9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN30 Youth and Generation

2009-09-04 09:00:00 2009-09-04 10:30:00 Friday, 4 September 09:00 - 10:30 Educational Decisions Building II, B2.02

Authenticity under influence: parents, peers and media behind students´vocational choices

In contemporary societies, individuation is an experience as fundamental as it is problematic. It is carried out in a succession of trials (Martuccelli, 2006) which have implications in the choices made and decisions taken, in a greatly amplified space of freedom. Proving authenticity through self-determination has become a compelling obligation - the 'obligation to be free' (Dubet, 2002). But exercising individual autonomy carries with it risks, which are all the greater as perception of them becomes greater too.
However, building one's biography is not an exercise carried out without support. The modern institutionalization of biographical patterns places the individual within new boundaries and actors.
Given the obligation and length of attendance, school takes a crucial part in young people's biography. In fact, adolescents' individuation is largely based on the educational system, and expresses itself on several schooling options. This is particularly true when one reaches upper secondary education, as this attendance implies the definition of a personal project. In this case, authenticity is linked to the "obligation" of choosing - by means of a compulsory vocational choice. To define a personal project that gives sense to studies becomes the major problem secondary pupils have to deal with.
This paper aims to debate some of these issues. In particular, we intend to confront students? obligation to exhibit their authenticity by choosing a school path with their dependency on perceived multiple influences (family, peers, media, among others) to support their options.
Our empirical study is based on a survey applied in April 2008 to the universe of 1793 pupils attending 10th and 12th years of upper secondary education in 6 socially contrasting Portuguese public schools. Being part of a larger project on this issue - the research project "Open future: uncertainty and risk in school choices", funded by the Portuguese Science and Technology Foundation - the questionnaire included items concerning pupil's social background, school trajectories and academic choices. A data basis has been constructed and a statistical treatment of the information (SPSS package program) undertaken.