Middle-school children's perceptions and motivation regarding work and their future : simple or complex? optimistic or realistic?



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The primary purpose of this study was to gain a better understanding of middle-school children’s perceptions and motivation regarding their future. The results suggest that children think rather extensively about their future at this age, and in more complex ways than previously theorized. Children in this study were able to clearly articulate their goals for the future. The importance of a good job and financial security was a common theme in their responses. The majority of children did not believe they could attain any job they wanted in America, but instead understood there to be limits to what they could achieve, attributing these limits primarily to stable and uncontrollable characteristics. Children had a basic understanding of the duties and requirements for their desired jobs, and most felt they were currently preparing for these jobs. Children’s perceptions of limits and opportunity in America, and the extent of their knowledge and preparation for their desired job, predicted their confidence in attaining their occupational goals. Differences by gender and ethnic group were revealed, though the influence of ethnic group was less prominent than expected.