Hopes for the Future: Parents’ and Children's Narratives of Children's Future Employment Orientations



Harden J, Backett-Milburn K, Maclean A & Jamieson L (2012) Hopes for the Future: Parents’ and Children's Narratives of Children's Future Employment Orientations. Sociological Research Online, 17 (2), pp. 1-10.

‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ is a question often asked of children yet little is known about how children and their parents think about their future in terms of employment. This paper, based on qualitative longitudinal research with 14 families, explores children's and parents’ narratives about children's employment futures, illuminating the values, social relations and structures through which such narratives are formed. The paper reflects on the extent to which children's present lives are future orientated and the ways this future orientation manifests itself in everyday life. The findings highlight the hopes expressed by parents and the nature of parental influence in shaping their children's futures. While children's futures were not developed as precise plans, there were many ways in which they were being ‘planned’. Choices were expanded or narrowed and trajectories mapped out through parents’ and children's hopes, dreams and assumptions for what the future would hold. This ‘planning’ was framed by the families’ individualised biographies and their socio-economic position.

Children's Futures; Intensive Parenting; Employment

Sociological Research Online: Volume 17, Issue 2

FundersEconomic and Social Research Council
Publication date31/05/2012
Publication date online11/06/2012
PublisherSAGE Publications

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Dr Alice MacLean

Dr Alice MacLean

Research Fellow, Institute for Social Marketing