For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Work experience and psychological change throughout the life course"

by Mortimer, Jeylan T (1988)


Jeylan Mortimer's chapter on the links between work experience and psychological change, summarizing her own extensive studies, exemplifîes an established body of research on how people's background and early experience, and contextual characteristics of the environment, affect life-course outcomes. Glen Elder and Elizabeth Clipp, building on earlier studies of primary group bonding under conditions of wartime combat, investigate the persistence of ties to military comrades across the postwar years. The lifecourse perspective is also central to Peter Messeri's essay on scientists' willingness to adopt innovative ideas. In addition, Messeri introduces a new contextual variable—the degree to which an innovation has already been accepted—a mediating factor in the relationship between professional age and adoption of a new theory. The life-course perspective and event history analysis are joined in Rachel Rosenfeld and Kenneth Spenner's discussion of women's evolving sense of "work identity" as linked to early employment experiences and changing family responsibilities

Key Passage

Comparing those who were employed at any time during their years in high school and those who reported no work experience revealed that those who did not work had significantly higher grade point averages, more positive academic self-concepts, higher aspirations for the future, and higher educational attainment five years after high school, They were disadvantaged in one respect, however: those not employed during high school had lower incomes early in their work careers (five years after high school graduation). When we considered the duration of work experience during the high school years by comparing students employed zero, one, two, or three years, a simUar pattern emerged, Students who worked fewer years were advantaged with respect to the indicators of educational achievement and attainment, but they had lower incomes five years after high school, Furthermore, there was no evidence that background factors, such as the socioeconomic status of the family of origin, ability, previous grade point average, previous academic self-concept, or prior indicators of the positive or negative climate of the adolescent's family and school, could explain these differences. (p.272)


Work Experience, Personality, Mental Development, Personality Traits, Work Identity, Psychological Change


Psychological Centrality of Work

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