Psychology, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in Developmental Psychology 46:1 (2010), pp. 258–265; doi: 10.1037/a0017416 Copyright © 2010 American Psychological Association. Used by permission. “This article may not exactly replicate the final version published in the APA journal. It is not the copy of record.”


This longitudinal study explored adolescents’ future-oriented cognitions, current activities, and later educational attainment using data from 317 adolescents (55% female; mean age = 14.98 years, SD = 0.85) followed into early adulthood. Aspirations and expectations regarding work and education showed modest stability from year to year. Exploration of the reciprocal relations between these cognitions and adolescents’ activities supported both unidirectional and bidirectional effects, with different patterns emerging for aspirations and expectations. In multiple regression analyses, future-oriented cognitions predicted adult educational attainment; follow- up analyses indicated that the effect of adolescents’ expectations was partially mediated by participation in extracurricular activities. These results suggest a potentially important influence of adolescents’ future-oriented cognitions on their current behavior and future attainments.