Think Big and Move up? The Socio-Economy of Adolescents' Aspirations

Soyalp I.

CHILD & YOUTH SERVICES, vol.41, no.4, pp.365-386, 2020 (ESCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 41 Issue: 4
  • Publication Date: 2020
  • Doi Number: 10.1080/0145935x.2020.1792769
  • Journal Name: CHILD & YOUTH SERVICES
  • Journal Indexes: Emerging Sources Citation Index (ESCI), Scopus, Academic Search Premier, IBZ Online, Child Development & Adolescent Studies, CINAHL, EBSCO Education Source, Educational research abstracts (ERA), Psycinfo, Social services abstracts, Sociological abstracts
  • Page Numbers: pp.365-386
  • Middle East Technical University Affiliated: Yes


Current political discourse places a heavy emphasis on thinking big and working hard as ways for children to overcome structural barriers in life. Inspired by this discourse, this research explores the formation of aspirations, based on qualitative research, among adolescents in middle school from different socio-economic statuses in Ankara, Turkey. It contributes to the overall aspiration literature in the world by unpacking the process and the scope of aspiration formation; to the limited available research on adolescent aspirations in Turkey; and to adolescent policy development by proposing recommendations to better support adolescents in pursuing their aspirations. Findings show that adolescents from different socio-economic backgrounds have very different aspirations for their futures, which are reflective of their backgrounds in a stratified society. Adolescents with high socio-economic status aspire to have a luxurious life, whereas their peers with middle socio-economic status are more interested in building families, and their peers with low socio-economic status are focused on living a life different than what they currently live, from which they can also save their family. All adolescents focus on accumulating cultural capital as a way to realize these aspirations. Exposing adolescents to different alternatives may enrich what they look for, but what they aspire to see will remain stratified unless the inequalities among adolescents are addressed. As long as the externality they live in is stratified, theirhabituswill act as a convener for social stratification. A holistic understanding of aspirations, which goes beyond occupations, and a multi-dimensional support mechanism is required for the aspirations to be a useful tool to lower the consistency of the social stratification system.