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  • Print publication year: 2014
  • Online publication date: October 2014

7 - Uncertainty in educational and career aspirations



Drawing upon data from two British age cohorts born in 1970 and 1990, this chapter examines gender and socio-historical differences regarding uncertainty in the educational and career aspirations of young people. Despite differences in the age of assessment and measurement, findings suggest that similar background characteristics are associated with uncertain aspirations in the two age cohorts. Males were more uncertain of their educational aspirations than were females. Uncertainty was also associated with growing up in a relatively disadvantaged family, with parents who did not expect their children to continue in education, as well as with low academic attainment, low levels of school motivation, and lack of belief in one’s own ability. However, findings indicated differences in the associated outcomes of uncertain aspirations between the two age cohorts. In the earlier-born cohort, young people with uncertain aspirations were more likely to be not in education, employment, or training (NEET), while there were no differences in NEET due to uncertain aspirations in the later-born cohort. The findings point toward a female advantage regarding certainty in aspirations as well as a prolonged period of career exploration in the later-born cohort.

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