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ERIC Number: EJ900019
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2010-Feb
Pages: 22
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 69
ISSN: ISSN-0003-1224
Is There a Downside to Shooting for the Stars? Unrealized Educational Expectations and Symptoms of Depression
Reynolds, John R.; Baird, Chardie L.
American Sociological Review, v75 n1 p151-172 Feb 2010
Despite decades of research on the benefits of educational expectations, researchers have failed to show that unrealized plans are consequential for mental health, as self-discrepancy and other social psychological theories would predict. This article uses two national longitudinal studies of youth to test whether unrealized educational expectations are associated with depression in adulthood. Negative binomial regression analyses show that unmet expectations are associated with a greater risk of depression among young adults who share similar educational expectations. The apparent consequences of aiming high and falling short result, however, from lower attainment, not the gap between plans and attainment. Results indicate almost no long-term emotional costs of "shooting for the stars" rather than planning for the probable, once educational attainment is taken into account. This lack of association also holds after accounting for early mental health, the magnitude of the shortfall, the stability of expectations, and college-related resources, and it is robust across two distinct cohorts of high school students. We develop a theory of "adaptive resilience" to account for these findings and, because aiming high and failing are not consequential for mental health, conclude that society should not dissuade unpromising students from dreams of college. (Contains 4 tables and 6 notes.)
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: High Schools
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Assessments and Surveys: National Longitudinal Survey of Youth; Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale