Envisioning adult lives: adolescent aspirations and expectations of work and family.

Thumbnail Image

Persistent link to this item

View Statistics

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Envisioning adult lives: adolescent aspirations and expectations of work and family.

Published Date




Thesis or Dissertation


Adolescence provides a portal for understanding the life course, to examine how ideas for the future coalesce and potentially change during this time. The configurations of adolescent aspirations and expectations tell us how adolescents see adulthood, and to a lesser extent about the conceptualization of the roles they will later occupy. To further understand the process of life course formation, I examine the process of cognitive orientations toward work and family roles during adolescence. My dissertation addresses the larger question of life course formation, emphasizing the dynamic and multidimensionality of people's lives and the importance of the self in life course formation. With longitudinal data from the Youth Development Study, specifically survey data from 496 girls and 431 boys of the over 1000 adolescents survey annually since 1987, using latent class modeling, I investigate three issues: first, adolescent cognitive orientations, which are the configurations of adolescent aspirations and expectations during the adolescent period of the life course--specifically the first and last years of high school. Second, I assess the influence of precursors to and the outcomes at age 25 of the adolescent cognitive orientations. Third, I examine whether there are gender differences in the cognitive orientations of adolescent girls and boys, as well as differences in the effects of precursors and outcomes. Adolescent girls and boys exhibit both similarities and differences in their cognitive orientations. In 9 th grade, 5 different cognitive orientations characterized adolescent girls ( conventional, educationally uncertain, ambitious, occupationally ambitious, and uncertain ). In 12 th grade, adolescent girls revealed 5 cognitive orientations ( conventional, vocationally oriented, low aspirations, uncertain, and ambitious ). In contrast, 9 th grade boys had 4 cognitive orientations ( conventional, below average, uncertain, and occupationally ambitious ) and 12 th grade boys had 4 cognitive orientations ( ambitious, conventional, low aspirations, and uncertain ). Further, the effects of family, education and work experiences on the 12 th grade cognitive orientations are varied. Results additionally suggest a limited relationship of adolescent cognitive orientations to adult roles. From the empirical investigation of adolescent aspirations and expectations I derive four general conclusions which are discussed.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. June 2008. Major: Sociology. Advisors: Jeylan T. Mortimer, Ian Ross Macmillan. 1 computer file (PDF); appendix pages 172-186.

Related to




Series/Report Number

Funding information

Isbn identifier

Doi identifier

Previously Published Citation

Suggested citation

Copher, Ronda Marie. (2008). Envisioning adult lives: adolescent aspirations and expectations of work and family.. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy, https://hdl.handle.net/11299/60225.

Content distributed via the University Digital Conservancy may be subject to additional license and use restrictions applied by the depositor. By using these files, users agree to the Terms of Use. Materials in the UDC may contain content that is disturbing and/or harmful. For more information, please see our statement on harmful content in digital repositories.