Looking toward the future: examining aspirations and sense of purpose among rural youth. Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/7s75df73h

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  • In light of recent economic and social changes rural communities continue to worry about the future of their young people. Will they be prepared for the challenges that lay ahead as they move into adulthood? The aspirations youth hold set them on a pathway toward achieving goals, beginning post-secondary education, and entering the world of work. Sense of purpose, or a sense that one has a place in the world and has something to contribute, is an important developmental task that I argue helps position youth to navigate the challenges that await them as they transition into adulthood. Knowing that context matters for human development and that rural communities provide a unique context, this dissertation examines aspirations and sense of purpose among youth living in a remote rural county in Oregon. Two studies were conducted to examine how growing up in a rural place shapes the aspirations and sense of purpose of high school youth living in a remote rural county in the Pacific Northwest. Study 1 examined the processes of developing a sense of purpose within a rural context. Results indicated that despite sharing the same school and community, youth with low sense of purpose scores had a distinct set of developmental experiences as compared to youth with high scores on the sense of purpose measure. These experiences were, at least in part, guided by youth’s perceptions of their family’s social location. Study 2 examined the educational, occupational, and residential aspirations of rural youth in the same county. Results showed that these rural youth do aspire to higher education (only 8% planned to end their educations with a high school diploma) and many youth (68%) would like to live in a rural place as adults, suggesting youth would easily return to rural places as adults if they perceived a way to make a living. Youth’s aspirations are particularly shaped by the narratives communities tell about the opportunity structure and how they define success. Overall, these studies suggest that rural communities can benefit youth and position them well for the upcoming transition to adulthood.
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