Thirty years ago astronauts had the most glamorous job in the world. But nowadays American boys are no longer starry-eyed about space travel. In fact, they would rather become vets. Those boys who are still interested in flying would prefer to be in the cockpit of a commercial airliner.
Some American girls share the same ambition but very few of them intend to become air hostesses. They aim to be teachers, lawyers or judges. Some Japanese girls, on the other hand, are still prepared to pander to the men-in-suits in Business Class. But they, too, would rather be vets or pursue a business career while their male classmates dream of being sports stars.
These insights into the career aspirations of American and Japanese children aged five to 13 have been provided by researchers who replicated a 1957 study by Mary Goodman by asking 2,311 American children and 2,154 Japanese youngsters to write about the jobs they would like to do.
Goodman discovered that the Japanese and American children had similar occupational aspirations. However, the US children were more likely to envisage "stellar roles" for themselves such as star basketball player or prima donna. She also found that the Japanese children were very conscious that their occupational choice would have to satisfy their parents' expectations. American children, however, had no such reservations.
Forty years on, Japanese youngsters are also free spirits and many are self-confident. "I want to be an inventor so I can receive the Nobel prize, and I am good at it," one Japanese child wrote, while another said: "I want to become a researcher, so I can study about DNA and other related things. "
Many more Japanese boys, however, wanted to be professional soccer players, an indication that football has overtaken sumo wrestling as the national sport. Some Japanese girls also dreamed of filling one of Goodman's stellar roles. One girl, for example, intended to model herself on the singer Madonna.
But the cultural influences did not all point in the same direction. One American boy was determined to become a ninja warrior. He is in for a disappointment, however. That job is no longer available.