Changes in children’s science-related career aspirations from age 11 to age 14

Insight from the Millennium Cohort Study

Go to the profile of Martin Delahunty
Dec 03, 2018

Res Sci Educ (2018).

Richard Sheldrake


In order to gain insight into which children aspire towards science-related careers and how these aspirations change over time, 7820 children in England from the nationally representative Millennium Cohort Study were considered.

 Few children (8.6% of the cohort) consistently expressed science-related career aspirations at age 11 and again at age 14; more children (15.7%) changed from expressing other (non-science) aspirations at age 11 to express science-related aspirations at age 14; other children (12.2%) changed from expressing science-related aspirations at age 11 to express other aspirations at age 14; and the remaining majority of children (63.5%) consistently expressed other career aspirations. 

Children who consistently expressed science-related aspirations had more advantaged family backgrounds, higher proportions of parents working within science-related fields, higher self-confidence (in science, mathematics, and English), higher school motivation, and higher self-esteem, compared to children who consistently expressed other aspirations. 

Children who changed towards science-related aspirations were more likely to be boys, children from white backgrounds, and children with higher (at age 14) mathematics self-confidence, science self-confidence, school motivation, and self-esteem. 

Children who changed aspirations towards science were characterised by increasing science self-confidence, while those who changed aspirations away from science were characterised by decreasing science self-confidence. 

The findings suggest that further support may be beneficial to help ensure that children’s aspirations are not unnecessarily limited by family disadvantage; support after age 11 may also benefit from promoting the feasibility of science careers for all children, regardless of gender and ethnicity.


Go to the profile of Martin Delahunty

Martin Delahunty

Managing Director, InspiringSTEM Network

Founder & Managing Director, InspiringSTEM. Formerly, Global Director at Springer Nature. Highly experienced scientific technical and medical publisher. Extensive experience of working with international science research organisations, universities and academic researchers working on journals, digital communities and conferences. Proud UK Stem Ambassador. Experienced speaker and presenter. European Irish.

No comments yet.