Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology

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Volume 12 Issue 6 (November/December 2002), Pages 377-450

Meaningful patterns of activity amongst the long‐term inner city unemployed: a qualitative study (pages 377-396)


A number of studies have sought to establish the social psychological factors involved in the maintenance of active lifestyles during long‐term unemployment. The aim of this study was to describe and account for the development and maintenance of different patterns of activity, with reference to their perceived meaningfulness. This was undertaken with a sample of Birmingham's inner city, long‐term unemployed population recruited from three inner city Jobcentres, including men and women, and White, Asian and African Caribbean participants (N = 24). Interviews were conducted using a semi‐structured interview guide. Using the qualitative software program, NUD.IST, the data were analysed according to the principles of the grounded theory approach. Activities were characterized as: domestic; educational; work‐like; socializing; and none. A model of meaningful activity in the context of formal unemployment was developed. The main components of the model were: features of formal employment that inhibited participants' engagement in it; the requirements for personal meaningful activity (challenging activity, effort and commitment, and being valued by others); the consequences of meaningful activity (opportunities for self‐determination and self‐development, and achievement, competence, and confidence) and consolidating factors (social comparison, self‐appraisal, religious and political beliefs, and social support). Theories of unemployment of Jahoda, Warr, and Fryer are considered in the light of the present findings. Copyright © 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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