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Major Life Events

What effects do drastic events or experiences over which we have no control, but which are part of the horizon of experience of almost all people, have on the well-being and work behavior of individuals? Which coping strategies can be applied in private and working life and which resources and personality facets help to process these profound shocks? These questions are currently being addressed by the Chair of Human Resource Development & Change Management within the framework of several research projects.


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Major life events can seriously change a person's life. They upset the person-environment fit and trigger strong emotions that have a significant impact on the everyday life of those affected (Filipp & Aymanns, 2018). Major Life Events occur in both personal and professional life (Bakker et al., 2019) and can be not only negative but also positive in nature (Luhmann et al., 2012). Examples of Major Life Events are the death of a close person, a separation or divorce, a serious illness, the loss of a job, but also a wedding, the birth of a child, or a move (Specht et al., 2011).

Previous research has shown that major life events trigger high stress and thus mental illnesses such as depression (Monroe et al., 2019) and burnout (Hakanen & Bakker, 2017). Furthermore, subjective well-being (Luhmann et al., 2012), life satisfaction (Hakanen & Bakker, 2017), job satisfaction (Georgellis et al., 2012), and work engagement (Bakker et al., 2019) are negatively affected.

Since the effects of major life events on the work and organizational context have been little studied so far, the research focus of the chair is to gain insights into the effects of such events on the work behavior of those affected. In addition, the coping strategies and the influence of different leadership behaviors on those affected by a Major Life Event will be analyzed.


Bakker, A. B., Du, D., & Derks, D. (2019). Major life events in family life, work engagement, and performance: A test of the work-home resources model. International Journal of Stress Management, 26(3), 238–249.

Filipp, S.‑H., & Aymanns, P. (2018). Kritische Lebensereignisse und Lebenskrisen: Vom Umgang mit den Schattenseiten des Lebens. W. Kohlhammer.

Georgellis, Y., Lange, T., & Tabvuma, V. (2012). The impact of life events on job satisfaction. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 80(2), 464-473.

Hakanen, J. J., & Bakker, A. B. (2017). Born and bred to burn out: A life-course view and reflections on job burnout. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 22(3), 354–364.

Luhmann, M., Hofmann, W., Eid, M., & Lucas, R. E. (2012). Subjective well-being and adap-tation to life events: A meta-analysis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 102(3), 592–615.

Monroe, S. M., Anderson, S. F., & Harkness, K. L. (2019). Life stress and major depression: The mysteries of recurrences. Psychological Review, 126(6), 791–816.

Specht, J., Egloff, B., & Schmukle, S. C. (2011). Stability and change of personality across the life course: The impact of age and major life events on mean-level and rank-order stability of the Big Five. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 101(4), 862–882.