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Continuity and Change: Determinants of Professional and Personal Development

Background and aims

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”. Genuine longitudinal studies are a particularly valuable tool in answering questions about individual employment pathways and their determining factors. The Zurich Longitudinal Study “From School to Mid-Adult Life” (ZLSE) provides a useful basis here.


The project serves two aims: One was to expand the ZLSE databank with the aid of a further tenth survey in the year 2012 by adding data about personal development at work and outside work between the ages of 35 and 48. The other is to combine this data with data from previous ZLSE surveys in order to examine questions about career pathways between the ages of 14 and 48 for a sample drawn from Switzerland. These questions fall within the following thematic clusters:

  • description of career and education pathways,
  • determining factors for career and education pathways, and
  • protection and risk factors in career development.

One particular strength of the ZLSE is its differentiated coverage of adolescence in the 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.


Zurich Longitudinal Study (ZLSE): The ZLSE is a long-term background study consisting of ten surveys from different projects (Häfeli & Schellenberg, 2014; Schallberger & Spiess Huldi, 2001). It lasted 34 years, covering an age range from 14 to 48 years. The last survey was carried out in May/June 2012 on a sample of 485 subjects with approx. 4000 variables. The ZLSE was originally conceived as a broad nationwide study on career choice (1978/79), and it was subsequently expanded due to its relevance into a longitudinal study of selection and socialisation, focusing on the reciprocal relationship between personality and vocational training (with a partial sample drawn from German-speaking Switzerland).

A further round in the survey was conducted in spring 2015, when the average age of the sample was 51 years (cf. Project B21.1).

Sample: Of the 637 participants in previous surveys who received the letter, 485 filled in the questionnaire – a response rate of 76%. 49% of these were female, making the women’s ratio more comparable with that of the original survey (in 1978).

This was a short written questionnaire about career pathways, current general circumstances and satisfaction with employment and private life.


More about the findings and further details can be found on the ZLSE Homepage (in German).

Project B.4 “Risk Factors of Young People and their Consequences on their Adult Lives” drew on the existing ZLSE data (up to the age of 35 years).



Project Management


Forschung und Entwicklung
Tel: +41 44 317 11 81

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