The relationship between adolescents' subjective well-being and career aspirations adolescents residing in low socio-economic communities in Cape Town: The mediating role of social support
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Adolescence is a critical developmental stage wherein adolescents face various challenges which potentially impact on the development of their future orientation, the setting of and working towards goals, and ultimately their life trajectories. Considering South Africa’s socio-political history which has resulted in limitations regarding educational and career possibilities of adolescents, there is a need to examine factors that influence adolescents’ aspirations. The current study thus aimed to ascertain the nature of the relation between adolescents’ subjective well-being and career aspirations. Within this process, the study further aimed to ascertain the extent to which this relation is mediated by social support. The current study forms part of a larger study that explored the relation between adolescents’ career aspirations and a range of personal and contextual factors, using a cross-sectional design. The sample comprised 1082 adolescents (males and females) in grades 8 to 11, purposively selected from eight schools in low-income communities in Cape Town, South Africa. Descriptive statistics were used to determine the levels of career aspirations, subjective well-being and social support among the participants. Mediation analysis using the bootstrap confidence interval approach, within a structural equation modelling data analysis framework was conducted to determine the extent to which social support mediates the relationship between subjective well-being and career aspirations. For the overall model using the pooled sample, the study found a non-significant relation between adolescents’ subjective well-being and career aspirations. Across gender, the results demonstrated a significant relation between subjective well-being and career aspirations for the male group, explaining 2.1% of the variance in aspirations. However, a non-significant relation was obtained for the female group. An important finding of the study is that social support did not mediate the relation between adolescents’ subjective well-being and career ii aspirations for the pooled sample, and across both gender groups. For females, a significant negative relation was found between social support and aspirations. Results also revealed a significant negative relation between age and aspirations for both males and females. Social support and financial resources are important factors to consider in relation to adolescents’ wellbeing and aspirations, especially given that the social support that females receive is informed by gender norms and cultural beliefs, which in turn hinders their aspirations. It is recommended that interventions are targeted at an institutional level, inclusive of challenging gender roles, providing information about educational and career opportunities for young people, and improving parenting skills in an effort to advance adolescents’ career aspirations.