Future Time Perspective and Motivational Categories in Argentinean Adolescents
Vazquez, Stella Maris, Rapetti, Maria Virginia, Adolescence
For over a decade Argentina has been going through an economic and social crisis that reached its climax between 1999 and 2002. Adolescents are among those affected by it, as educators point out. They have noted a general lack of motivation, especially regarding school tasks, absence of guidance and uncertainty about the future, a marked "live-in-the-present" attitude associated with diminished capacity for delayed gratification, and lack of perseverance and capacity for effort. Undoubtedly this situation is closely related to adolescents' possibility of conceiving life goals capable of sustaining present action and providing it with meaning.
Contemporary motivation research provides valid answers to teachers' questions about how to intervene effectively in this respect. Two important theoretical approaches stand out in the literature of the last four decades: (1) achievement motivation theory (Atkinson, 1966), and (2) future time perspective theory. The former explains motivation as a function of the value of what is aimed at and the individual's expectations of success. Both have been abundantly explored, giving rise to various theoretical constructs. These relate to goal value (Wigfield & Eccles, 1992; Eccles & Wigfield, 1995), to the different types of goals--learning goals, performance goals (Dweck, 1986), task or ego-involved goals (Nichols, 1984), mastery goals (Ames & Archer, 1988)--and to the role of beliefs in expectations of success (Wolters & Pintrich, 1996). This last factor originates in the locus of control concept (Rotter, 1966) and attribution theory (Weiner, 1984). The latter has led to the exploration of causality judgements about the results of a person's own actions, considering them as variables of the motivational process that condition expectations and self-regulation processes. Future time perspective theory stems from Lewin's (1935) psychology, according to which human behavior integrates into the present both the past and the future, which is the site of plans and goals. The relationship between the purposiveness of human behavior and its time horizon is discussed by Fraisse (1963) and Nuttin (1953), whose theory of human personality centers on the recognition of the role of time, especially the future dimension.
This perspective has guided our experimental work, since we believe it can provide an answer to the problem of motivation. In raising the issue of adolescents' motivational crisis we must consider an objective pole, i.e., an object-goal, and a subjective pole encompassing the processes through which the goal is conceived. The nature of these processes is both dynamic and cognitive insofar as the individual is required to discern the intrinsic worth of the goal in order to be moved to pursue it and carry on in spite of difficulties. Nuttin (1973) puts cognitive processes in their rightful place as a condition of goal-setting. He also provides a sound theoretical basis for classifying goals according to their objective content. In his relational theory of motivation he includes the most valuable contributions of contemporary cognitive psychology, considering them within the broader framework of a humanist conception of behavior. This is essentially characterized by its orientation toward goals that are the outcome of cognitive need-processing, which he calls "purposiveness."
The basic motivational phenomenon is "the active, persistent and selective orientation characterizing behavior" (Nuttin, 1973). Motivation is defined not only by tendency arousal, but also by its orientation, and therefore by the intervention of the cognitive function, because the goal should be cognitively and volitionally anticipated as intention.
Therefore, although needs account for tendency activation, tendencies are guided by knowledge: the goal-development process is crucial to motivation, just as knowledge of the results of one's action is crucial to setting new goals. Individuals become structured as personalities insofar as they set themselves goals whose conception depends both on their self-conception and on their worldview. The goals thus set lead to behavior self-regulation. Nuttin (1980a) claims that "the subjects' behavior is regulated, in the last analysis, by the goals they set themselves, which constitute and specify their self-conception" (p. 165). We might add that they also constitute the criteria for goal-setting through time; hence the subjects' vital projects may be approached by exploring their goals.
Nuttin (1980a) also contends that "human beings' development is partly self-transformation into what they set out to be" (p. 167). It is the constructive tension between their realistic self-conception and their ideal self-image that moves individuals to action; hence the educational importance of encouraging the former and contributing to the development of the latter by presenting students with valuable goals.
The goal as a project is located in the future: hence the importance of considering the time variable in approaching the motivational process and, particularly, future time perspective and its relation to different kinds of goal. The Future Time Perspective (FTP) has also been called Future Orientation (FO) and considered as a property inherent in human nature. "The ability to foresee and anticipate, to make plans for and organize future possibilities represents one of the most outstanding traits of man.... Man's unique ability to conceptualize time enables him to anticipate and organize future possibilities and thereby to bring effects of future time into the psychological present" (Gjesme, 1983b, p. 347).
FTP is a complex and multidimensional phenomenon (Nurmi, 1989, p. 196), made up of a cognitive and a dynamic component (De Volder & Lens, 1982, p. 567). FO as a cognitive schema has been defined as "the structuring of future events in terms of their temporal sequence and causal order" (Trommsdorff, 1983, p. 383). Its dimensions are extension, density, and consistency or realism (Lomranz, Shmotkin, & Katznelson, 1983). Extension is the ability to face the future for shorter or longer periods (Agarwal, Tripathi, & Srivastava, 1983, p. 368), i.e., the time distance at which the subject's intentional consideration stops (Nuttin, 1980b). Density is the richness of content at each time stage (Kastembaum, 1961) or in an individual's different life domains (Schmidt, Lamm, & Trommsdorff, 1978, p. 74). Consistency or realism is a concept that has many nuances, since it encompasses the likelihood of the future realization of set goals, the existence of links between goals through time (connectedness), and the real or illusory nature of the goals. As can be seen, these various aspects are interdependent.
The dynamic aspect of FTP relates to the affective and motivational character of the future, to the expectations, desires, and fears that lie within it, and to the individual's pessimistic or optimistic attitude toward it (Schmidt, Lamm, & Trommsdorff, 1978; Perry & Bourke, 1997).
The large amount of literature dealing with FTP, its theoretical aspects and measurement in different age and culture groups, indicates that it develops in a sociocultural context. It also shows a dialectic relationship between the formation of personal identity and FTP, whose importance grows during crisis points and transition periods such as adolescence. Nurmi (1989) claims that "adolescents are faced with a number of normative age-specific tasks and with living up to expectations set by their parents, peers, and teachers. Most of these developmental tasks concern expected life-span development" (p. 195), and relate mainly to the life domains of education, future occupation, and starting a family, which are among the most common issues linked with self-development. The temporal extension of these goals reflects the cultural prototype of anticipated life-span development, and FO differences between adolescents from different societies might be detected (Sundberg, Poole, & Tyler, 1983; Seginer, 2003).
In view of this cross-cultural approach, it is interesting to explore Argentinean teenagers' FTP at a crisis point where the future is being perceived as uncertain and even threatening, especially by the …
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Publication information: Article title: Future Time Perspective and Motivational Categories in Argentinean Adolescents. Contributors: Vazquez, Stella Maris - Author, Rapetti, Maria Virginia - Author. Journal title: Adolescence. Volume: 41. Issue: 163 Publication date: Fall 2006. Page number: 511+. © 1999 Libra Publishers, Inc. COPYRIGHT 2006 Gale Group.
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