Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Michael Broda

Second Advisor

Lisa Abrams

Third Advisor

Hayley Cleary

Fourth Advisor

James H. McMillan


This study took person-centered statistical approaches to explore the multidimensional construct of adolescents' future aspirations and its associations with three covariates (i.e., gender, race, and SES) and a binary, distal outcome measure, postsecondary enrollment. Fourteen survey items representing the multidimensionality of adolescents' future aspirations were extracted from two-waves of Educational Longitudinal Study:2002 student data. The multidimensionality or the latent construct of the adolescents' future aspirations were explored using two finite mixture models called latent class analysis (LCA) and latent transition analysis (LTA). Based on the students' response patterns on the fourteen indicators, three latent classes representing three levels of aspiration emerged and were identified as High Aspiration (HA), Moderate Aspiration (MA), and Low Aspiration (LA) classes. Based on the LCA results, the likelihood to attend colleges was significantly higher for students classified into either the HA or MA classes than students in the LA class. Students' SES was found to be statistically significantly associated with the class assignment postsecondary enrollment. In other words, parents' higher income and higher educational attainment statistically improved the odds of postsecondary enrollment for students in all three aspirations classes. Furthermore, the LTA results found many students either became more ambitious or less ambitious as they started their senior year in high school. The students who changed their aspiration class were referred to as movers, and students who remained in the same aspiration class were the stayers. The likelihood of enrolling in a postsecondary institution was significantly decreased for students who changed their aspiration classes from time 1 to time 2. The changes in how some adolescents aspired about their future might be due to the impact of their family socioeconomic statuses or personal burnout. For future studies, school personnel, policymakers, and educators should investigate the associations between higher education and adolescents' academic and non-academic aspirations and investigate the causes of changes in adolescents' aspirations. Given the importance of college completion for future income and well-being, this study provided an ecological overview of how different social factors (e.g., school, family, community, personal, and peers) shaped adolescents' attitudes about their future, including their impact on their higher educational attainment.


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