Volume 31, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 0169-2216
  • E-ISSN: 2468-9424


Professional identity problems of social climbers. A theoretical exploration

Professional identity problems of social climbers. A theoretical exploration

Children who have attained a much higher level of education than their parents are called social climbers. Their educational performance is easily seen as a positive condition for success and well-being during their working life. However, many of them struggle quite a long time with professional identity-problems. They perceive themselves as different from their colleagues and do not consider themselves as ‘real’ members of the social group they belong to now. However, there are relatively large individual differences in well-being between them. The ensuing research question is: Which professional identity problems are social climbers confronted with and how can their individual differences in these problems be explained? Based on identity literature and recent research on social climbers several professional identity problems are specified and a theoretical model is developed that explains the differences between social climbers by means of two moderating concepts: the ‘identity capital’ concept of Côté and the ‘identity agents’ concept of Schachter.


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