Continuity and change (II): Determinants in career and personal growth up to 52 years of age

Intercantonal College for Therapeutic Pedagogy (HfH) & University of Basel

Lead researchers: Prof. Dr. Kurt Häfeli (lead),
Dr. Claudia Schellenberg (co-lead); Prof. Dr. Alexander Grob (co-lead)

Duration: 01.05.2014 - 30.04.2017

The Zurich longitudinal study (ZLSE) From School to Middle Adulthood involves a series of eleven surveys carried out on a cohort (born in 1963) representative of German-speaking Switzerland when aged between 15 and 52. In the eleventh survey (sample size 807 persons, response rate 71%) the focus was on health, the interplay between personality and occupation, and the careers of specific groups of persons.

Sequence analyses showed a range of different career paths. In particular it was seen that there is greater continuity among women and more professional change among men (e.g. due to specialising and promotions). The permeability of the Swiss education system is also reflected in our data, with many people obtaining further qualifications. However, there are groups which have greater developmental difficulties, e.g. owing to behavioural problems at school or poor school performance. Furthermore, there is a link between health problems and certain career patterns (e.g. the group of manual-technical trades).

Unique to the study is the repeat measurement of personality (e.g. «Big Five», such as extraversion or conscientiousness) at the age of 52. The study suggests that personality traits may change to some extent (sometimes owing to job-related factors) but largely remain stable, and a person’s personality when young is thus a good predictor of how their career might develop. In general, there is a strong correlation between personality and profession (after J. Holland) over the course of a person’s career.

Finally, our study also shows that there are a number of resources and risk factors which have an impact in later life: in addition to known structural and personal traits, there are further characteristics which have attracted less attention until now. These include career breaks, investment in training and further education, job involvement, socio-emotional skills and aspects of social support.


Project description on the HfH website (german)

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