Monday, 4 March 2013

Parents' hopes and expectations for their children's future occupations

an article by Sarah Irwin and Sharon Elley (University of Leeds, UK) published in The Sociological Review Volume 61 Issue 1 (February 2013)


Qualitative research has generated important insights into the intersection of social class, parental values and children’s experiences of education and their role in the reproduction of inequalities.

There has been less analytic engagement with parents’ expectations and aspirations regarding their children’s future occupations. Such expectations and aspirations have attracted much research and policy interest.

Typically, analyses have been quantitative and focused on outcomes for children. Whilst parental expectations are deemed very influential for children’s future occupational outcomes, there is relatively little evidence on the shaping of such expectations, or the ways in which future work and occupations are discussed between parents and children.

This article reports on an analysis of parents’ ideas about their children's future occupations and the contexts in which these ideas accrue meaning. Drawing on primary data from interviews with parents we explore diversity within, as well as across, social classes.

First we explore parents’ expectations and aspirations for their children’s future occupations.

Secondly we consider how parents see their own role in shaping such futures. The evidence highlights the salience of parents’ own biographies and class backgrounds in shaping their orientations to, and manner of engagement with, their children's futures.

Thirdly we briefly explore how parents’ expectations and engagement with their children play out in class differentiated ways as their children approach early adulthood.

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