Comments Off on Is hating your job worse than losing it?

Is hating your job worse than losing it?

Posted June 26th, 2011 in Articles, Blogs by admin

Losing your job can be a traumatic experience for many people. Indeed, recent research shows that job loss for men is more stressful than divorce. But new insights show that people may be more resilient than previously thought. Also a job you hate may cause more stress than unemployment.

A new study, conducted by Kate Strully, a Robert Wood Johnson Health and Society Scholar at Harvard School of Public Health, has found that losing your job can make you sick. She found that “job churning,” defined as high rates of job loss but low unemployment, has negative health consequences for workers who are not already sick, indicating the odds of reporting poor health increased by 54%. In addition, Strully commented that unlike the results of job loss due to an establishment closure, when health effects were analyzed based on workers who were fired or laid off, significant differences were found based on the workers’ occupations. While being fired or laid off or leaving a job voluntarily more than doubles the odds of a fair or poor health report among blue-collar workers, whereas such job displacements have no significant association with the health reports of white-collar workers.

“As we consider ways to improve health in American during a time of economic recession and rising unemployment, it is critical that we look beyond health care reform to understand the tremendous impact that factors like job loss have on our health,” says David R. Williams, Norman Professor of Public Health at Harvard University.

Yet, while losing your job is a profoundly distressing experience, the unemployed may be more resilient than previously believed, according to Issaac Galatzer-Levy of the New York University School of Medicine, who published his research in the Journal of Neuroscience, Psychology and Economics. The research examined people who had lost their job over a long period–from 3 years before job loss to 4 years after job loss. The largest group (69%) who had high and stable levels of life satisfaction before losing their jobs, within a year of losing their jobs had regained their level of life satisfaction, whether or not they were employed. The lowest well being group (4%) were those who had low levels of life satisfaction before job loss and it continued for up to 3 years after job loss.

George Bonanno, a psychology professor at Columbia University and part of he research team says, “We’ve looked at other traumatic events such as the death of a loved one, terrorist attack, traumatic injury, and we generally see high proportions of resilience…This suggests that people are more stressed out when they fear losing their jobs than they are when they actually get laid off.”

According to research conducted in Australia and reported in the Occupational and Environmental Medicine journal, the impact on mental health of a badly paid, poorly supported or short term job can be as harmful as no job at all.

Because being in work is associated with better mental health than unemployment, government policies have tended to focus on the risks posed by joblessness, without necessarily considering the impact the quality of a job may have. The researchers base their findings on seven separate studies of more than 7000 people. Not unexpectedly, those who were unemployed had poorer mental health, overall, than those in work. But after taking into account a range of factors such as educational attainment and marital status, the mental health of those who were jobless was comparable to, or often better than, that of people in work, but in poor quality jobs.

Those in the poorest quality jobs experienced the sharpest decline in mental health over time. There was a direct linear association between the number of unfavorable working conditions experienced and mental health, with each additional adverse condition lowering the mental health score. And the health benefits of finding a job after a period of worklessness depended on the quality of the job. Job quality in fact predicted the mental health score.

“Work first policies are based on the notion that any job is better than none as work promotes economic as well as personal well being,” the researchers concluded, “but psychosocial job quality is a pivotal factor that needs to be considered in the design and delivery of employment and welfare policy.”

Comments Off on Money can’t buy you happiness–new research

Money can’t buy you happiness–new research

Posted June 20th, 2011 in Articles, Blogs by admin

Freedom and personal autonomy are more important to people’s well-being than money, according to a meta-analysis of data from 63 countries published by the American Psychological Association.

While a great deal of research has been devoted to the predictors of happiness and life satisfaction around the world, researchers at the Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand wanted to know one thing: What is more important for well-being, providing people with money or providing them with choices and autonomy?

“Our findings provide new insights into well-being at the societal level,” they wrote in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, published by APA. “Providing individuals with more autonomy appears to be important for reducing negative psychological symptoms, relatively independent of wealth.”

Psychologists Ronald Fischer, PhD, and Diana Boer, PhD, looked at studies involving three different psychological tests — the General Health Questionnaire, which measures four symptoms of distress (somatic symptoms, anxiety and insomnia, social dysfunction and severe depression); the Spielberger State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, which tests how respondents feel at a particular moment; and the Maslach Burnout Inventory, which tests for emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and lack of personal accomplishment. Altogether, they examined a sample of 420,599 people from 63 countries spanning nearly 40 years.

Fischer and Boer statistically combined the results of the different studies, noting that their analysis was somewhat unusual in that the key variables were collected from different sources and that no single study included the two variables they were considering, i.e., wealth and individualism. (Participants only answered questions regarding one of the dependent variables of general health, anxiety or burnout.)

“Across all three studies and four data sets, we observed a very consistent and robust finding that societal values of individualism were the best predictors of well-being,” the authors wrote. “Furthermore, if wealth was a significant predictor alone, this effect disappeared when individualism was entered.”

In short, they found, “Money leads to autonomy but it does not add to well-being or happiness.”

Previous research has shown that higher income, greater individualism, human rights and social equality are all associated with higher well-being. The effect of money on happiness has been shown to plateau — that is, once people reach the point of being able to meet their basic needs, more money leads to marginal gains at best or even less well-being as people worry about “keeping up with the Joneses.” These patterns were mostly confirmed in their findings.

Overall, more autonomy and freedom as indexed by societal level individualism are associated with more well-being, but the road to well-being is bumpy at times. In more traditional and collectivistic societies, increases in individualism can be associated with anxiety and lower well-being. In more individualistic European countries, in contrast, greater individualism leads to more well-being.

“These increases in well-being with higher individualism, however, leveled off toward the extreme ends of individualism, indicating that too much autonomy may not be beneficial … but the very strong overall pattern was that individualism is associated with better well-being overall,” they wrote. This means that in some of the most individualistic societies (such as the United States), the greater independence from family and loved ones appears to go together with increased levels of stress and ill-being.”

Comments Off on The decline of fatherhood and the male identity crisis

The decline of fatherhood and the male identity crisis

Posted June 19th, 2011 in Articles, Blogs by admin

America is rapidly becoming a fatherless society, or perhaps more accurately an absentee father society. The importance and influence of fathers in families has been in significant decline since the Industrial Revolution and is now reaching critical proportions.

As Alexander Mitscherlich argues in Society Without A Father, there has been a “progressive loss of the father’s authority and diminution of his power in the family and over the family.”

“If present trends continue, writes David Popenoe, a professor of sociology at Rutgers University, “the percentage of American children living apart from their biological fathers will reach 50% by the next century.” He argues “this massive erosion of fatherhood contributes mightily to many of the major social problems of our time…Fatherless children have a risk factor of two to three times that of fathered children for a wide range of negative outcomes, including dropping out of high school, giving birth as a teenager and becoming a juvenile delinquent.”

According to David Blankenhorn, author of Fatherless America, chair of the National Fatherhood Initiative and founder/president of the Institute for American Values, organization, and research conducted by Popenoe and scores of other research studies:

  • Approximately 30% of all American children are born into single-parent homes, and for the black community, that figure is 68%;
  • Fatherless children are at a dramatically greater risk of drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness, suicide, poor educational performance, teen pregnancy, and criminality, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Center for Health Statistics.
  • Over half of all children living with a single mother are living in poverty, a rate 5 to 6 times that of kids living with both parents;
  • Child abuse is significantly more likely to occur in single parent homes than in intact families;
  • 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes according to the U.S. Bureau of the Census;
  • 72% of adolescent murderers grew up without fathers. Sixty percent of America’s rapists grew up the same way according to a study by D. Cornell (et al.), in Behavioral Sciences and the Law;
  • 63% of 1500 CEOs and human resource directors said it was not reasonable for a father to take a leave after the birth of a child;
  • 71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes according to the National Principals Association Report on the State of High Schools;
  • 80% of rapists motivated with displaced anger come from fatherless homes according to a report in Criminal Justice & Behavior;
  • In single-mother families in the U.S. about 66% of young children live in poverty;
  • 90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes;
  • Children from low-income, two-parent families outperform students from high-income, single-parent homes. Almost twice as many high achievers come from two-parent homes as one-parent homes according to a study by the Charles F. Kettering Foundation.
  • 85% of all children that exhibit behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes according to a study by the Center for Disease Control;
  • Of all violent crimes against women committed by intimates about 65% were committed by either boy-friends or ex-husbands, compared with 9 % by husbands;
  • Girls living with non-natal fathers (boyfriends and stepfathers) are at higher risk for sexual abuse than girls living with natal fathers;
  • Daughters of single mothers are 53% more likely to marry as teenagers, 111% more likely to have children as teenagers, 164% more likely to have a premarital birth and 92% more likely to dissolve their own marriages.
  • A large survey conducted in the late 1980s found that about 20% of divorced fathers had not seen his children in the past year, and that fewer than 50% saw their children more than a few times a year.
  • Juvenile crime, the majority of which is committed by males, has increased six-fold since 1992;
  • In a longitudinal study of 1,197 fourth-grade students, researchers observed “greater levels of aggression in boys from mother-only households than from boys in mother-father households,” according to a study published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology.
  • The Scholastic Aptitude Test scores have declined more than 70 points in the past two decades; children in single-parent families tend to score lower on standardized tests and to receive lower grades in school according to a Congressional Research Service Report.

Blankenhorn argues that America is facing not just the loss of fathers, but also the erosion of the ideal of fatherhood. Few people doubt the fundamental importance of mothers, Popenoe comments but increasingly the question of whether fathers are really necessary is being raised and said by many to be a merely a social role that others—mothers, partners, stepfathers, uncles and aunts, and grandparents –can play.

“The scale of marital breakdowns in the West since 1960 has no historical precedent that I know of,” says Lawrence Tone, a noted Princeton University family historian,  “There has been nothing like it for the last 2,000 years, and probably longer.” Consider what has happened to children. Most estimates are that only about 50% of the children born during the 1970-84 “baby bust” period will still live with their natural parents by age 17—a staggering drop from nearly 80%.

Despite current interest in father involvement in families, an extremely large proportion of family research focuses on mothers and children. Health care agencies and other organizations exclude fathers, often unwittingly. Starting with pregnancy and labor and delivery most appointments are set up for mothers and held at times when fathers work. The same is true for most pediatric visits. School records and files in family service organizations often have the child’s and mother’s name on the label, and not the father’s. In most family agency buildings, the walls are typically pastel colors, the pictures on the wall are of mothers, flowers and babies, the magazines in the waiting room are for women and the staff is predominantly female. In most welfare offices, fathers are not invited to case planning meetings, and when a home visitor is greeted at the door by a man, she often asks to speak with the mother. Given these scenarios, fathers are likely to get the message that they are invisible or irrelevant to their children’s welfare, unless it involves financial support.

Popenoe and others have examined the role of fathers in raising children and found there are significant differences than that for mothers.  For example, an often-overlooked dimension of fathering is play. From their children’s birth through adolescence, fathers tend to emphasize play more than caretaking. The play is both physically stimulating and exciting. It frequently resembles an apprenticeship or teaching relationships, and emphasizes often teamwork and competitive testing of abilities.  The way fathers play affects everything from the management of emotions to intelligence and academic achievement. It is particularly important in promoting the essential virtue of self-control.

A committee assembled by the Board of Children and Families of the National Research Council, concluded “children learn critical lessons about how to recognize and deal with highly charged emotions in the content of playing with their fathers. Fathers, in effect, give children practice in regulating their own emotions and recognizing others’ emotional clues.”

At play and in other realms, fathers tend to stress competition, challenge, initiative, risk taking and independence. Mothers, as caretakers, stress emotional security and personal safety. Father’s involvement seems to be linked to improved quantitative and verbal skills, improved problem-solving ability and higher academic achievement for children. Men also have a vital role to play in promoting cooperation and other “soft” virtues. Involved fathers, it turns out according to one 26 year longitudinal research study may be of special importance for the development of empathy in children.

Family life—marriage and child rearing—is a civilizing force for men. It encourages them to develop prudence, cooperativeness, honesty, trust, self-sacrifice and other habits that can lead to success as an economic provider by setting a good example.

Mark Finn and Karen Henwood, writing about the issue of masculinity and fatherhood, in the British Journal of Social Psychology, argue that the traditional view of masculinity, with its focus on power, aggression, economic security, and “maleness”, and the emerging new view of fatherhood, which incorporates many aspects of motherhood is a source of struggle for many men who become fathers.

In a study of fatherhood in popular TV sitcoms, Timothy Allen Pehlke and his colleagues concluded that fathers are generally shown to be relatively immature, unhelpful and incapable of taking care of themselves in comparison with other family members. In addition, the researchers found that fathers often served as the butt of family members’ jokes. All of these characterizations, while the intention may be humor, depicted fathers as being socially incompetent and objects of derision.

In a study of depictions of fathers in the best selling children’s picture books, researcher Suzanne M. Flannery Quinn concluded that of the 200 books analyzed, there were only 24 books where the father appears alone, and only 35 books where mother and father appear together. The author concludes, “because fathers are not present or prominent in a large number of these books, readers are given only a narrow set of images and ideas from which they can construct an understanding of the cultural expectations of fatherhood and what I means to be a father.”

It seems to me that the issue of the decline of fatherhood and the problem of the male identity crisis are inextricably intertwined.

In my Psychology Today article, Our male identity crisis: What will happen to men?, I said, “In a post-modern world lacking clear-cut borders and distinctions, it has been difficult to know what it means to be a man and even harder to feel good about being one. The many boundaries of a gendered world built around the opposition of work and family—production versus reproduction, competition versus cooperation, hard vs. soft—have been blurred, and men are groping in the dark for their identity.”

Overwhelmingly, the portrayal of men and the male identity in contemporary western societies is mostly negative. Men today are extensively demonized, marginalized and objectified, in a way reminiscent of what happened to women. The issue of the male identity is of crucial importance because males are falling behind in school, committing more suicides and crimes, dying younger and being treated for conditions such as ADHD more than females. There has also been a loss of fatherhood in society as artificial insemination by anonymous donors is on the rise. Further, medical experiments have shown that male sperm can now be grown artificially in a laboratory. There has been a rise in divorce rates where in most cases, child custody is granted to mothers. Continuous negative portrayal of men in the media, along with the feminization of men and loss of fatherhood in society, has caused confusion and frustration in younger generation males, as they do not have a specific role model and are less able to define their role in society.

From once being seen as successful breadwinners, heads of families and being respected leaders, men today are the butt of jokes in the popular media. A Canadian research group, Nathanson and Young, conducted research on the changing role of men and media and concluded that widely popular TV programs such as The Simpsons present the father character, Homer, as lazy, chauvinistic, irresponsible, and stupid and his son, Bart, as mischievous, rude and cruel to his sister. By comparison, the mother and daughter are presented as thoughtful, considerate and mild-natured. The majority of TV shows and advertisements present men as stupid buffoons, or aggressive evil tyrants or insensitive and shallow “studs” for women’s pleasure.

According to J.R. Macnamara, in the book, Media and the Male Identity: The Making and Remaking of Men, less than 20% of media profiles reflected positive themes for men. Violent crimes, including murder, assault, and armed robberies accounted for over 55% of all media reporting of male activities. Macnamara says that over 30% of all discussion in the media of male sexuality was in relation to pedophilia, and males’ heterosexuality associated with masculinity is seen as violent, aggressive and dominating. Men are frequently shown in TV shows and movies as lacking in commitment in relationships and are shown as frequently cheating on women. And with increasing frequency, women are shown on TV shows and movies as being independent single mothers, not needing a man.

Guy Garcia, author of The Decline of Men: How The American Male is Tuning Out, Giving Up and Flipping Off His Future, argues that many men bemoan a “fragmentation of male identity,” in which husbands are asked to take on unaccustomed familial roles such as child care and housework, while wives bring in the bigger paychecks. “Women really have become the dominant gender,” says Garcia, “what concerns me is that guys are rapidly falling behind. Women are becoming better educated than men, earning more than men, and, generally speaking, not needing men at all. Meanwhile, as a group, men are losing their way.”

“The crisis of fatherhood, then is ultimately a cultural crisis, a sharp decline in the traditional sense of communal responsibly, “ contends Popenoe; “It therefore follows that to rescue the rescue the endangered institution of fatherhood, we must regain our sense of community.”

So as we annually celebrate Father’s Day, and reflect on it’s importance to social stability, more men in our culture need to find their male identity and commit to the central importance of fatherhood.

Comments Off on How your posture can give you control

How your posture can give you control

Posted June 12th, 2011 in Articles, Blogs by admin

If you just show enthusiasm , ask questions, speak authoritatively  that’s all you’ll need to get that job, make the impression in the group, or make a good presentation—according to many career counselors and advisors. Yet an often overlooked factor—good posture—may be an even more powerful force, particularly if the people you are facing are more powerful and influential in the hierarchy.

According to research by the L. Huang and associates, of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and published in Psychological Science, posture plays an important role in determining whether people act as though they are really in charge. The research finds that “posture expansiveness,” or positioning oneself in a way that opens up the body and takes up more space, activates a sense of power that produces behavioral changes in a person independent of their actual rank or hierarchical role in an organization.

These new findings demonstrate that posture may be more significant to a person’s psychological manifestation of power that their title or rank alone. This research is the first to directly compare the effect on behavior of having a high-power role versus being in a high-power posture. The researchers consistently found across their three studies that posture mattered more than hierarchical role—it had a strong effect in making a person think and act in a more powerful way. In an interview situation, for example, an interviewee’s posture will not only convey confidence and leadership but the person will actually think and act more powerfully.

“The December 5, 2005 cover of the New Yorker is a classic example of how indicative posture can be in determining whether people act as though they are in charge,” argues Adam Galinsky, Professor of Ethics and Decisions in Management at Kellogg School of Management. “The image depicts the power relationships between former President Bush—shown with an apron, feather duster, and a slouched, constricted posture—while former Vice President Dick Cheney has both arms expansively extended across the back of a sofa, his legs sprawled across a coffee table. When hierarchical role and physical posture diverge like this, posture seems to be more important in determining how people act and think.” According to Galinsky, the role of powerful postures is important for those seeking new jobs in 2011.

A study by Richard Petty of Ohio State University, and Pablo Brinol, of the Universidad Automonma de Madrid, and published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, showed that sitting up straight in your chair, isn’t just good for your posture, it also gives you more confidence in your own thoughts. The researchers found that people who were told to sit up straight were more likely to believe thoughts they wrote down while in that posture, concerning whether they were qualified for a job. In contrast, those were slumped over their desks were less likely to accept these written feelings about their own qualifications.

“Most of us were taught that sitting up straight gives a good impression to other people,” Petty said, “but it turns out that our posture can also affect how we think bout ourselves. If you sit up straight, you end up convincing yourself by the posture you’re in.” Petty argued that “sitting up straight is something you can train yourself to do, and it has psychological benefits—as long as you generally have positive thoughts.”

So it seems as though a powerful application of body language is posture, particularly when combined with positive thoughts.

Comments Off on Men and women respond differently to stress

Men and women respond differently to stress

Posted June 5th, 2011 in Articles, Blogs by admin

Stress causes men and women to respond differently to risky decision making, with men charging ahead for small rewards and women taking their time, according to a new study inSocial Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, published by Oxford University Press. Under stress, men and women also have different brain activation patterns during decision making.

There might be advantages to both stress responses, especially in areas with the need to weigh short-term gain and long-term benefits, such as the stock market, health decisions or retirement planning, according to lead author on the study Nichole Lighthall, a USC doctoral student.

The experiment might also have implications for daily life and relationships, Lighthall said.

Stress caused men and women to make decisions differently, but when stress was absent their behavior and brain activation was much more similar, Lighthall said. Men and women faced with tough decisions might improve their communication by waiting until a stressful situation has passed, Lighthall said. “Men and women appear to think more similarly when they are not stressed,” Lighthall said. “You should be aware of the way you are biased in your decisions.”

After being subjected to stress, men appeared to be more motivated to act quickly while women would slow down, Lighthall said.

For men under stress, playing a risk-taking game stimulated areas in the brain that are activated when one gets a reward or satisfies an addiction. The same experiment found diminished brain activity for women in the same areas when they were stressed.

“It appears women do not feel the drive to get a reward as much under stress,” Lighthall said.

Participants were given a task of filling up a computer-simulated balloon with as much air as possible without popping the balloon.

Subjects earned from $4 to $45 based on their performance, with the men earning much more cash under stress.

Lighthall said that although men performed this task better, the more important conclusion may be that important decisions made under stress should include input from both genders.

“It might be better to have more gender diversity on important decision because men and women offer differing perspectives,” Lighthall said. “Being more cautious and taking the time to make a decision will often be the right choice.”

Mara Mather, director of the Emotion and Cognition Lab at USC and associate professor of psychology at USC Dornsige College and gerontology at the USC Davis School of Gerontology, Michiko Sakaki, Sarinnapha Vasunilashorn, Lin Nga, Sangeetha Somayajula, Eri Y. Chin and Nicole Samii, also of the USC Davis School, were co-authors of the study.

Last year Lighthall authored a study in the journal PLoS One that showed that men under stress may be more likely to take risks, correlating to such real-life behavior as gambling, smoking, unsafe sex and illegal drug use.