The role of future work goal motives in adolescent identity development: A longitudinal mixed-methods investigation

Authors: 
David S. Yeager, Matthew J. Bundick, & Rebecca Johnson
Publication Year: 
2012, available online
Publication name or Publisher: 
Contemporary Educational Psychology, 37(3), 206–217.

Theories of adolescent identity development often emphasize the importance of adolescents’ future work goals, yet these theories rarely distinguish the self-oriented motives (enjoying or being a good fit for one’s work) from the beyond-the-self-oriented motives (having a positive impact on the world beyond the self) that underlie them. The present article explored the impact and development of both types of motives. Using longitudinal, mixed-methods data from middle school and high school students (N = 99), the present article found that: (1) adolescents generated both self-oriented and beyond-the-self-oriented motives for their future work goals, often simultaneously; (2) adolescents who held both self-oriented and beyond-the-self-oriented motives for their work goals were more likely to experience higher levels of purpose and meaning over a 2-year period than those who held neither; (3) school assignments that asked students to reflect on their work goals were positively related only to the development of self-oriented motives for work goals among middle school students; and (4) support from friends was positively related only to the development of self-oriented motives for work goals among high school students.