, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 233-256

Coping with threatened identities: Unemployed people’s self-categorizations

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This article presents a theoretical argument to explain the way in which unemployed people react to and cope with threats to their identities that derive from perceptions ofstigma and low self-worth. It is argued here that strategies used by unemployed people to cope with such threats are influenced by whether the individuals categorize themselves as “unemployed” or adopt some other categorization (e.g., housewife, retired coal-miner). It is also proposed that the concept of self-categorization can be framed within Folkman and Lazarus’s (1980, 1985) coping model of distress in order to provide a more general framework for understanding these issues. The study reviews literature about stigma and coping with threatened identities with reference to these integrated frameworks, and concludes with a general model for predicting the way in which unemployed people self-categorize and cope with stigma and low self-esteem. This takes into account the role played by situational and individual factors, and suggests that individuals recategorize themselves in order to cope better during different phases of their unemployment.