ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2013, Vol. 45 ›› Issue (6): 658-671.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2013.00658

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The Development of Future Planning and Its Relation with Parenting Behaviors During Early and Middle Adolescence: The Mediating Effects of Behavioral Autonomy

YU Fengjie;ZHAO Jingxin;ZHANG Wenxin   

  1. (School of Psychology, Shandong Normal University, Jinan 250014, China)
  • Received:2012-09-07 Published:2013-06-25 Online:2013-06-25
  • Contact: ZHANG Wenxin

Abstract: An important feature of individuals’ thinking and behavior is that they are future-oriented. Future planning, a process that involves constructing plans and realizing these plans, has been extensively studied by researchers according to two dimensions, i.e., exploration and commitment. Literature indicates that future planning is particularly important for many aspects of adolescents’ current and later adjustment. In recent years, with the inspiration of the notions of Developmental Contextualism, researchers have become increasingly interested in adolescents’ future planning in specific cultural and/or social contexts, especially in those contemporary societies with rapid social and economic changes. However, the overwhelming majority of the research in this area was conducted in Western cultures and research on how contemporary Chinese adolescents plan for their future has been rare. Methodologically, existing research findings were mainly based on studies of cross-sectional design, resulting in very limited information available about the developmental changes of future planning with age. Besides, family is the more proximal context that is salient for adolescents’ development, in what ways that parenting behaviors influence adolescents’ future planning and whether the associations between parenting and future planning are mediated by individual characteristics such as autonomy are important questions of interest. The present study was designed to examine the development of future planning, the concurrent and longitudinal relationships between future planning and parenting behaviors, and the possible mediating role of behavioral autonomy in the associations with a sample of Chinese adolescents. Using a short-term longitudinal design, a total of 948 adolescents (499 males, 449 females) of grades 8 and 10 attending junior and senior high schools respectively in Shandong province of China were investigated during a period of one and a half years. At Time 1, those adolescents completed a series of questionnaires assessing future planning (i.e., exploration and commitment) concerning education and occupation, parenting behaviors (i.e., acceptance/involvement and strictness/supervision), and behavioral autonomy. A year and a half later, at time 2, they completed the future planning questionnaire again. The main findings were as follows: (1) the developmental patterns of future planning for education and occupation varied between early and middle adolescents. While middle adolescents reported increased exploration for education with age, no significant changes were observed for early adolescents. Both early and middle adolescents reported no significant changes in their commitment to future education, and their exploration for and commitment to future occupation between Time 1 and Time 2. Early adolescents reported more exploration for and commitment to occupation than middle adolescents at both Time 1 and Time 2. (2) At Time 1, for both early and middle adolescents, parental acceptance/involvement was strongly associated with future planning (exploration and commitment) concerning education and occupation in a positive way, whereas parental strictness/supervision only positively predicted adolescent exploration for and commitment to future education. Even after controlling for future planning at Time 1, parental acceptance/involvement still positively predicted future planning concerning education and occupation at Time 2; parental strictness/supervision did not predict adolescent future planning longitudinally. (3) Adolescents’ behavioral autonomy served to partially mediate the concurrent and longitudinal associations between parental acceptance/involvement and future planning concerning education and occupation. The results demonstrated that the development of Chinese adolescents’ future planning was shaped by the specific culture and age-graded tasks, which further supports the notion that future planning is the process of socialization.

Key words: future planning, exploration, commitment, parenting behavior, behavioral autonomy