Date of Award


Document Type



Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Psychology and Social Science


Faculty of Computing, Health and Science

First Supervisor

Dr Lynne Cohen

Second Supervisor

Dr Paul Chang

Third Supervisor

Dr Elizabeth Kaczmarek


This thesis research has had two aims: first, to determine how discontinuous (or “casual”) employment impacts on quality of life, mental health, and coping for a population of Australian job seekers; second, to determine how different groups of workers differ in coping style, quality of life, and mental health when dealing with discontinuous (casual, short-term) work. To address these aims a national survey was conducted of white collar, business and technical/scientific workers (N=229 at Time 1). Workers were sampled three times over the study period of nine months. The mixed method design consisted of two phases in order to capture the richness of the phenomena in question. The quantitative phase (QN) was initiated first with a tri-monthly national survey running from July 2006-until February 2007. The survey yielded information on workers’ employment conditions, job permanency, sense of resilience, and distress levels. Phase QN yielded an “overall snapshot” of worker issues and life facet coping patterns. The qualitative phase (QL) was initiated two weeks after the start of Phase QN. In this phase the investigator conducted semi-structured interviews from a subset of nine workers taken at three- month intervals. Phase QL yielded narratives of nine-month “slices of life” for these respondents, illustrating their most current work/life conflicts and the strategies and attitudes they employed to manage such conflicts. Phase QL also allowed for the uncovering of personal meanings for work-life transitions role conflicts, perceived time shortages and respondents’ personal work-life goals. Narratives, goals and personal meanings were eventually uncovered and were integrated into nine-month case trajectories. Phase QL trajectory results were then compared and integrated with the QN quantitative survey results via a process of audit trailing, data reconfiguring, member checking, and comparing of data sets. Main Findings: for the QN analysis/methods, Distress was predicted by only three Life Facet variables: number of children, permanency (security) of one’s job, and the time of year (season). The outcome variable Resilience/Coherence was predicted by only two of the variables of interest: permanency (job security) and time of year. Overall the weak QN findings could only hint at but not substantiate the patency of the Life Facets Model in explaining discontinuous work. However the Phase QL results showed the Life Facets Model to better fit the coping narratives than other models (of staged grief, active agency, drive reduction, and stress-appraisal-coping). Though some mismatches occurred across the two (QL and QN) methods, most were resolved through mixed method techniques of auditing, cross referencing and integration. Implications of the findings for future research, social welfare, and public policy were suggested.

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