The role of social position and depressive symptoms in adolescence for life-course trajectories of education and work: a cohort study

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Background: While a vast amount of studies confirm the social reproduction of class and status from one generation to the next, less is known about the role of health in the child generation for these processes. Research has shown that particularly mental distress in adolescence is important for future life chances. This study aimed to examine the importance of parental socioeconomic position and depressive symptoms in youth for life-course trajectories of education and labour market attachment among men and women. Methods: Based on four waves of questionnaire data from the Northern Swedish Cohort (n = 1,001), consisting of individuals born in 1965, three steps of gender-separate analyses were undertaken. First, the individual trajectories of education and labour market attachment from age 18 to 42 were mapped through sequence analysis. Second, cluster analysis was used to identify typical trajectories. Third, two indicators of parental socioeconomic position - occupational class and employment status - and depressive symptoms at age 16 were used in multinomial regression analyses to predict adult life-course trajectories. Results: Four typical trajectories were identified for men, of which three were characterised by stable employment and various lengths of education, and the fourth reflected a more unstable situation. Among women, five trajectories emerged, characterised by more instability compared to men. Low parental occupational class and unemployment were significantly associated with a higher risk of ending up in less advantaged trajectories for men while, for women, this was only the case for occupational class. Youth levels of depressive symptoms did not significantly differ across the trajectories. Conclusions: This study found support for the intergenerational reproduction of social position, particularly when measured in terms of parental occupational class. Youth depressive symptoms did not show clear differences across types of trajectories, subsequently impeding such symptoms to trigger any selection processes. While this could be a consequence of the specific framework of the current study, it may also suggest that depressive symptoms in youth are not a root cause for the more complex processes through which how social position develops across life. The possible impact of welfare and labour market policies is discussed.




Landstedt, E., Brydsten, A., Hammarström, A., Virtanen, P., & Almquist, Y. B. (2016). The role of social position and depressive symptoms in adolescence for life-course trajectories of education and work: a cohort study. BMC Public Health, 16(1), 1–16.

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