Aspirations of 11-year-olds: Essays from the National Child Development Study

About the project

Understanding the aspirations of eleven-year-olds through their writing about the future

As part of the social exclusion agenda, social policies have focused on services for children and young people. These emphasise the importance of processes that shape children’s future roles as adult workers. As yet, little is known about how children’s aspirations in childhood match up to their experiences in early adulthood, what shapes these aspirations, and how they may have changed over time during the late 20th century. This project aimed to analyse a sample of essays written by members of the 1958 cohort when they were 11-years-old. To date these essays have not been typed up but rather copies of the original essays are stored on microfiche and archived at CLS.

This pilot project coded and analysed a stratified sample of 560 of the essays. This analysis formed the basis of two descriptive papers that highlighted the rich material contained in the essays, and will aim to encourage other researchers to make use of this resource. Quantitative analysis of essay content, together with detailed information about the lives and family circumstances of the NCDS members at age 11, allowed for examination of how aspirations are constrained by social class, and how this is mediated by gender and ability.


Nuffield Foundation

Project Team:

Jane Elliott , Chief Executive, ESRC

Virginia Morrow , formerly IOE