Stability and Change in Vocational Interests After Graduation From High School: A Six-Wave Longitudinal Study

Gundula Stoll, Sven Rieger, Benjamin Nagengast, Ulrich Trautwein, James Rounds

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Vocational interests shape major life decisions and predict major life outcomes. Therefore, it is important to understand how vocational interests develop in young adulthood, a time when young people begin to make their own life decisions. In the present study, we investigated stability and change in vocational interests across a time span of 10 years, including the transition from high school to postsecondary education and the transition into the labor market. Using a large data set comprised of 3,023 German young adults, we provide descriptive information about the longitudinal development of vocational interests across 6 equally spaced time points. We investigated 5 different indicators of stability and change: rank-order stabilities, mean-level changes, changes in variance, profile stabilities, and profile differentiation, as well as gender differences in these indicators. We found high stabilities for the interest scales and interest profiles that increased even more across the period of 10 years. Substantial changes in mean levels occurred primarily in the context of the transition from high school to university, to vocational training, or into the labor market. As expected, there were gender differences in the mean levels, but the developmental patterns in the trajectories of vocational interests were very similar for men and women. Overall, our findings indicate that longitudinal studies with multiple time points are needed to extend knowledge about interest development. In addition, our findings demonstrate that considering normative social transitions may be key to better understanding longitudinal interest development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1091–1116
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2021


  • Gender differences
  • Interest differentiation
  • Longitudinal development
  • Mean-level change

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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