Confidence amid uncertainty: Ambitions and plans in a sample of young adults

M Anderson, F Bechhofer, L Jamieson, D McCrone, Y J Li, R Stewart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

The limited and sometimes contradictory published literature, mostly relating to younger age groups and non-British societies, suggests that planning and a longer time perspective are inhibited by economic insecurity, by tight structuring of the life course, and a track record of failing to achieve ambitions. This paper uses survey data, backed by qualitative interviews, to investigate planning and forethought in a sample of young adults in the Scottish town of Kirkcaldy in the late 1990s. Responses are compared with those of older age groups and of people of the same age twelve years earlier. Economic insecurity and failure to achieve ambitions had been seen by our older respondents as particularly characteristic of the lives of young adults. However, in spite of considerable sense of insecurity, the young adults we studied do in general feel in control of their lives, and do have well articulated ambitions and plans to achieve them with respect especially to work and housing. Indeed, conditions of modern life almost force many to seek to plan to some degree in these areas. Forethought and an element of planning, albeit often quite provisional in its nature, seems actually to provide some sense of security in an uncertain world. Respondents also show considerable commitment to future childbearing and partnership, though past experience of entry to both has often been fairly haphazard and there is evidence of cultural resistance to overly rational planning in such areas. Failing to achieve ambitions in the past does not affect ambitions but does limit willingness to plan for the future, especially for the long-run. Poverty and job insecurity, and also the presence of children, inhibit planning, in some cases to extreme degrees.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)-
Number of pages24
JournalSociological Research Online
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 28 Feb 2002

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • ambitions
  • childbearing
  • forethought
  • housing
  • life-course
  • partnership
  • planning
  • uncertainty
  • work
  • life course
  • Britain
  • Germany


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