Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 47, Issue 4, pp 703–716 | Cite as

Reciprocal Associations between Educational Identity and Vocational Identity in Adolescence: A Three-wave Longitudinal Investigation

Empirical Research


Education and vocation are core identity domains in adolescence. School is a normative social context in this developmental time frame and the formation of an educational identity is embedded in the goals that youth pursue in school. One of the main goals of education is to prepare young people for their future careers. Hence, educational identity should support the formation of vocational identity during adolescence. Considering the limited evidence on the longitudinal links between these two domain-specific identities, we conducted a three-wave investigation, testing the moderating role of age group, gender, and type of school. Participants (N = 1030; 59.3% female) were adolescents (M age  = 16.72 years, SD age  = 1.23, age range 14–19 years) who completed self-report measures of educational and vocational identity three times during an academic year. We underscored reciprocal associations between educational identity and vocational identity. The results indicate that strong educational commitments supported the formation of strong vocational commitments across time. Adolescents who were involved in the in-depth exploration of their educational choices also reported more vocational exploration during the school year. In turn, vocational identity processes also supported educational identity formation, especially the reconsideration of educational commitments. In terms of moderators, we underscored that vocational commitment making and vocational flexibility bolstered educational commitment only in early-to-middle adolescents. Educational in-depth exploration fostered the identification with vocational commitments only in girls. Educational reconsideration of commitment promoted vocational self-doubt only in adolescents attending work-bound high-schools. Implications for research and practice are discussed.


Educational identity Vocational identity Longitudinal study Adolescence 



This research was undertaken with the partial financial support by the Erasmus + Programme of the European Union, strategic partnership project “Innovative Curriculum for Strong Identities in Diverse Europe (INSIDE)” No. 2016-1-LT01-KA203-023220.

Authors’ Contributions

O.N.S. conceived the study and the manuscript, conducted the analyses, and coordinated and drafted/revised the manuscript; E.I.P. participated in the development of the study, coordinated the data collection, conducted the analyses, and critically commented on the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Data Sharing Declaration

This manuscript’s data will not be deposited.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Ethical Approval

All studies were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyBabes-Bolyai UniversityCluj-NapocaRomania

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