Student expectations of future life roles

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

Work and family are the two most significant life domains for most individuals (Greenhaus, Collins & Shaw, 2003). Compositional and structural changes in the work and family domains over the past few decades such as: dual-earner couples and single working parents, the decline of traditional gender roles and a movement toward egalitarian family structures have rendered increased understanding and reconciliation of family and working life (Steil, 2007). Such work- family considerations, however, are not only important for adults within the workforce, but also for young adults who are in the process of making future family and career decisions, and are about to enter the workforce (Westring & Ryan, 2011). The purpose of this study was to explore how students understand and distinguish between different life roles, and therefore gain insight into the expectations they have of their future life roles. Using Kelly's Repertory Grids Technique, qualitative data was obtained through fifteen interviews with postgraduate students from the University of Cape Town. The data was analysed using a combination of thematic analysis and frequency counts. The reliability of the results was ensured by conducting two sets of reliability checks. Following thematic analysis, eight dyadic themes emerged: self-interest- selflessness, demanding- relaxing, collaborationindependence, freedom-restriction, affective- unaffective, boring- enjoyment, structuredflexible, and personal satisfaction- obligation. These themes revealed values and attributes students perceive as significant in the construal of their future life roles. The results were interpreted and discussed in light of existing research and literature in the field.