Unemployment and foster home placements: estimating the net effect of provocation and inhibition

Am J Public Health. 1999 Jun;89(6):851-5. doi: 10.2105/ajph.89.6.851.


Objectives: This study sought, first, to explain and reconcile the provocation and inhibition theories of the effect of rising unemployment on the incidence of antisocial behavior. Second, it tested the hypothesis, implied by the provocation and inhibition theories, that the relationship between unemployment and foster home placements forms an inverted "U."

Methods: The hypothesis was tested with data from California for 137 months beginning in February 1984.

Results: Findings showed that the hypothesis was supported.

Conclusions: Rising joblessness increases the incidence of foster home placements among families that lose jobs or income. Levels of joblessness that threaten workers who remain employed, however, inhibit antisocial behavior and reduce the incidence of foster home placements. This means that accounting for the social costs of unemployment is more complicated than assumed under the provocation theory.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • California
  • Child
  • Family / psychology*
  • Female
  • Foster Home Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Foster Home Care / trends
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Psychological Theory
  • Risk Factors
  • Seasons
  • Social Behavior Disorders / etiology
  • Social Behavior Disorders / prevention & control
  • Social Behavior Disorders / psychology*
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology
  • Stress, Psychological / prevention & control
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*
  • Unemployment / psychology*
  • Unemployment / statistics & numerical data*
  • Unemployment / trends