Psychology, Department of


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A Dissertation Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Psychology, Under the Supervision of Professor Lisa J. Crockett. Lincoln, Nebraska: August, 2011

Copyright 2011 Sarah J. Beal


Future orientation has been conceptualized in a variety of ways across literatures in psychology, sociology, education, and vocation. The lack of a shared definition and measurement across theoretical perspectives has resulted in a challenge in comparing findings across literatures and organizing results in a way that provides a coherent sense of how future orientation impacts later outcomes. Trommsdorff (1979) provided a comprehensive definition of future orientation that included eight dimensions: extension, detail, domain, affect, motivation, control, sequence of events, and number of cognitions. Study 1 was designed to test this definition using measures from five prominent theories of future orientation in the current literature, using confirmatory factor analyses in a structural equation modeling framework. The findings from Study 1 suggest that items taken from different measures of future orientation can be used as indicators of each of the dimensions proposed by Trommsdorff. However, not all of these dimensions are correlated with one another, and not all of them load onto a higher-order factor, suggesting that future orientation may be several, rather than a single, construct. A second issue within this literature is that studies have previously been designed to use future orientation as a predictor of outcomes of interest, and little attention has been paid to what factors predict future orientation itself. Based on correlated constructs found in previous research, Study 2 was designed to explore what childhood predictors, measured in grades 3 and 6, predicted future orientation in grade 10. Predictors were conceptually organized into constructs related to a capacity for future orientation and those related to individual differences in future orientation. Results suggest that, consistent with Study 1, future orientation should be conceptualized as multidimensional rather than unidimensional, and that different constructs predict each of the dimensions modeled. These findings have important implications for theory and research in future orientation, and practical implications for interventions designed to either improve future orientation or use future orientation as a mechanism for impacting other outcomes.

Advisor: Lisa J. Crockett