Academic journal article International Journal of Child and Adolescent Health

Goals and Life Plans of Adolescents Studying in Integration Classes in Poland

Academic journal article International Journal of Child and Adolescent Health

Goals and Life Plans of Adolescents Studying in Integration Classes in Poland

Article excerpt

Introduction

The transitional period between adolescence and adulthood is characterised as being a time of major change. While developmental transformations occur in all spheres of adolescent functioning (physiological, social, emotional and cognitive) (1-3) the changes in cognitive development directly influence the adolescent ability to understand both their present and future realities as well as their role in both temporal spheres (4, 5). The successful realization of immediate and future goals and plans depends on the personal resources available to adolescents undergoing transitional change (6). Indeed, it could be argued that the ability to create individual plans and implement established goals is a significant developmental task of adolescence (7).

Temporal orientation and future-orientation descriptions

Nuttin (10) defines temporal orientation as a theoretical concept which consists of three temporal aspects: the first aspect being an understanding (sense) of time; the second the progressive nature of time (past, present and future); and the third the temporal orientation of time which relates to the ability to reflect on events from the past, on events occurring now and events that will occur in the future.

Furthermore, Nurmi (10) characterises future-orientation as a process consisting of three stages. In the first stage individuals set their goals by comparing personal needs, values and motives with those needs important to others in their social environment. At the second stage individuals plan the actions they need to take in order to achieve their desired goals. At the third stage individuals appraise their chances of fulfilling the goals and plans. Importantly, their planning is based on an anticipated context in which the plans are going to be implemented.

In addition, personally held images of the future motivate individuals to undertake the range of necessary actions they need to achieve in order to fulfil their goals (11). Therefore, the functioning of a person is not only influenced by the past experiences and present events, but also by future plans.

Adolescents, like adults, plan their future by setting goals (10) with a goal being defined as an anticipated final situation (i.e., a cognitive representation of an expected future event) (12). In other words, a goal constitutes an imagined change within the person setting the goal, or within the person's environment. While, in relation to adolescents, such goals are known to be partly shaped by their childhood socialisation processes, it is also recognized that adolescent goal setting is also dependent on the setter's inherent motivational drive as well as their biological and environmental needs.

Interestingly, Zaleski defines a goal (13) as being a cognitive representation of an anticipated "future state of affairs which has value and regulatory strength. All human actions are aimed at achieving this state ... (thus) a goal is a mainly cognitive construct, an image of a future reality existing currently at the notional level". Moreover, Zaleski (1) considered that in order for a goal to become real (i.e., an implementable possibility) it has to be set in the context of goal setter's life - both present and future. Thus, a goal in itself is a final effect, something which humans aspire towards (14).

Goals change over the course of life and, therefore, are transformative rather than rigid in their structure (15). One important element that shapes the content of future goals is an individual's reflections on their past successes or failures. Unlike failure, which can limit the scope of future goal setting processes, success increases personal motivation to achieve new goals. It could be argued that the primary function of goal setting is to orientate and organise future actions so as to increase the realization of a person's aspirations. Thus, goal setting requires a certain degree of planning.

Plans regulate the actions necessary to equalize the difference between the present and the future desired state (1). …

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