Socioeconomic Disadvantage and Children’s Behaviour Problems: the Role of Early Aspirations

Eirini Flouri, Emily Midouhas, Heather Joshi, Alice Sullivan


Using data from the UK’s Millennium Cohort Study, we investigated the association of early family socioeconomic disadvantage (measured when cohort children were age three) with children’s aspirations and emotional and behavioural problems at age seven (N = 11,656). Aspirations were gauged by children’s written responses to the question ‘when you grow up, what would you like to be’. Responses were classified to reflect the prestige of the aspired occupation and its sex composition, and the degree of intrinsic/extrinsic motivation inferred from the aspiration. Disadvantage predicted problems both directly and via its association with low prestige and intrinsic aspirations. Children aspiring to more prestigious occupations had fewer emotional and hyperactivity problems, and those with more extrinsic aspirations had fewer emotional symptoms. Both girls and particularly boys with apparently more intrinsic aspirations had more peer problems. The association between hyperactivity and disadvantage was attenuated among children aspiring to more feminised jobs.


aspirations; emotional and behavioral problems; family socio-economic disadvantage; MCS; resilience

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