Stability of Vocational Interests among High School Students

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ABSTRACT

The purpose of this study was to examine the stability of adolescents' career interests using the Strong-Campbell Interest Inventory (SCII). Students at a Midwestern high school were administered the SCII twice over a three-year period, and comparisons were made on Occupational Themes and Basic Interests. Significant differences in mean scores were found by gender and parental occupation, and these differences were relatively stable. The findings are discussed in relation to previous research and Holland's theory, and the implications are addressed.

Holland (19 73/1985) theorized that career choices are largely a function of personal factors (e.g., personality traits, self-knowledge, occupational knowledge) and environmental factors (e.g., family, school). In making career choices, individuals seek the type of environment that matches, or is congruent with, their personality type. Holland's construct of consistency, or stability, in the expression of vocational themes and basic interests was the primary focus of the present study.

The Strong-Campbell Interest Inventory (SCII; Hansen & Campbell, 1985) has long been used to identify career interests. Lunneborg (1977) provided evidence (concurrent and predictive validity) of the SCII's ability to ascertain present and future occupational membership. Naylor, Care, and Mount (1986) reported good concurrent validity between Holland's career typology and the SCII's occupational themes.

The stability of career interests continues to receive the attention of researchers and practitioners (Campbell, 1966; Hansen, 1984; Hansen & Stocco, 1980; Lunneborg, 1977; Prawat, Jones, & Hampton, 1979; Swanson & Hansen, 1988), particularly in regard to high school students, who have a variety of options. Hansen and Stocco (1980) found the 5011 to be a useful measure of stability when testing adolescents and young adults at two time periods, three years apart. For their high school sample, coefficients ranged from - .21 to .92 for the Basic Interest scales and - .31 to .96 for Occupational Themes. The young adult sample yielded coefficients of - .28 to .96 for Basic Interests and .17 to .97 for Occupational Themes. Similarly, Swanson and Hansen (1988) found that college students were highly stable in their career interests over twelve years, and that these interests were significantly related to self-ratings of stability.

There remains a need to substantiate these earlier findings and to further validate Holland's theory and measurement of career interests. Aside from predicting future choices, understanding more about the career preferences of younger adolescents can assist educators and counselors in designing programs and instructional strategies that better meet the needs of this age group. For example, knowing developmental patterns of career preferences can help professionals expose male and female adolescents to a broader range of options. This continues to be an important issue because of inconsistent findings with regard to the stability of sex differences in vocational interests. Diamond (1975) has argued that because people increasingly see traditional sex roles as arbitrary, sex differences in career interests may be diminishing. In contrast, Hansen (1984) has concluded that, despite heightened consciousness, sex differences in vocational interests have remained stable.

In addition to the relevance of gender in emerging career preferences, Holland (1962) suggested that families, particularly their work patterns and social position, have a profound impact on their children's career interests. Holland reported that father's occupation was significantly related to son's career interests. Subsequent research has also found relationships between career interests and social class (Mortimer, 1976) and social influences (Bracher, 1982).

The magnitude and stability of individual and sociocultural influences on adolescents' career interests require further investigation. …