09 SES 02 B, Assessing Personality Constructs
This project reflects on the impact of situations of employment, unemployment and precarity on people’s experience of uncertainty and work. Using data from 2009, we propose psychosocial uncertainty as a new factor for social exclusion. First, we focus on the concept of psychosocial uncertainty (how people perceive uncertainty in the social context and experience its consequences), and on the psychological coping strategies used to deal with uncertainty. Second, the experience of work is analysed through the access (or deprivation) of the psychological and manifest benefits of work.
The psychological origins of uncertainty lie on the level of security (or basic trust) developed in primary attachment relationships, which enables understanding and coping with uncertainty (Bowlby, 1980/1985; Erikson, 1963). Marris (1991; 1996) defined uncertainty as depending on what we want to be able to predict, can predict and what we believe we are able to do to change events. So, when events are completely out of control, anxiety would decrease because no action could change the order of events. Based on qualitative research conducted with underprivileged populations as homeless and unemployed people, Marris (1996) concluded that people who live under greater social vulnerability experience countless consequences of uncertainty. He proposes there is an unequal distribution of uncertainty and an unequal distribution of the power to cope with uncertainty. Within this context, the ones that are powerless to deal with uncertainty are led to adopt self-defeating strategies to manage and control uncertainty, which reinforce their condition of vulnerability and their personal sense of inadequacy. Arising from this, we propose that there are social origins of uncertainty and that the strategies people are led to use are a consequence of their living circumstances (personal, social, and cultural) and contingencies rather than effects of their resources and personal skills.
Cultural, social, and political changes that followed processes of globalisation have contributed to individualisation in socialisation, fragmentation of communities, instability in the labour markets across the world, competitiveness and distrust in professional relationships, and, ultimately, precarious working conditions (Bauman, 2001/2009). In the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2007/2008, numerous countries were faced with economic crises, such as Portugal, whose austerity measures had a dramatic effect in terms of unemployment rates, hyper flexibilization and deregulation of labour relations and precarity. We propose that all these social, economic and political conditions lead to the creation of new forms of uncertainty that generate unpredictability in people’s lives and work environments, precarious forms of living, thus complexifying the process of giving meaning to experiences and of critically reflecting and integrating professional experiences. In contemporary times, people face greater challenges in the construction of career paths, due to high unemployment rates, temporary and precarious contracts, to cycles between employment / unemployment and between training / employment / unemployment (Sennett, 1998/2001), which, besides financial precarity (or also due to it), may generate widespread existential insecurity and precarity.
Therefore, psychosocial uncertainty may have an impact in individuals’ living conditions, well-being and empowerment, functioning as a factor for further social exclusion. So, this project intends to explore the challenges people faced in the beginning of the economic crisis in Portugal, during 2009, analysing how employed, precariously employed and unemployed people: (i) perceive uncertainty in the social context and experience its consequences (in terms of community relationships, work, and the belief of being capable or not to cope with uncertainty in the future); (ii) cope with uncertainty (emotional strategies, cognitive strategies, or by considering uncertainty as a positive aspect); (iii) and experience the latent (time structuring, social contact, collective purpose, status and activity) and manifest (financial access or deprivation) benefits of work, as described by Jahoda (1992) and Fryer (1998).
During 2009, 704 people participated in this study through an online platform. Besides a macrosystemic questionnaire with sociodemographic and situational variables that characterize people’s professional paths, the following scales were used: 1) Uncertainty Response Scale (Greco & Roger, 2001; adapt. Casanova, Pacheco & Coimbra, 2010 cited in Casanova, 2010): assesses individual differences in coping strategies with uncertainty and to what extent uncertainty is perceived as stress inducing. It is composed of three dimensions: a) Emotional Uncertainty as a maladaptive strategy of coping with uncertainty, as an emotional orientation to the problem; b) Cognitive Uncertainty, representing coping strategies based on planning and control of uncertainty and so focused on the problem; and c) Desire for Change, as a positive view of uncertainty and an enjoyment of change. 2) Psychosocial Uncertainty Scale (Casanova, Pacheco & Coimbra, 2010 cited in Casanova, 2010): to the best of our knowledge, there were no scales that could assess the psychosocial experience of uncertainty and so, this scale was created to reflect how uncertainty is perceived and experienced in contemporary Western societies, combining its psychological meaning with its social, cultural and political origins. The scale is composed of three dimensions: a) Psychosocial Consequences at Work: expresses daily concerns with work, perceived as consequences of uncertainty. May reflect an unequal distribution of uncertainty in working environments ((Bauman, 2001/2009); b) Psychosocial Consequences within Relationships and Communities: reflects experiences of uncertainty within relationships (or inscribed in broader social structures) as an uncontrollable and negative experience that leads to distrust towards others (or the abstract social “other”) (Beck, 1992; Luhmann, 1968/2006; 1988/2000) reflecting a community deficit (Coimbra & Menezes, 2009). May echo forms of individualism and individualization as a form of socialization, which generates insecurity, distrust and competitiveness in relationships, contributing to victim blaming (Bauman, 2001/2009; Ryan, 1971/1976); and c) Self-defeating Beliefs: conveys a personal belief of not being able to manage the future and uncertainty, which can be considered as a self-defeating belief and eventually lead to the adoption of self-defeating strategies. 3) Latent and Manifest Benefits Scale - Lamb (Muller, Creed, Waters e Machin, 2005; adapt. Sousa-Ribeiro & Coimbra, 2007): based on Jahoda’s (1992) model of access vs deprivation concerning the manifest and latent benefits of work and and Fryer’s (1998) agency restriction model. There is one dimension for each of these benefits: time structure, social contact, collective purpose, status and activity, and financial income.
Previous results showed that individuals in vulnerable situations (lower sociocultural status and schooling, unemployed individuals) adopted self-defeating strategies to cope with uncertainty (emotional maladaptive ones); reported higher levels of psychosocial uncertainty within work, relationships, and a tendency to develop self-defeating beliefs on uncertainty. Regression results demonstrated that psychosocial uncertainty predicts emotional coping with uncertainty by 41,8%, to which its consequences at work contribute 45.4% and within relationships/communities, 28.3%. These results support the proposition that uncertainty’s origins and psychological meaning can be found in social, economic and political conditions, having severe psychological consequences (Casanova et al., 2017). We present results from a path analysis that will offer a model of the relationship between psychosocial uncertainty, coping with uncertainty and the benefits of work, comparing the experiences of employed, precarious and unemployed individuals. It addresses the hypothesis that psychosocial uncertainty explains coping with uncertainty, and that there are social origins of uncertainty that foster maladaptive responses towards uncertainty, which ultimately fosters inequality. Consequently, psychosocial uncertainty may foster exclusion by leading vulnerable people to use self-defeating strategies, that affect personal agency and, so, contributes to social reproduction. Moreover, we expect unemployed and precarious people to reveal greater levels of psychosocial uncertainty within the work context, to use emotional strategies to cope with uncertainty, and to reveal deprivation on the benefits of work, namely the financial aspect. Through a conceptualization that considers individual/psychological responses, as well as socio-historical processes (Berger & Luckmann, 1966/1971), we will explore how the psychosocial experience of uncertainty in Portugal at the beginning of the crisis may have an impact in terms of exclusion, by generating inequality and by being interpreted as an individual problem (that stems from individual vulnerabilities), and not as a social one, thus pulverizing governmental responsibilities and blaming individuals for their own vulnerabilities.
Bauman, Z. (2001/2009). A sociedade individualizada: vidas contadas e histórias vividas. [The Individualised Society]. Rio de Janeiro: Jorge Zahar Editor. Beck, U. (1992). Risk society. Towards a New Modernity London: Sage. Berger, P. L., & Luckmann, T. (1966/1971). The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge. London: Penguin Books. Bowlby, J. (1980/1985), Attachment and Loss, Vol. 3: Loss, Sadness and Depression. New York: Basic Books Casanova, M.L.; Pacheco, L; Costa, P.; Lawthom, R. & Coimbra, J.L. (2017). The social origins of uncertainty: Portugal’s experience under Austerity. European Community Psychology Association: 10th European Congress of Community Psychology “Reflections and Challenges: Community Psychology in the European Context”. Coimbra, J. L., & Menezes, I. (2009), ‘Society of individuals or community strength: Community psychology at risk in at risk societies’, Journal of Critical Psychology, Counselling and Psychotherapy, 9 (2), 87-97. Erikson, E. (1968). Identity and crisis. New York: Norton. Fryer, D. (1998). The Simultaneity of the Unsimultaneous: A Conversation between Marie Jahoda and David Fryer. Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology, 8, 89 - 100. DOI: 10.1002/(SICI)1099-1298(199803/04)8:2<89::AID-CASP460>3.0.CO;2-7 Jahoda, M. (1992). Reflections on Marienthal and after. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 65, 355-358. Luhmann, N. (1968/2006). La confiance: Un mécanisme de réduction de la complexité sociale. [Trust and Power]. Paris: Economica. Luhmann, N. (1988/2000). ‘Familiarity, Confidence, Trust: Problems and Alternatives’, in G. Diego (Eds.). Trust: Making and Breaking Cooperative Relations. Electronic edition. Oxford: Department of Sociology, University of Oxford. Chapter 6 (94-107). doi: 10.1.1.23.8075 Marris, P. (1991). ‘The social construction of uncertainty’, in C.M. Parkes, J. Stevenson-Hinde & P. Marris (Eds.), Attachment across the life cycle (pp. 77-90). London, N.Y.: Routledge. Marris, P. (1996). The politics of uncertainty: Attachment in private and public life. London: Routledge. Muller, J. J., Creed, P. A., Waters, L. E., & Machin, M. A. (2005). The Development and Preliminary Testing of a Scale to Measure the Latent and Manifest Benefits of Employment. European Journal of Psychological Assessment, 21(3), 191-198. Sennett, R. (1998/2001). A corrosão do carácter: As consequências pessoais do trabalho no novo capitalismo. [The Corrosion of Character: The Personal Consequences of Work in the New Capitalism]. Lisboa: Terramar. Sousa-Ribeiro, M. & Coimbra, J.L. (2007). Longevidade pessoal = Longevidade profissional? Conference: VIII Congresso Internacional de Formação Para o Trabalho Norte de Portugal, Volume: Proceedings VIII Congresso Internacional de Formação Para o Trabalho Norte de Portugal / Galiza, pp. 55-65.
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