Possible selves research has focused primarily on academic achievement and student learning, for at-risk, adolescent or college aged students. The research has not examined an occupation possible self, nor the implications of how time is considered by incarcerated populations. This study was designed to expand the Possible Selves Questionaire (PSQ) designed by Oyserman for an occupational achievement code and explore any unique codes present for incarcerated young adult males, aged 18-22. Additionally, this study was designed to compare two distinct time horizons for incarcerated young adults, a more proximal one-year event which would represent continued incarceration and a post-release distal time horizon.
A pilot study was conducted to establish the occupation and population codes, coding system, member checks and review processes that were then applied to interview 126 incarcerated young adult males between the ages of 18 and 22 in Arizona correctional facilities. The study produced not only an occupational achievement code, but also refined codes for interpersonal relationships requiring the addition of a spiritual/social code to account for church activities, religion, and spiritual groups, while narrowing the existing interpersonal relationships code to focus on family, children, a spouse or partner. Analysis demonstrated that incarcerated young adults create fewer identified strategies and have fewer aligned strategies to achieve post-release goals. Time served and expected sentences were determined to be significantly associated with the identification of goals, strategies, and development of aligned strategies. The impact of the different time horizon events of during and post incarceration were significant as well, participants identified five times as many goals one year from now in comparison to post-release, and on average 1.5 more strategies to achieve identified goals.
The study demonstrated that the participants expected sentence was a significantly associated covariate to the number of Future Possible Selves’(FPS) defined, number of strategies defined to achieve those FPS goals, and number of aligned strategies to FPS goals across time horizons of 1 year and post release. However, time served was only found to be a statistically significant covariate for both goal identification and strategy identification, not strategy alignment.