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November 1988

Husbands' Layoff and Wives' Mental HealthA Prospective Analysis

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh (Drs Penkower and Dew), and the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science, State University of New York at Stony Brook (Dr Bromet).

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1988;45(11):994-1000. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1988.01800350028004

• We performed a prospective study focused on the shortterm and long-term mental health effects of husbands' layoff on wives. A sample of 149 mothers of young children, approximately half of whose husbands became unemployed due to layoff during the two-year study period, was examined. We hypothesized that husbands' layoff would cause elevations in psychiatric symptoms and that women with particular risk factors would be more vulnerable to the impact of this event. The effects of the following eight risk factors, measured before husbands' layoff, were examined: psychiatric history, familial psychiatric history, three or more children in the home, lack of employment outside the home, financial difficulties, low marital satisfaction, low social support from relatives, and low social support from friends. Although husbands' layoff did not have short-term effects on wives' symptoms, their levels of distress were elevated by the end of the study period. In addition, three risk factors—familial psychiatric history, financial difficulties, and low social support from relatives—significantly increased women's vulnerability to long-term psychological distress following their husbands' layoff.