are therefore vital not only to protect the economy but also to enable positive personality growth in individuals.”



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