Continuity and change: Determinants of career and personal growth from youth to middle-age

Intercantonal College for Therapeutic Pedagogy (HfH), Department of Continuing Education, Research and Services

Lead researcher: Prof. Kurt Häfeli (Lead researcher), Dr. Claudia Schellenberg (Co-lead researcher)

Duration: 01.09.2011 - 31.01.2014

This study focuses on continuity and change over the course of a person's professional life, examining various factors that influence career choices as well as protective and risk factors at critical junctures. How has the baby-boomer generation responded to economic and technological changes taking place over the past thirty years? In order to answer these questions, the data gathered from the Zurich longitudinal study "from school-age to middle-age" (ZLSE) was complemented by another survey of respondents aged 49. So far, nine surveys have been conducted on the same group of respondents (cohort of 1963), which are representative of the German-speaking region of Switzerland. This longitudinal study covers the period from age 15 to 36. For the tenth survey, which was conducted in the spring of 2012 a total of 485 respondents (response rate 76%) were reached.

The results show a steady continuity of career paths after respondents reached the age of 30. At first glance, there seem to be changes but often these changes took place within psychologically similar types of occupations or a shift away from one's original occupational field. There were major differences between men and women in terms of career steps: often women began their careers at a higher level than men but later showed significantly less vertical mobility. This has a lot to do with traditional division of roles; interruptions of one's career for family reasons also have a negative impact on one's occupational status. The initial and continuing training activities of men in this phase, however, seem to have a positive effect. It is interesting to note that factors from one's youth also have a long-lasting impact: the higher the intelligence, the higher performance group in lower-secondary school and the better the family background, the more likely the person is to hold a higher occupational status by the age of 49. Other personality traits have an indirect and less pronounced influence.


Project description on the HfH website (german)

Further information


Valorisierungsbericht (PDF, 231 kB, 15.05.2014)Kurt Häfeli, Claudia Schellenberg, Nicolas Schmaeh, Achim Hättich & Alexander Grob