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Your Future Depends on Your Aspirations

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With the arrival of a new decade, attitudes towards gender role and related expectations have greatly changed in Pakistan. Women are becoming more independent and seeing ambitions that are far greater than simply getting married and embracing the life of a homemaker. Settling down is slowly being interpreted as financial independence for both men and women. It is no longer an alien concept for an educated Pakistani woman to get married in her mid to late twenties.. However, at the same time, stability of the conservative gender role attitudes of men can be seen, especially as an obstacle for women seeking jobs and higher education (Riaz, 2018).

With an increasing trend in the number of Pakistani women gaining higher education and joining the workforce, the underlying ideology of such a change is one which requires greater research and exploration. It is also of great importance to explore why men have maintained their conservative attitudes and the effects such attitudes have on the women around them. However, it is also intriguing to observe that when compared to second-generation Pakistani immigrants, Pakistani men and women’s gender role attitudes may seem more conservative in contrast (Bhattacharya, 2014).

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Thus, it is crucial to gain a deep understanding of the ideologies and attitudes which impact the aspirations of young adults in Pakistan in order to understand the juxtaposing state that such young adults in Pakistan are currently in. It is also significant to understand what men and women abroad are doing differently and how they are gaining the parental support they need to embrace their aspirations and pursue their ambitions.

It is significant to explore the role of culture in gender role attitudes and aspirations. A change in geographical location may cause cultural assimilation for some; however, such a change may not be as evident in second-generation immigrants. Second-generation immigrants, guided by the ideologies that their parents have carried from their native culture, may hold attitudes similar to those of their parents and their native culture. However, it is important to explore such beliefs and understand what culture is at work when guiding second-generation immigrants in planning their futures.

Aspirations

Young adults make choices that influence whether their capabilities are used or remain untapped. However, the choices they make are also influenced by their parents, the opportunities accessible to them, and their own aspirations – to obtain qualifications, to have a career and to have a family. It is well-known that aspirations vary for different sections of the population both in terms of parents’ educational and occupational goals for their children and the ambitions people have for themselves (Gutman, & Akerman, 2008).

Personal aspirations or goals about an individual’s future shape the way in which he or she perceives situations and engage in actions and behaviors. In the self-determination framework, the intrinsic versus extrinsic differentiation brings forward specific goal contents and sources of goal reinforcement (Ryan & Deci, 2000). Namely, it points out peculiarities of an orientation toward self-development (i.e. self-acceptance, meaningful relationships, integration and affiliation to a community) versus external rewards (i.e. money, social recognition, or impression management).

Theories on Aspirations

Research on aspirations has sought to explain the acquisition and development of aspirations on four lines. One particular theoretical aspect has sought to measure the individualized differences in generalized ambition, specifically with the motivation to achieve. A second aspect has found links between internalized, personal values and levels of ambition. A third aspect measured the effect of cognitive dissonance created by status inconsistency (the discrepancy between self-image and objective status) with achievement. Another line has accounted for individual differences in the goals or objects of aspirations. All four aspects have been based upon Lewin’s field theory, which treats aspirations as the choosing of goals within a field (Lewin, 1951). This field (psychological environment) is comprised of an individual’s personal values and his or her judgments concerning the comparative likelihood of achieving various, valued ends. The intensity (motivational stimulus) of an aspiration is (according to field theory), directly in proportion with the value the individual places upon the goal and to his or her assessment of the probability of achieving that goal. The higher the value assigned to a goal or the greater the perceived probability of attaining it, the more intense the aspiration would be. The lower the value or the less the perceived probability of attaining the goal, the less intense the aspiration would be.

Field theory belongs to a class of theories which have been variously labeled rational-choice, utilitarian, voluntarist or action theories. These presuppose that individuals make efficient choices to maximize their satisfaction and minimize their dissatisfactions. Perceiving a matrix of opportunities and constraints, the individual chooses the opportunities he or she thinks most likely to lead to desired outcomes and away from unwanted ones. Since individuals may perceive the matrix of opportunities and constraints differently, they may, even while pursuing the same goals, choose different courses of action. It follows, therefore, that we can understand a person’s actions only when we know both the ends sought and how he or she perceives the matrix of opportunities and constraints. Conversely, when we observe actions that do not seem to make sense, we have probably misunderstood either the ends sought or the individual’s perception of opportunities and constraints.

Factors Affecting Aspirations

In a longitudinal study of Australian youths (Gemici, Bednarz, Karmel, & Lim, 2014), it was found that the predictors of aspirations amongst youths include socio-demographic background (gender, ethnic background, socioeconomic status, location, family structure, and immigration status), parental and peer influences, academic performance and perceptions of school.

Another study by Damaske (2011) conducted on women from New York City found that women’s career aspirations stem from socioeconomic status, race, gender, and sexuality. Thus, these results are in line with several other studies.

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