The role of aspirations in young children’s emotional and behavioural problems.


Using data from a large UK cohort (n = 11,656), we investigated the determinants of 7-year-old children’s aspirations, and the role of these aspirations in emotional and behavioural problems, as reported by both parents and teachers. Aspirations were classified to reflect their occupational status, masculinity/femininity and intrinsic/extrinsic motivation. Children’s aspirations had significant antecedents in social disadvantage, parental involvement in learning, parental values and cognitive ability. Children with low occupational aspirations had more emotional problems as reported by both parents and teachers, and more teacher-reported peer problems. In the teacher report, masculine aspirations were also related to hyperactivity. Gender differences in the association between aspirations and emotional and behavioural problems were few and weak. Intrinsic aspirations were related to peer problems, especially in boys. The inverse relation between feminine aspirations and hyperactivity and peer problems was relatively stronger in girls, as was the association between low aspirations and emotional problems.