The career aspirations and attitudes of middle and low stream pupils in an urban multi-racial comprehensive school

  • A.L. Raby

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This investigation sought to identify and analyse the determinants and characteristics of attitudes to the world of work held by young people living in an urban, multi-racial area of low social and economic status,
A questionnaire was administered to 864 comprehensive school pupils; group discussions held and also one-to-one dialogues with over 200 pupils.
The dominant determinant of job status aspirations was found to be the job status aspirations of parents for their children, with factors arising within the home environment having far greater influence on career attitudes than forces stemming from the labour market, peer group or school. The role of the school as a mediating influence on career attitudes and aspirations appeared limited and the youngsters' levels of job status aspirations and expectations were virtually the same for each school year. Many of the youngsters did not perceive that academic performance would influence their career aspirations because most of them aspired to working class jobs which did not, or were seen not to require formal qualifications. Yet qualifications were valued, in a general sense, because of parental pressure to achieve at school. However, qualification levels were not related to specific job status levels because pupils and parents tended to be ignorant of these relationships.
Pro and anti school attitudes did not appear to arise from stimulated or frustrated career ambitions, but from the school's value structure itself and the extent to which the formal curriculum was found to be interesting and relevant; also from conformist and non-conformist attitudes to adult and social values generally.

Attitudes to the labour market suggested that the youngsters were concerned with the conditions under which they would work and with the threat of unemployment, Their job aspirations were restricted in range of choice and to the area in which they lived.

Personality, in the form of a trait measuring confidence in career prospects, appeared to have a strong influence on aspirations, but peer groups had little influence.

Girls' career attitudes were more predictable than those of
boys, but neither sex nor ethnic origin were significant discriminators
between job status aspiration levels.

Date of Award1979
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorRichard Whitfield (Supervisor)


  • career
  • attitudes
  • urban
  • youth

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