Date of Award

2013

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Human Development and Family Studies

First Advisor

Barbara Newman

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to examine the future orientation of adolescents from 1977 to 2010. This study looked at the trends over the 33-year period in: (1) the amount of worry high school seniors have about national problems; (2) the value they place on planning for the future; and (3) their material aspirations for the future. Drawing from the life course theory that social and historical contexts influence the decisions and roles that individuals undertake, it was hypothesized that the future orientation of high school seniors would vary with the socio-historical influences such as global and/or national events taking place during that point in time.

The study used a subsample (n = 96,165) of the total nationwide sample of high school seniors from 1977 to 2010 from the annual Monitoring the Future (MtF) study administered by the University of Michigan and sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. It was hypothesized that: (1) the lower the level of worry adolescents have toward their social contexts in the future, the more confidence they have on planning for the future, and (2) the lower the level of worry adolescents have toward their social contexts in the future, the more material aspirations they desire for the future. The study found that while there were variations in the level of worry high school seniors had from 1977 to 2010 that corresponded to significant national events, there was relatively little variation in the value these adolescents place on planning as well as the material aspirations they hold. The correlations among the three measures were also small.

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