Self-definition threats and potential for growth among mature-aged job-loss victims

By: Mari Kira, Ute-Christine Klehe

Kira, M., & Klehe, U. (2016). Self-definition threats and potential for growth among mature-aged job-loss victims. Human Resource Management Review, 26(3), 242-259. Doi:


Job loss and job search are traumatic experiences for mature-aged workers, also because of the threats that these experiences entail to workers’ self-concepts and identities. We investigate how job loss threatens such self-definitions, how mature-aged workers cope with self-definition threats, and whether coping can be conducive to psychological growth. We conducted an integrative literature review on extant studies and organized their findings with the help of theories on self-concept and identity threats, coping with identity threats, and identity growth. Job loss threatens mature-aged workers’ prior valuable and distinctive self-definitions and disrupts continuity and control of selfhood, while also inflicting threatening provisional self-definitions on them. To cope with self-definition threats, mature-aged workers protect and restructure their self-definitions with alternative goals of either remaining in paid employment or opting out from it. We also identify potential for psychological growth, as the struggle with the trauma of job loss can generate new self-meanings and foster stronger, more authentic and independent selves.