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The role of familial habitus in shaping children's views of their future employment

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journal contribution
posted on 2012-05-04, 13:32 authored by Helena Pimlott-WilsonHelena Pimlott-Wilson
As the field of Geographies of Children, Youth and Families grows and diversifies as a testament to the active and vigorous interest in this area of research, the collection of papers presented within this Special Issue proves timely in addressing developing research on education and aspiration. At a variety of spatial scales and from different perspectives, the contributors have shown how educational settings are invoked by politicians, educators and practitioners as sites where the aspirations of future citizen-workers can be managed for perceived individual and collective benefit. It is unsurprising that young people remain the focus of policy attention and analyses in relation to ‘raising’ aspirations, given normative understandings of their chronological proximity to transitions to adulthood. What emerges alongside efforts to affect the aspirations of young people through education is a strand of thought which acknowledges the role of the family in the lives of young people. Research has shown distinctions in parental aspirations for their children according to ethnic and socio-economic background (Coleman, 1988; Portes and MacLeod, 1996), and has highlighted how families are viewed by educationalists as key to the academic success of their children (Holloway and Pimlott-Wilson, this issue). Whilst young people and parents remain central to considerations of aspiration (Nairn et al., 2007), the hopes of young children are also crucial when we take into account the implications which may arise when children judge one path of action feasible as a future goal whilst others appear unattainable. In this article, I argue that the voices of children need to be included in research which considers aspiration, acknowledging the influence of the family on these imagined futures whilst also recognising that children reflexively develop their own perspectives as they encounter new experiences. In the next section of the paper, I engage with policy interest in families and discuss further my conceptualisation of habitus and how this relates to children’s hopes for the future. In the central section I present a case study of children’s future employment plans, putting forward evidence to show that family socialisation predisposes children to consider particular occupational types over others. To this end, I utilise the concept of habitus as a flexible and non-deterministic method for understanding children’s perceptions of what courses of action are most appropriate for their future. Thirdly, I provide evidence to suggest that children’s aspirations are not simply a reflection of parental practices but rather show how the habitus is continually evolving, illustrating children’s agency in their reflexive resistance of particular occupational types in light of family experience. In conclusion, the article calls for further consideration of children’s hopes for the future and the factors which influence the dispositions of individuals, highlighting the imperative for educationalists to remain cognisant of children’s dispositions in efforts to (re)shape aspirations.



  • Social Sciences


  • Geography and Environment


PIMLOTT-WILSON, H., 2011. The role of familial habitus in shaping children's views of their future employment. Children's Geographies, 9 (1), pp. 111 - 118


© Taylor & Francis (Routledge)


  • AM (Accepted Manuscript)

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This article was published in the journal, Children's Geographies [© Taylor & Francis] in a special issue: Geographies of Education and Aspiration and the definitive version is available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14733285.2011.540443




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