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Making it against the odds: How individual and parental co-agency predict educational mobility

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Ingrid Schoon, Kaspar Burger, Rose Cook

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)74-83
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Adolescence
Published23 Apr 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information: Ingrid Schoon acknowledges funding from the UK Economic and Social Research Council (grant numbers ES/T001526/1 and ES/V01577X/1 ). Kaspar Burger acknowledges funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Grant Agreement No. 79180 . Publisher Copyright: © 2021 Copyright: Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

King's Authors



This study examines the role of individual agency and parental co-agency as resource factors enabling educational mobility (university enrolment and degree completion) among first-generation students.


The study is based on Next Steps, a nationally representative cohort of UK students. Path models were run, linking different dimensions of agency assessed at age 13/14 to educational attainment by age 25/26, controlling for academic attainment and socio-demographic factors.


Educational mobility was predicted by student's expectation to go to university, their expectation of success, and school engagement during secondary school. In addition, parental co-agency played a significant role - highlighting the importance of parents in supporting upward educational mobility of their children.


Multiple dimensions of agency are necessary for disadvantaged students to achieve academically. To support first-generation students, schools need to provide opportunities for them to become engaged in education, to experience mastery and to develop realistic expectations of success.

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