University of Oulu

Ellen Ek, Leena Ala-Mursula, Regina García Velázquez, Asko Tolvanen, Katariina Salmela-Aro, Employment trajectories until midlife associate with early social role investments and current work-related well-being, Advances in Life Course Research, Volume 47, 2021, 100391, ISSN 1040-2608,

Employment trajectories until midlife associate with early social role investments and current work-related well-being

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Author: Ek, Ellen1,2; Ala-Mursula, Leena2; Velázquez, Regina García3,4;
Organizations: 1Department of Psychology, University of Jyväskylä, P.O. Box 35, FI-40014, Finland
2Center for Life Course Health Research, University of Oulu, Aapistie 5 B, P.O. Box 5000, FI-90014, Finland
3Institute of Behavioural Sciences, University of Helsinki, Siltavuorenpenger 1-5, P.O. Box 9, FI-00014, University of Helsinki, Finland
4Department of Psychology and Logopedics, University of Helsinki, Haartmaninkatu 3, Helsinki, FI-00014, Finland
5Cicero Learning, University of Helsinki, P.O Box 9, FI-00014, Finland
6Educational Sciences, University of Helsinki, P.O Box 9, FI-00014, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.4 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Elsevier, 2021
Publish Date: 2021-05-07


Applying social investment theory (SIT), we examined whether employment trajectories until midlife, with differential investments in education and employment, are associated with social investments during early life and with work-related well-being in midlife, with a special reference to potential differences between self-employment and paid work. In the Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1966 (n = 6496; 2963 men, 3533 women), life-history calendars from age 16–45 were used to determine the respondents’ yearly employment statuses (student, full-time employee, part-time employee, self-employed, unemployed, on parental leave, on sabbatical leave or otherwise not working). Latent class analysis was used to identify the employment trajectories. The associations of these trajectories with indicators of social investments in early life (mother’s attitude to financial self-reliance, father’s socioeconomic status, own success at school) and work-related well-being at age 46 (job satisfaction, life satisfaction, absence of retirement thoughts, work engagement, work favoring attitude and perceived job control) were studied using regression models and analyses of variance, adjusting for life situation at age 46. We identified five employment trajectories for both genders: 1) traditional full-time, 2) highly educated, 3) self-employed, 4) delayed full-time and 5) floundering employees. In early life, a mother emphasizing self-reliance in earning one’s living was associated with both highly educated and self-employed trajectories. A white-collar father and own success at school preceded a highly educated trajectory. A farmer family background preceded self-employed trajectory. At age 46, highly educated and self-employed trajectories were associated with highest well-being at work, while those floundering perceived their work most negatively. Men in the delayed full-time employment trajectory reported better well-being at age 46 than those constantly floundering. Overall, the macroeconomic employment rates were unevenly reflected in the five trajectories. Our findings support SIT by showing that the employment trajectories most favorable for work-related well-being in midlife are long rooted in social investments during early life and characterized by further social investments in employment, such as higher education and self-employment.

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Series: Advances in life course research
ISSN: 1569-4909
ISSN-E: 1040-2608
ISSN-L: 1569-4909
Volume: 47
Article number: 100391
DOI: 10.1016/j.alcr.2020.100391
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 3141 Health care science
Funding: The project has been funded by the Academy of Finland (273361, 139168 PI Katariina Salmela-Aro) and the Signe and Ane Gyllenberg Foundation (EE), Finland. NFBC1966 46 year follow up received financial support from University of Oulu Grant no. 24000692, Oulu University Hospital Grant no. 24301140, ERDF European Regional Development Fund Grant no. 539/2010 A31592.
Copyright information: © 2021 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (