Journal of Child and Family Studies

, Volume 25, Issue 12, pp 3657–3674 | Cite as

High Hopes? Educational, Socioeconomic, and Ethnic Differences in Parents’ Aspirations for their Unborn Children

  • Elaine ReeseEmail author
  • Elizabeth R. Peterson
  • Karen Waldie
  • Johanna Schmidt
  • Dinusha Bandara
  • Polly Atatoa Carr
  • Cameron Grant
  • Jan Pryor
  • Susan M.B. Morton
Original Paper


Parents’ aspirations shape children’s development. In this study, over 6700 pregnant women and over 4300 of their partners from the Growing Up in New Zealand cohort responded to a question about their hopes, dreams, and expectations for their unborn children. Responses were coded according to a Maslowian hierarchy of needs. Mothers and their partners predominantly mentioned self-actualization and physiological aspirations for their unborn children, but their responses varied as a function of parental ethnicity and level of educational achievement and less so as a function of socioeconomic status. Mothers of European ethnicity, and parents with higher levels of educational achievement, mentioned more aspirations for their children—especially for self-actualization and belonging—than mothers of non-European ethnicity and parents with lower levels of educational achievement. These findings are discussed with respect to Maslowian theory and cultural developmental theories, and in terms of understanding the aspirations of parents from diverse backgrounds.


Family dynamics/processes Family resources Pregnancy/birth Transition to parenthood Cultural practices 



We acknowledge Chelsea Roberts for completing the coding. We are grateful to all the families for their continued participation in Growing Up in New Zealand.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Supplementary material

10826_2016_521_MOESM1_ESM.docx (30 kb)
Supplementary Information


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elaine Reese
    • 1
    Email author
  • Elizabeth R. Peterson
    • 2
  • Karen Waldie
    • 2
  • Johanna Schmidt
    • 3
  • Dinusha Bandara
    • 4
  • Polly Atatoa Carr
    • 5
  • Cameron Grant
    • 6
    • 7
    • 8
  • Jan Pryor
    • 9
  • Susan M.B. Morton
    • 4
    • 6
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of OtagoDunedinNew Zealand
  2. 2.School of PsychologyThe University of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand
  3. 3.School of Social SciencesUniversity of WaikatoHamiltonNew Zealand
  4. 4.School of Population HealthThe University of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand
  5. 5.National Institute of Demographic and Economic AnalysisUniversity of WaikatoHamiltonNew Zealand
  6. 6.Centre for Longitudinal Research—He Ara ki MuaThe University of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand
  7. 7.Department of Paediatrics: Child and Youth Health, School of MedicineUniversity of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand
  8. 8.General PaediatricsStarship Children’s HospitalAucklandNew Zealand
  9. 9.School of PsychologyVictoria UniversityWellingtonNew Zealand

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