Effects of Losing a Job on the Family


When one family member loses a job, the financial loss, lifestyle changes and emotional distress affect the entire family. Even if the family has a financial safety net, the stress from unemployment can create problems for all family members, including young children.

Lifestyle Changes

  • Even if the family has enough money to cover living expenses, when someone loses a job, the family still may need to cut back. In some cases, these may be minimal, such as cutting out going to movies or eating at restaurants. In more extreme circumstances, the family may have to move or stay with relatives. In additional to physical changes, job loss can create a sense of hopelessness and lowered self esteem, explain Deborah Belle and Heather E. Bullock of the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues. Belle and Bullock say job loss can lead to clinical depression, heightened risk of mortality, and low birth weight in babies born to women who are not adequately employed.

Marital Stress

  • Someone who loses his job may face multiple, complex emotions, including anger, frustration, hopelessness and disappointment. This can create tension in the family, as he may take out these emotions on his spouse and children. Likewise, the spouse of the unemployed person may feel pressure to work more to make up for lost income. All of these factors can put strain on the marital relationship. Job loss increases the risk of divorce, states Ariel Kalil in "Unemployment and Job Displacement," published on the Ivey Business Journal's website.

Insecurity in Children

  • Although young children may not understand the concept of job loss or see major changes in the family, they may still be affected by their parents' stress, explains Amy Finnegan in an article published by the Policy Institute for Family Impact Seminars. Parents facing severe financial crises may be too distressed to spend quality time with their children, and may be irritable. If a stay-at-home parent is forced to work during a spouse's unemployment, this might mean changes for the children. Additionally, Finnegan reported that children with a parent who experiences job loss -- and in particular, black children -- are less likely to go to college than if the parent did not lose her job.

Evolving Household Roles

  • In families where only one adult works, the other spouse may be forced to look for work as well. With more financial strain on the family, older children and teens may need to pick up extra responsibilities, such as caring for younger siblings. Although families can be an important support system for an unemployed member's mental health, criticism or anger about the changes within the family can contribute to problems with depression and poor self-image, say Belle and Bullock.

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