A Ten-Year Analysis of the Influence of Significant Others On Future Plans of Low-Income Southern Youth
ANITA, Fielden Stroupe
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This study examined whom lower socioeconomic young peopIe reported as the most influential people in their general future plans and in future educational and occupational matterse The sample consisted of 5,224 fifth and sixth graders from seven Southern states. The data were collected as part of two Regional Research Projects and included three cohort I groups over a ten-year period of time (1969, 1975, and 1978) with three subsamples--rural blacks, urban blacks, and rural Appalachian whites. The independent v~riables in this research were cohort, sex, and race. The dependent variables were three aspects of significant others' influence measured by asking the young students (a) whose advice was important about future plans; (b) who had talked to them about future schoqling; and (c) who had talked to them about future job choices. Each question had 10 categories of significant persons from which the students could select. The data were analyzed by the chi square measure of association at the .05 level of significance. The first hypothesis of no difference across cohort groups in reporting parents as significant others was rejected for the three dependent variables. The significant difference appeared to be the result of a decrease of the youth in the 1975 cohort group who reported parents as significant others, whereas the 1969 and 1978 cohorts remained stable. Parents were the most often reported significant others in the three cohorts, with mother being the person m9st often G reported and father the second person most often reported. The second hypothesis of differences in males and females reporting their parents as significant persons was supported for the three dependent measures. When only one parent was reported, the parent of the same sex as the child was most often reported. Therefore, girls reported their mothers more often than they did fathers, and boys reported their fathers more often than their mothers. The third hypothesis of no difference between the races was rejected for the three dependent variables. Parents were found to be the most influential significant others for both black and white students~ however, depending on the type of measurement, there were some variations in where the race differences occurred. Generally, black students tended to report their mother more frequently than white youngsters did, whereas the white children tended to report their father more frequently than black children did. other race differences found were that black students reported a teacher more frequently as a significant person in future life matters than did white students, whereas white students discussed their future plans with peers more frequently than did the black young people. Another finding is that the results of studying significant others is dependent to some extent on the type of measurement used. The research questions would determine whether one wanted the dependent measure to prov~de information regarding who is most influential or all who are influential. The topic of discussion (future plan, schooling or job) also affected who was reported. It was recommended that further examination of this data would be desirable to determine if any of the cohort differences were related to sex and race variation and also to utilize nonparametric statistical procedures. Adding a longitudinal component was suggested to examine maturational changes. Emphasis on parental education and further research to determine if the emphasis is effective in helping disadvantaged low-income youth was recommended.