Continuity and Change: Interplay between Personality and Employment until the Age of 52

Category Project

Ausgangslage und Ziele

«p> A further survey is being added to the Zurich Longitudinal Study »From School to Mid-Adult Life” (ZLSE). Whereas the project Continuity and Change: Factors in Personal and Vocational Development focussed mainly on career development, the present project will also take a close look at the interplay between personality and employment, work/life balance and health. This project is part of a research programme for the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) on »Individual Vocational Training Choices and Vocational Training Opportunities”.

Project Management

Claudia Schellenberg Title Prof. Dr.


Professorin für die berufliche Integration von Jugendlichen mit besonderen pädagogischen Bedürfnissen

Kurt Häfeli Title Prof. Dr. em.


Ehemaliger Leiter Forschung und Entwicklung


  • Duration
  • Neue Projektnummer

Project Team


Major aims are to deepen our understanding of current occupational and personal situations and to measure selected aspects of personality (e.g. big five, career adaptability and self-efficacy). The following themes will be addressed using the extended database: 

  • career pathways from initial training to beyond the 50-year threshold
  • risk and protection factors in occupational development 
  • mental and physical health across the life cycle and key factors
  • explanatory models for career pathways, in particular the match between personality and job
  • personality development
  • work/life balance and how parental role models affect children  

One particular strength of the ZLSE is its differentiated coverage of adolescence in the six fields of education/achievement, personality, values/attitudes, biography/origins/family, choosing a career, and vocational activities/training. These details permit a differentiated picture to be drawn of subjective and objective factors and how they change in adolescence and their significance for development into mid-adult life.

Methodical approach

The ZLSE is a long-term background study which has so far incorporated ten surveys from different projects (Schallberger & Spiess Huldi, 2001; Schmaeh et al., 2015)). It has been underway for over 30 years, following its subjects from the age of 14 to 48. The last survey was performed in 2012, covering a sample of 485 subjects and approx. 4000 variables.


The latest, 11th survey took place between May and September 2015, the average age of the subjects was 52 years.


The sample was to be enlarged by recruiting all subjects from survey B5 (average age: 19 years) (full survey: n=1136 subjects). A total of 807 persons participated in this survey which resulted in a return rate of 71%. The size of sample sought will permit a number of new evaluations, in particular detailed analysis of several occupational groups and other subsets (e.g. persons with health impairments).

Survey method:

Written survey tools will be used for the next round, including questions on vocational pathway, personality, life situation, health and partners/children. In-depth interviews will be conducted with subjects who have health impairments, examining various aspects of their life situation (notably employment, support and work/life balance).


Sequence analyses revealed differentiated career pathways. Overall, many persons completed further education, which may be traced back to permeability in the Swiss education system. For men, this frequently led to vocational specialization and promotion, but women tended to show continuity. Further, there were groups that showed rather difficult developments. This included persons who had had behaviour problems or achievement difficulties in school. In the career pathways of some persons, such as in the group with manual and technical occupations, there were health problems.

How well can career pathways of this kind be predicted? Unique to this study is the repeat measurement of personality at age 52. It was found that although personality characteristics change somewhat, all in all they remain relatively stable over the decades and match the occupation. This means that personality in adolescence is a good predictor when predicting career paths.

In addition to a number of resources, our study also pointed to very specific risk factors for a person’s later life situation. The results showed that some aspects were important that up to now have received less attention: interruptions in the career path, investment in education and training and continuing education, job involvement, social-emotional skills, and also aspects of social support.


(in English)

  • Häfeli, K. & Schellenberg, C. (2014). A career for life. International Innovation(136), 110-112. PDF
  • Häfeli, K., Schellenberg, C., Krauss, A. (2018). Stability and Change in Occupational Career Patterns over 36 Years. Paper presented at the Annual Conference of the Society of Longitudinal and Life Course Studies (SLLS), Milan, Italy. PDF
  • Krauss, A. (2018, July). Relationship skills and educational aspirations predict occupational status across the life span over and above family background, intelligence, and personality traits. Poster presented at the Annual Conference of the Society of Longitudinal and Life Course Studies (SLLS), Milan, Italy.
  • Schellenberg, C. (2018). Work-Life Balance and Well-Being of Women in Middle Adulthood: Resources and Vulnerabilities over the Life-Course. Poster presented at the Annual Conference of the Society of Longitudinal and Life Course Studies (SLLS), Milan, Italy.
  • Schellenberg, C., Krauss, A., Hättich, A. & Häfeli, K. (2016). Occupational career patterns over 30 Years: Predictors and outcomes. Empirical Research in Vocational Education and Training, 8(1), 15. PDF
  • Schmaeh, N., Häfeli, K., Schellenberg, C. & Hättich, A. (2015). Zurich Longitudinal Study «From School to middle Adulthood». Longitudinal and Life Course Studies, 6, pp. 435-446. PDF

More publications in German can be found here.