To expand our knowledge of the effect of parents on adolescents' future orientation we developed a seven-step model which describes the indirect effect (via adolescents' self-esteem) of the future orientation that mothers construct for their adolescent children on adolescents' future orientation. Mother-constructed and adolescent-constructed future orientation each consists of three components: motivational, cognitive representation, and behavioral engagement. Mothers' future orientation focuses on their adolescent child (e.g., “it is important that in the future my daughter/son develops an occupational career”). The model is empirically estimated with data collected from 203 Israeli Jewish 11th grade girls (n = 99) and boys and their mothers, who responded to future orientation questionnaires assessing two domains: work and career (i.e., issues related to the occupational or professional career adolescents will have in the future), and marriage and family (i.e., issues related to marriage and the family adolescents will raise in the future). Adolescents responded also to a self-esteem scale. Structural equation modeling showed an acceptable fit between the theoretical and empirical models for work and career, and marriage family, respectively. The findings are discussed in relation to three issues: the effect of parents on adolescent children, the mediating functions of self representation, and the generality of the three-component future orientation model.
Despite popular beliefs and the growing importance of peer relationships during adolescence, several decades of research have shown that parents continue to be significant figures for their adolescent children (Laursen & Collins, 2009). Combining our interest in adolescents' future orientation with the continued importance of parents for adolescents, we have been conducting an on-going project on the effect of parents on adolescents' future orientation.
While earlier studies have examined the effect of perceived parenting (Seginer, 2009; Seginer & Mahajna, 2004; Seginer, Vermulst, & Shoyer, 2004) and perceived parents' beliefs (Seginer & Mahajna, in press) on future orientation, the aim of this study is to examine how the future orientation that mothers construct for their adolescent children affects the future orientation of adolescents. Underlying it are three considerations: (a) as adolescents approach transition to adulthood parents become more concerned about their future and actively construct a future orientation for their child; (b) in the process of family interaction, parents communicate their views about adolescents' future orientation and consequently influence it; and (c) while reviews of parenting research (Laursen & Collins, 2009) refer to “parents” as a generalized entity, empirical studies report that adolescents spend more time with their mother than with their father (Larson, Richards, Moneta, Holmbeck, & Ducket, 1996); in a similar vein they disclose more information to their mother than to their father (Smetana, Metzger, Gettman, & Campione-Barr, 2006; Youniss & Smollar, 1985). Therefore, in this study we opted to focus on mothers only.
To examine the effect of mothers' on adolescents' future orientation, we developed a seven-step model. The model draws on three issues: the conceptualization of future orientation as consisting of three components, the role of parents (and mothers in particular) in influencing adolescent development, and the theoretical underpinnings of the effect of the future orientation that mothers construct for their children (mother-constructed) on adolescent-constructed future orientation. These three issues and the ensuing model consist of the conceptual framework, followed by a report of its empirical testing.
Our approach has been guided by three basic premises: (1) that future orientation is the subjective image that individuals hold about the future; thus, it is not about predicting the future but rather about what individuals hope the future to be and wish would not happen (their fears); (2) it is thematic (Nuttin & Lens, 1985): images of the future relate to events and experiences subsumed under life domains such as work and family; and (3) future orientation is multidimensional. The conceptualization we use, like that of Nurmi (1991), consists of three components. Each is described below.
The three component model. The three component model evolved out of a unidimensional approach that conceptualized future orientation as the subjective (cognitive) representation of the future indicated by hopes and fears about the future. Postulating that cognitive representation is prompted by motivational forces and results in behavior, the future orientation construct was expanded to include motivational, cognitive representation, and behavioral components. The motivational component affects the cognitive and the behavioral components, and the cognitive component affects the behavioral component. Each component is indicated by 1–3 empirical variables (Figure 1). The model is generalized and applies to different life domains. Thus, as we expended the conceptualization of future orientation from a unidimensional construct to a multidimensional construct, its thematic nature has been maintained.
The motivational component. Guided by motivation theory (Atkinson, 1964; Eccles & Wigfield, 2002) and future orientation conceptualization (Nuttin & Lens, 1985; Trommsdorff, 1983), three variables indicate this component: the value of prospective life domains; expectance pertaining to the subjective probability that hopes and plans will be materialized and the ensuing affective tone; and a sense of internal control by which individuals assume responsibility for the materialization of prospective hopes and plans. The cognitive representation component. Underlying it are two assumptions: (1) future thinking consists of both hopes and fears, and (2) individuals differ in how often they think about different life domains.
The behavioral component. The behavioral component is indicated by two variables: exploration and commitment. The purpose of exploration is to examine future options and the extent to which they fit personal abilities and values, social expectations, and environmental circumstances (Lewin, 1939). Hence, it relates to seeking information and advice regarding future options. Commitment results in “a sense of knowing where one is going” (Erikson, 1968, p. 165), and pertains to the decision to pursue one option. Both add to the instrumentality of future orientation for the achievement of future goals.
Future life domains. Adolescents across different socio-cultural settings include in their future life space three core domains: higher education, work and career (instrumental domains), and marriage and family (relational domain) (Seginer, 2008). Of these, in the present study we examine the two adult future life domains: work and career, and marriage and family.
The role of parents in influencing their adolescent children
Although few, if any, researchers doubt that children affect parents as much as parents affect children, most research focuses on the unidirectional effect of parents on children (for a study testing the reciprocal effect of parents and children, see Zhang, Haddad, Torres, & Chen, 2011). Underlying it is parents' responsibility for their children, research tradition focusing on the effect of parents on children, and, not the least, statistical limitations on the analysis of bidirectional influences (Laursen & Collins, 2009). Given the importance of parent-child relationships as experienced by the child for adolescent development, much of the research on the influence of parents has focused on perceived parent-child relationships, referred to in this literature as parenting.
Assuming this approach, our earlier research has focused on perceived parenting as indicated by two variables: parental acceptance and granted autonomy (Seginer, 2009; Seginer et al., 2004). These studies showed that the effect of parenting on future orientation is positive but indirect and is mediated by adolescents' self representations. It applies to such different domains as higher education, work and career, and marriage and family, holds for girls and boys, and is maintained across different cultural settings.
However, although parenting has been a key issue in adolescent research (Laursen & Collins, 2009), for both theoretical and practical reasons it cannot be considered the only aspect of adolescents' family environment. While parenting pertains to the social-emotional aspect of family environment, parents' ideas, which subsume their beliefs, attitudes, expectations, and values, comprise the cognitive aspect of the family environment. Their effect on adolescent functioning has been demonstrated in numerous studies. In our studies, we found that perceived parental beliefs affect the future orientation of Israeli Muslim girls (Seginer & Mahajna, 2004, in press) and Israeli ultra-orthodox Jewish girls (Seginer, 2009). In a similar vein, research carried out on parents' educational involvement indicates that parents' aspirations, and conversations about school matters and future plans affect adolescents' academic motivation and achievement (Seginer, 2006; Yamamoto & Holloway, 2010; Zhang et al., 2011).
The effect of mother-constructed on adolescent-constructed future orientation
The hypothesis that adolescents' future orientation is affected by the future orientation their parents construct for them draws on two bodies of knowledge. One, reviewed above, is about the effect of parents on adolescents' functioning in general and on future orientation in particular, and the other is about the similarity between parents' and adolescents' future orientation. These studies are briefly reviewed below (for a more extensive review, see Seginer, 2009).
The future orientation of parents and adolescents: Earlier research. The pioneering work of Trommsdorff (1983) in Germany on the future orientation of adolescents and their parents was followed by research in Finland (Malmberg, Ehrman, & Lithen, 2005), Italy (Lanz, Rosnati, Marta, & Scabini, 2001; Scabini, Marta, & Lanz, 2006), and in Muslim and Jewish Israel (Seginer, 2009). Given their cultural diversity, historical time span and different research questions, the low agreement between the researchers' findings is not surprising. Nevertheless, all studies showed that, when asked about the materialization of future hopes, plans, and goals, regardless of diversity, the parents were more optimistic than their adolescent children.
Although much of the research examines parent-adolescent congruence, two studies also tested the relations between the parents' and the adolescents' future orientation. One (Malmberg et al., 2005) showed that the effect of the parents' estimate of goal fulfillment on the adolescents' goals is both direct and mediated by the adolescent-parent relationships. The second (Shoyer, 2006), using the three-component model approach, showed that the effect of mothers' on adolescents' future orientation is both component and domain specific. Specifically, whereas the motivational component of the mothers does not affect that of the adolescents, the mothers' cognitive component has a direct effect on the adolescents' cognitive component for both the work and career and the marriage and family domains. The mothers' behavioral component affects the behavioral component of the adolescents only for the work and career domain.
Altogether, the two sets of findings suggest two competing home environment forces. On the one hand, homes serve as an arena of social learning resulting from parent-adolescent interaction, parents' behavior, and the cultural capital they convey to their children both directly and indirectly via their behavior, ideas, and preferences. On the other hand, given their social relationships, experience, interests, and priorities, parents and adolescents have access to different information. Moreover, drawing on attribution theory and its analysis of actor-observer differences (Jones & Nisbett, 1971), even the information parents (as observers) and adolescents (as actors) commonly share is interpreted and used differently by each. The interplay between these two forces may explain why for some individuals and social groups the congruence and effect of parents' on adolescents' future orientation varies. This interplay and its consequences are affected by multiple factors, such as interactive agency (Bandura, 1989), peers, and the school as additional major aspects of the children and adolescents' microsystem (Bronfenbrenner, 1979), parent-adolescent agreement about beliefs (Cashmore & Goodnow, 1985), and the child's motivation to accept the parent's position (Grusec & Goodnow, 1994). Moreover, the effect of these factors is not static. Instead, it reflects “… the progressive mutual accommodation between an active, growing human being and the changing properties of the immediate settings in which the developing person lives … ” (Bronfenbrenner, 1979, p. 21).
The three-component parents-adolescents model. While earlier studies of parents' and adolescents' future orientation focused mainly on univariate analyses pertaining either to the relations or the discrepancy between parents' and adolescents' scores, the three-component model provides an opportunity to take the analysis one step further and examine two related issues: (1) the fit of the model (initially conceptualized for the future orientation individuals construct for themselves) to the future orientation mothers construct for their adolescent children; and (2) whether the relations found among components of the future orientation model (Shoyer, 2006) can also apply to relations between the three-component future orientation models of mothers and their adolescent children.
Underlying it was the proposition that, although the future orientation that individuals construct for others, be they as close as their own children, may differ in content and endorsement (Lanz et al., 2001; Scabini et al., 2006), it is similar in structure. Support comes from consistent findings showing that the three-component model has been empirically estimated for adolescents differing in age, sex, culture, and ethnicity, and for different life domains (Seginer, 2009). Jointly, these propositions and findings may have led to the hypothesis that the three-component model depicting how mothers construct a future orientation for their children directly affects the three-component model depicting adolescents' future orientation.
However, two considerations led us to propose that the effect of the three-component future orientation of mothers on the three-component future orientation of their adolescent is not a direct one, but rather mediated by the adolescents' self esteem. One was the role of the self in processing incoming information, and prompting a wide range of behaviors as well as various aspects of psychological functioning: these grow particularly important during adolescence, as the direct impact of parental behavior on behavior decreases and is channeled via the self (Harter, 1999; Higgins, 1991). The second is findings showing that self representations mediate the effect of parenting, as well as of perceived relationships with siblings and peers, on future orientation (Seginer, 2009).
Thus, we posit that mothers' constructed three-component future orientation has an indirect effect via self-esteem on adolescents' three-component future orientation. In light of our thematic approach, the hypothesis is here tested on two life domains pertaining to the core roles of adults: work and career, and marriage and family.
Participants (N = 203) were Israeli Jewish 11th grade girls (n = 99) and boys attending a college-bound program, and their mothers. The majority of children (92%) grew up in two-parent small families (mean number of children 2.94, SD = .93). The majority of the mothers (73%) had some or a full college education and were born in Israel (65%). The majority of the mothers (72%) held full-time paid jobs and 11% held part-time paid jobs in professional or semi-professional occupations. Drawing on this information as well as on information about the fathers (84% were fully employed in professional or semi-professional jobs, and 72 % had some or a full college education), the participants grew up in middle or upper middle class families.
The description of instruments follows the model, that is, from mothers to adolescents. Table 1 presents sample items, means, SDs, and α reliability coefficients for each of the three instruments: adolescents' and mothers' future orientation, and adolescents' self esteem.
Table 1. Instruments employed in study: sample items and psychometric information
Work and career
Marriage and family
No. of items
No. of items
p < .001.
Future Orientation Mothers
Career/marriage and family is central to one's life
I expect my child to have a career/a family
Good career/happy family life is worth an effort
I often think about my child's career/marriage and family
It is important for me that my child will examine options re career/marriage family
I feel I am a person of worth, at least on an equal plane with others
Self Esteem Adolescent 2
Overall, I tend to think I am a failure
Future Orientation Adolescents
How important is your prospective career/family for you?
How likely do you think it is that your career/family plans will materialize?
What effect will ability have on materialization of your career/family plans?
Thinking about the future how often do consider your future job/family life?
To what extent do you look for information regarding your career/marriage?
I have clear plans regarding my future career/ marriage and family
Future orientation for mothers (Shoyer, 2006). The scale consists of Likert type (1 = low to 5 = high) items assessing each of the three motivational variables (value, expectance, internal control), one cognitive and two behavioral variables (exploration and commitment) for the work and career and marriage and family domains, respectively.
Adolescents' self-esteem (Rosenberg, 1965). The scale consists of Likert type (1 = low to 5 = high) items describing global aspects of self evaluation. Its Hebrew version has been used earlier (Seginer et al., 2004) with satisfactory α reliabilities.
Future orientation for adolescents (Seginer, 2009; Seginer et al., 2004). The questionnaire consists of two parts: the Prospective Life Course, and My Future. The Prospective Life Course questionnaire applies separately to the work and career, and marriage and family domains. Each includes Likert type (1 = low to 5 = high) items pertaining to the three motivational variables, the cognitive representation variable, and the two behavioral variables. The My Future questionnaire consists of items related to the cognitive representation of each domain, and respondents report how often (1 = seldom to 5 = always) they think about each issue in terms of hopes and fears.
Procedure. Data collection consisted of three steps: obtaining Israeli Ministry of Education permission to conduct the study, contacting mothers and obtaining their permission and willingness to participate, and data collection. Adolescents responded to the questionnaire during one classroom session; mothers responded to a mailed questionnaire in their homes and returned it by a stamped envelope. The rate of return was 39%. (i.e., 203 mothers of the 516 to whom questionnaires were sent). Analysis by means of one-way MANOVA comparing the means and SDs of the 203 whose mothers responded to the questionnaire and the 313 whose mothers did not return the questionnaire showed only two significant differences.
Preliminary analysis. Hypothesis testing was preceded by four preliminary analyses: sex differences for the study variables, differences between adolescent participants of this study (n = 203) and those who did not participate because their mothers did not respond to the questionnaire (n = 313), the relation between the background variables and the study variables, and correlation coefficients between mothers' and adolescents' scores for each future orientation variable. Sex differences were tested by one-way MANOVAs run separately for the work and career and marriage and family of (a) mothers of girls and boys and (b) girls and boys. These analyses showed a nonsignificant sex effect, with one exception: girls scored higher on exploration of marriage and family options than boys, M = 1.98 and 1.64, and SDs = .74 and .71, p = .001 for girls and boys, respectively.
The differences between the participants of this analysis and the nonparticipants were also tested using one-way MANOVAs for each domain. They showed only two significant findings, both pertaining to the work and career domain: the mean score of cognitive representation, M = 3.27 and 3.56, SDs = .92 and .88, p = .001 for the participants of this analysis and nonparticipants, respectively, and commitment, M = 2.80 and 3.02, SDs = .91 and 1.00, p = .02 for the participants of this analysis and nonparticipants, respectively, were lower for participants of this study than for the nonparticipants.
Correlations between background variables (i.e., mothers' level of education, mothers' country of birth, family size, and family structure) and the study variables were low and mostly nonsignificant. Consequently, the data collected from girls and boys were combined and the background variables were omitted from the analysis. Correlations between the mothers' and the adolescents' future orientation variables were run separately for each domain. The results showed that the relations between the mothers' and the adolescents' scores for each empirical variable tended to be lower for the work and career domain, rs ranging from −.04 n.s. to .16, p < .05, median r = .14, than for the marriage and family domain, rs ranging from −.07 n.s. to .26, p < .001, median r = .23.
Structural equation models. The fit of the data to the model was tested using structural equation modeling (SEM, AMOS 17). Each structural equation model consists of two parts, the measurement part (factor loadings) and the structural part (relations between latent variables) estimated simultaneously. The measurement part shows all indicators are loaded significantly, p < .001, on their latent variables. The fit of the models is presented with the Comparative Fit Index (CFI) and the Root Mean Squared Error (RMSEA). Analyses testing the fit of the empirical models (Figure 2a–b) are acceptable for both the work and career domain, with RMSEA of .069 and CFI of .916, and the marriage and family domain, with RMSEA of .072 and CFI of .906.
In addition, we estimated two alternative models of theoretical relevance. In the first, self-esteem was omitted and the model consisted of only a direct path between the mothers' behavioral component and the adolescents' motivational component. For the work and career domain the fit was acceptable, CFI = .913 and RMSEA = .076, but the path between the mothers and the adolescents' future orientation was nonsignificant; for the marriage and family domain the analysis resulted in poor fit indices, CFI = .817 and RMSEA = .112. Given that parents and children reciprocally affect each other (Laursen & Collins, 2009), in the second model we reversed the order of the mothers' and the adolescents' three-component future orientation so that the adolescents' future orientation affected the mothers' future orientation via the adolescents' self esteem. This analysis showed non-acceptable fit indices for both domains (for work and career CFI = .881 and RMSEA =.082, and for marriage and family CFI = .875 and RMSEA = .083).
Thus, our hypothesis that the future orientation that mothers construct for their adolescent children as indicated by the three-component model affects adolescents' future orientation as indicated by the three-component model indirectly via adolescents' self esteem is supported for both the work and career, and the marriage and family domains.
The main objective of this study has been to continue the work initially carried out by several researchers on the effect of parents on adolescents' future orientation. Those studies focused on three parental aspects: adolescent-parent relationships (parenting), parental beliefs regarding adolescents' future life domains (e.g., marriage and family) and the future orientation which parents construct for their adolescents. Drawing on these studies, the purpose of our study has been to go beyond analyses pertaining to specific empirical variables and focus on the structural aspect of future orientation consisting of the three component model.
Our hypothesis about the indirect effect of mothers' future orientation structural aspects (i.e., the three-component model) on the adolescents' future orientation structural aspect via adolescents' self representation is confirmed for both the work and career, and the marriage and family domains. The meaning of this finding relates to three issues: the effect of parents on their adolescent children, the pivotal role of self representation in mediating the effect of parents on children, and the generality of the future orientation three-component construct. Each is discussed below.
The effect of parents on their adolescent children. While the majority of studies about the effect of family environment on future orientation has conceptualized and assessed family environment in terms of perceived parenting, this study focuses on the future orientation that parents construct for their adolescent children. Thus, rather than examining the relational perspective as experienced and reported by the child, it examines mothers' ideas about their child, as reported by mothers.
Altogether, our emphasis on the future orientation that mothers construct for their adolescents augments knowledge on adolescent development in the family context in two ways: by showing the effect of parents' ideas (Goodnow & Collins, 1990) specifically applying to the adolescents' future, and by including the perspective of parents, as indicated by the mothers' report. The importance of perceived parenting notwithstanding (Seginer et al., 2004), the findings of this study as well as the findings of other studies of the effect of parents on future orientation (Lanz et al., 2001; Mahajna, 2007; Malmberg et al., 2005; Scabini et al., 2006) indicate the importance of representing the parents' perspective as well.
Self representation as mediating the effect of parents on children. Our research on the effect of parents on adolescents' future orientation has been guided by a basic premise about the role of the self in processing incoming information and subsequently guiding individuals' behavior and thinking (Harter, 1999). Consequently, our models have included self representation as mediating parenting (as well as relationships with siblings and peers) and future orientation. The results of the present study support our hypothesis that the effect of parents on future orientation is mediated by adolescents' self as an internal mechanism processing incoming information, integrating it into self representation, and guiding behavior (Harter, 1999).
However, existing research led us to consider also a direct path between parents and adolescents' future orientation. In particular, one recent study of Israeli Muslim adolescent girls (Seginer & Mahajna, in press) shows that perceived parents' beliefs are directly related to future orientation in the higher education, and marriage and family domains. The second is a study by Knafo and Schwartz (2003) showing that perceived parenting (affectionate parenting) is directly linked to the accuracy of perception of parents' values. However, analysis of an alternative model directly linking mother-constructed and adolescent-constructed future orientation showed an unacceptable goodness of fit of the empirical models.
Whether the direct effect found by Knafo and Schwartz and by Seginer and Mahajna relates to the nature of the independent (parental beliefs in the Seginer and Mahajna study) and dependent variables (perceived accuracy of values in the Knafo and Schwartz study) or the religious-cultural characteristics of the respondents (Israeli Muslim adolescent girls in the Seginer and Mahajna study) or both can be tested only in subsequent research. At present, more studies support the mediating role of the self than support its omission.
The generality of the three-component future orientation model. A basic premise of future orientation research has been that future thinking is both universal and specific. Thus, while age, sex, culture, and social and economic conditions may influence the content of future thinking, the hopes versus fears ratio, and the relations between future orientation and its antecedents and outcomes, it has been postulated that the structure of future orientation is relatively consistent (Seginer, 2009). Our earlier research supported the generality of the future orientation model for adolescents of different age groups, sex, culture, and ethnicity.
Specifically, it showed that although the effect of the interpersonal antecedents and self-representation mediators on future orientation, and the effect of future orientation on developmental outcomes may vary by age, sex, cultural setting, and future life domain, the structure of the future orientation and the nature of the empirical indicators of each component (latent variable) remain consistent. However, while our earlier analyses were carried out on adolescents and emerging adults, the present study shows that the future orientation model applies also to adults. Nonetheless, in light of the limitations of this study, listed next, this conclusion should be presently treated with caution and calls for continued research.
Present limitations and future directions. The limitations we list here pertain to the design of this study as well as to the interpretation of findings on parental effects. Four issues relate to the design: (a) Sample size did not allow us to estimate the model for girls and boys separately, and include parenting variables; (b) the cross-sectional (instead of longitudinal) design prevented us from assessing the effect of children on mothers across time; (c) sample characteristics limit our conclusions to a limited group of adolescents; and (d) to mothers only. Consequently, future research should aim to include a larger sample of respondents from a diversified social background, and enlist the participation of fathers as well as of mothers.
The other limitation pertains to the interpretation of the findings in terms of family processes. As suggested by earlier research on the effect of parents on adolescents (Roest, Dubas, Gerris, & Engels, 2009; Seginer & Vermulst, 2000), at least part of what might be interpreted as indicating the effect of parents on children emanates from the culture they share, or their cultural stereotype (Roest et al., 2009). In our study the effect of such a cultural stereotype may be indicated by the correlations between mothers and adolescents for the two adult life domains.
Specifically, although marriage and family belong to the distant future for our participants (the median age of marriage for the Jewish population is 25.4 years and 27.7 years for women and men, respectively (Israel Central Statistical Bureau, 2011), the similarity between future orientation regarding marriage and family as a consensual issue in Jewish society is somewhat higher than for work and career. Thus, following Roest et al. (2009), future research should also examine the cultural forces shared by members of specific societies, and across them (global stereotypes). By overcoming these limitations, future research will expand our knowledge of how parents affect adolescents' future orientation.