Cover image for Becoming adult : how teenaers prepare for the world of work
Becoming adult : how teenaers prepare for the world of work
Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Basic Books, [2000]

Physical Description:
x, 289 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Reading Level:
1380 Lexile.
Added Author:
Format :


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Material Type
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HQ796 .C892 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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How do young people envision their occupational futures? What do teenagers feel about their schooling and after-school work, and how do these experiences affect their passage to adult work? These are the questions that psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and sociologist Barbara Schneider posed in their five-year study of adolescents. The results provide an unprecedented window on society's future through which we can glimpse how today's youth are preparing themselves for the lives they will lead in the decades to come.

Author Notes

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced "ME-high CHICK-sent-me-high-ee) is a professor and former chairman of the Department of English at the University of Chicago. His writings have focused on models of enjoyment and how various people access their creative potential. The idea of creative potential, which Csikszentmihalyi terms "flow" has become increasingly popular in the public sector. His 1993 book, Flow, inspired Jimmy Johnson then coach of the World Champion Dallas Cowboys, and was the subject of a feature story during that year's Super Bowl television broadcast.

His ideas have also been touted by President Clinton, who called Csikszentmihalyi one of his favorite authors, Newt Gingrich, who put his work on the reading list for a political planning committee, and corporations and cultural institutions, such as Volvo in Sweden and the Chicago Park District. He has published articles in a variety of magazines, including Psychology Today, The New York Times, Omni, and Wired and has made appearances on television in the U.S. and Europe.

Csikszentmihalyi currently serves on boards and commissions for the U.S. Departments of Labor and Education, and the Social Science Research Council. He has held visiting professorships at universities in the United States, Canada, Brazil, Italy, and Finland. He received the1990 NRPA National Research (Roosevelt) Award, in addition to two Senior Fulbright Fellowships.

Besides Flow, he has also written Beyond Boredom and Anxiety and Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention, in which he applies his "flow" theory to various inventors, scientists, and artists to determine how and why they achieve "flow."

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Csikszentmihalyi is best known for Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience (1990), a book that popularized his research into happiness and personal fulfillment. He is also a coauthor of Talented Teenagers: The Roots of Success and Failure (1993). Schneider is the coauthor of another book that looked at young people, The Ambitious Generation: America's Teenagers, Motivated but Directionless [BKL Ap 1 99]. Now the authors evaluate the findings of a groundbreaking five-year survey to determine how adolescents learn about and choose careers. Investigators looked at how the family, peer groups, schooling and school activities, and the community (including the media) influence ideas and perceptions of school and work. They determined how young adults distinguish between work and play activities and, therefore, what factors contribute to enjoyable work. The authors then suggest ways schools and parents can help adolescents develop the "ability to seek engaging, challenging activities that promote productive adult lives." This advice will also be helpful to those in professions desperate to attract new entrants. --David Rouse

Publisher's Weekly Review

Are American teenagers getting the preparation they need to be ready for tomorrow's jobs? In a five-year study, psychologist and bestselling author Csikszentmihalyi (Flow; The Evolving Self; etc.) and sociologist Schneider (The Ambitious Generation) collected data on more than 1,000 middle- and high-school students across the country. Their findings: "The average teenager has quite positive educational, occupational and lifestyle expectations." About 80% expect to complete four years of college, and many hope for careers in the professionsÄa pattern that holds across race, ethnic, class and gender lines; indeed, expectations among African-American, Hispanic and low-income youth tend to be higher than those of affluent whites. More troubling, though, is that teenagers generally lack realistic knowledge about their preferred careers, and schools don't necessarily help them develop the skills and attitudes that Csikszentmihalyi and Schneider believe will best prepare them for the rapidly changing workplace. Adolescents, they argue, need a solid foundation in math and science. They also need opportunities to experience "intense concentration in any activity that requires skill and discipline," and that teaches them to enjoy challenge. Individual projects and community internships, among other programs, provide such experiences, yet sadly, they are seldom available to lower-income families. The authors interpret their data clearly, discuss the importance of parental guidance and role modeling from other adults, and offer sensible recommendations for educational policy. Sure to be of major importance to educators and social scientists, this study will also benefit parents and general readers. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Table of Contents

List of Tablesp. ix
List of Figuresp. xi
Acknowledgmentsp. xiii
Prefacep. xv
Part 1 Adolescent Views of Work
1 The Evolving Nature of Workp. 3
Images and Expectations of Workp. 6
Preparing Teenagers for Workp. 13
2 The Design of the Study: Sample and Proceduresp. 21
Sample Selection: Sites and Schoolsp. 22
School Typesp. 23
Student Selectionp. 25
Instrumentsp. 27
Data Collectionp. 33
Base-Year Findingsp. 34
3 Envisioning the Futurep. 39
Expectations of the Futurep. 40
Expectations for Specific Careersp. 44
Occupational Valuesp. 48
Learning About Future Careersp. 51
Work-Related Motivations and Future Orientationp. 56
The Good Newsp. 60
The Not-So-Good Newsp. 61
Part 2 Learning to Work
4 Images of Work and Playp. 67
What's Work, What's Play?p. 69
What Activities Are Perceived As Like Both Work and Play?p. 75
Activities That Are Neither Work Nor Playp. 77
"Workers" and "Players"p. 80
Teenagers' Experience in Paid Employmentp. 87
The Conundrum of Work in Adolescencep. 92
5 Learning to Like Challengesp. 95
The Relationship Between Enjoyment and Challenges: The Flow Modelp. 96
Flow and the Quality of Experiencep. 99
The Variety of Challenges in Adolescencep. 111
6 Families and the Forming of Children's Occupational Futurep. 113
Measuring Support and Challengep. 116
The Relation of Family Context to Adolescent Attitudes and Experiencesp. 117
Family Context and School Outcomesp. 119
Narratives of Family Lifep. 128
Parenting and Adolescent Developmentp. 138
7 The Quality of Classroom Experiencesp. 141
Where Do Students Spend Their Time in School?p. 142
How Students Experience Different Classroom Activitiesp. 145
When Optimal Learning Experiences Occur in Classp. 148
What Do Students Think About in Class?p. 149
Student Experiences in Different School Subjectsp. 150
What Students Say About School Subjects in Relation to Their Futurep. 154
How Classroom Experiences Differ by Ability Placementp. 157
Individual Differences: Who Experiences Flow in Classp. 158
What Is Missing in Academic Classes?p. 162
Part 3 Transitioning From High School
8 Guiding Students into the Future: Three Schools of Thoughtp. 167
Opportunity Structures in High Schools: A Function of Resourcesp. 168
Middle Brook High School: A Tradition of Educatingp. 173
Del Vista High School: Everyone Can Succeedp. 180
Grove High School: School as a Road to Workp. 187
Three High Schools--Three Schools of Thoughtp. 196
9 Paths After High Schoolp. 199
Background Characteristics and Paths After High Schoolp. 202
The Impact of School Experiencesp. 204
What Determines the Paths Taken After High Schoolp. 208
10 Making the Transition to Adulthoodp. 213
Personal Strengths for a Productive Adulthoodp. 215
Social Supports for a Productive Adulthoodp. 225
Implications for Educational Policyp. 233
Appendix A. Site Descriptionsp. 237
Appendix B. Instrumentsp. 241
Appendix C. Variable Listp. 243
Notesp. 257
Referencesp. 271
Indexp. 279