Will I get there? Effects of parental support on children's possible selves

Shimin Zhu, Samson Tse, Sing Hang Cheung, Daphna Oyserman

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Imagining one's future self is a hallmark of adolescence. But imagining is not enough; adolescents must feel that this future is plausibly likely and take action, which may require pragmatic support from parents. Prior research has examined the effect of parental aspirations and expectations on children's possible self, not the effect of their support. Aims: Therefore, this study assessed the role of parental support on youths' possible selves, strategies, and subjective likelihood of attaining possible selves. Sample: A representative sample of Hong Kong Chinese secondary students aged 12-20 (N = 3,078). Methods: Students responded to an in-class questionnaire. Responses were analysed using generalized linear mixed models and linear mixed models. Results: Content of hoped-for possible selves was mostly about school and career. Content of feared possible selves was more diverse. Girls had more school- and career-focused possible selves and were more likely to have strategies to attain their positive and avoid their negative possible selves. Students reporting more pragmatic support ('If I need to know something about the world, I can ask my parent about it') from parents had more school- and career-focused possible selves and were more likely to believe they could attain their hoped-for and avoid their feared possible selves and to report having at least one strategy to do so. Conclusions: Parental pragmatic support provides students a secure base to engage in their future generally and in their school- and career-focused future in particular.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)435-453
Number of pages19
JournalBritish Journal of Educational Psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Adolescents
  • Hong Kong Chinese
  • Parents
  • Possible self
  • Pragmatic support
  • Socio-emotional support
  • Strategy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

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