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Teens choose their future career independently

The impact of family, including its cultural aspects, on a pupil’s idea of his or her future work is significantly weaker than the influence of the student’s own personal qualities, such as dedication, perseverance and desire to learn, Alexandra Yuzhaninova concluded in an article published in HSE’s Journal of Educational Studies.

Alexandra Yuzhaninova, a Junior Research Fellow at the HSE’s Institute for Educational Studies, refutes the commonly accepted opinion that teenagers’ hopes concerning their future employment depend mostly on their parents’ opinion and their cultural level. In her article «Secondary School Students’ Expectations Regarding Future Work», published in HSE’s Journal of Education 1 (2014), Yuzhaninova shows how a family’s cultural capital (in particular, a rich home library, the number of classics in it, and the amount of art the student has at home) do not drastically impact a pupil’s professional ambitions.

The article was based on the results of the first wave of a longitudinal study launched in 2010 by the HSE’s Institute for Educational Studies as part of the project Monitoring Educational and Employment Trajectories of Secondary and Higher Education. At the end of 2012, nearly 3,800 students from nine grades were surveyed in 41 Russian regions. Both children and their parents answered questions concerning future jobs.

In the set of values associated with future work, the following were identified:

  • High income;
  • Emotional engagement («Work must captivate me emotionally»);
  • Prestige (how others respect a job);
  • Belonging to a group (the possibility of interacting with other people);
  • Independence (the ability to manage one’s own time);
  • Secure environment (comfort and tranquillity);

Children listen to their parents, but want to decide for themselves

In selecting family factors that affect children’s expectations concerning a future job, the impact of parents’ educational and professional status was factored into the time it takes pupils to make decisions concerning a career. The moment in time when such a decision is made depends on the attitude towards achieving success in life. This attitude will be different for young people from various levels of society. Another important family factor that influences children’s ideas about future work is pressure from parents.

The research’s results show that among young individuals, both male and female, there is a high percentage of those who listen to the opinion of adults – nearly 40% in each subgroup. Parents and children’s expectations nonetheless turned out to be unconnected from a purely statistical standpoint. ‘ It is likely that «it is important for me to listen to opinions» and «I do as my parents suggest» are two different fields – the declared and the real behaviour of a student,’ Alexandra Yuzhaninova says.

In general, the group of independent variables that are related to the cultural background of the family includes the level of education and professional status of the father and mother, the volume and composition of the home library, and having literary classics and works of art at home.

The study showed that a family’s cultural capital, as strange as it may be, has very little influence on teenagers’ expectations as concerns future employment, Alexandra Yuzhaninova notes. ‘The result we got – specifically, that the number of books, as well as the presence of a collection of classics and art at the student’s home, do not affect his or her professional aspirations – contradicts long-held beliefs about the importance of family cultural capital for a person’s professional life,’  the author claims.

The only dependence found between the cultural status of a family and the values attributed to a student’s future work is that when cultural resources exist in the family, the teenager is more likely to focus on a job that ensures independence.

Table 1. Connection between family factors and expectations for first job

 Belonging to a groupSecurityEmotional engagementPrestigeIndependenceHigh income
Mother with a higher education0,62 1,44   
Father with a higher education 0,81,43   
Mother with high professional status0,71     
Father with high professional status     1,32
More than 100 books at home      
Home library includes classic literatures, collections of poems and art    1,2 
Impact of parents’ advice on student  0,6  1,34
Explained variation, %10,77,414,94,87,712,7

Independent children want an interesting job

Alexandra Yuzhaninova lists other correlations between family characteristics and students’ expectations of future work as such:

  • if the teen’s mother has a higher education and a high professional status, then it is unlikely for the teenager to expect work to provide an opportunity to communicate with others;
  • if the father has a higher education, students are not likely to expect a comfortable job;
  • if both the mother and the father have a higher education, but the student does not follow their advice with respect to education and employment, then the student will likely value emotional involvement and self-realization in a job;
  • if the father has a high professional status and the student pays more attention to the advice of his or her parents, then the child will have a high salary expectation at his or her first job.

A job’s value is measured by salary and emotions

If a future job’s values are analyzed in students’ ideas about breaking from their family background, then a high salary and emotional involvement are most important among these values.

A high salary is the most expected aspect of a first job. More than half of student – 51.8% – noted that they preferred this most.

Emotional involvement is considered important by 42% of respondents. It is also important to note that just 25.8% of respondents said this did not really matter.

Ninth-graders are least concerned with independence, the possibility to control one’s working time. Only 18.4% of respondents believed this to be important.

The share of those who found it difficult to respond to statements about values is also quite high – about a third in each category. It is obvious that a significant portion of ninth-graders have simply not yet chosen their future profession or university.

Table 2. Distribution of answers to the question of work expectations

Parameter RatingDifficult to answerFinal
1 (most important)23456 (least important)
Belonging to a group11,89,213129,814,230,9100
Secure environment7,2141413127,832,7100
Emotional engagement18,71112118,27,132,2100
High income 27,9158,95,85,56,630,3100

Most parents’ expectations of their children’s first job are the same as those of the adolescents themselves – in both groups, the most popular answer was high income, and the least popular was independence. Some 61% of parents expect a decent salary for their children, while just 12% of mothers and fathers voted for the ability to manage one’s own work time.

It is also important for adults that their children’s job be safe; 34% of parents said this. In addition, 50% pointed out emotional involvement, noting the significance of voluntary choice and interest in the job.

Desire to learn and perseverance affect ideas about work

Children's expectations for future work are also affected considerably by the respondent’s personal characteristics. The study identified attitude towards learning to be among these characteristics. The author calculates that 86% of Russian students like to learn. In addition, older students tend to evaluate themselves as diligent and driven. In their own opinion, they are least characterized by a lack of belief in themselves and work addiction.

The highest gender-based difference (15%) was in self-assessments of how result-oriented the student is, as boys consider themselves to have more drive.

The relationship between drive and students’ expectations regarding work can be described as such: if a teenager says he or she is set on achieving goals and has strong interests, the teenager is more likely to look for highly profitable work. Students that are set on achieving their goals are also more set on obtaining a job that allows them to feel emotionally involved in their field.

Students who like to learn will likely seek prestige in a job. "It is likely that they want to transfer the recognition they receive for their grades from teachers at school into their adult lives," Alexandra Yuzhaninova notes.

Table 3. Connection between personal factors and expectations for first job

ValuesImportant for those who…Not important for those who…
Belonging to a groupDetermined to achieve their goalsMother with higher education; mother with high professional status
Secure environment Father with higher education
Emotional engagementBoth parents with higher education; determined to achieve their goalsFollows parents' advice
PrestigeLikes studying in school 
IndependenceFamily with high level of cultural capital 
High income Follows parents' advice; father with high professional level; strong interests  

It is curious that persistence in reaching goals is negatively associated with a student’s desire to work with understanding colleagues. It is likely that belonging to the team serves as more of a barrier for such respondents when performing tasks in a competitive environment, the author concludes.


Author: Olga Sobolevskaya, June 17, 2014