Longitudinal Relationships between Part-Time Work and Career Development in Adolescents

Article excerpt

In discussions about the effects of part-time work on adolescents, career development processes have received little attention. This study examined relationships between part-time work and two components of career development (work values and career indecision) in 483 high school students. Comparisons of longitudinal and cross-sectional data revealed that peripheral work aspects were less valued as a consequence of being involved in part-time work; thus, the relative value placed on central work aspects increased. However, parttime work did not affect career indecision. The decision of whether to work seemed unrelated to the preexisting career development status, except for the value placed on physical activity in boys.

As adolescents prepare themselves for adult life, issues related to career development assume increasing importance. A likely contributor to how adolescents approach work and career may be their early, usually part-time, work experience. Indeed, there has been a steady increase in the number of working high school students in the United States and a marked lessening of gender-related differences in the rate of early employment, making part-time work the norm in middle adolescence (Hurrelman, 1989; Mortimer, Finch, Owens, & Shannahan, 1990; Mortimer, Shannahan, & Ryu, 1994). High school students' work experience has become a normative part of socialization into the workforce and is often one of the most important elements of the transition to adulthood (Skorikov & Vondracek, 1993; Stern & Eichorn, 1989). The positive role of early work experience has been emphasized by developmental theories of careers, which suggest that taking actual work roles facilitates exploratory activity and helps youngsters to advance their self-concept and career concepts (e.g., Ginzberg, 1984; Super, 1980; Super & Overstreet, 1960; Vondracek, Lerner, & Schulenberg, 1986). This line of reasoning, however, has not been empirically supported in studies of how adolescent work affects vocational development. In fact, vocational development among adolescents may be unaffected by their part-time work experience because the majority of their jobs are low-level, unchallenging, entry-level sales, service, or manual labor positions that pay only 40% of an average "adult" job (Stern & Nakata, 1989). As a result, adolescents may disconnect these experiences from their own career development. Although better jobs do make a difference (Stern, Stone, Hopkins, & McMillon, 1990), the job market for high school students is likely to remain dominated by unskilled, low level, low-paying jobs. Because the prevailing motive of most high school students entering the workforce is to earn spending money, most adolescent part-time work is unrelated to career exploration (Kablaoui & Pautler, 1991), and thus can be expected to have only indirect effects on career development and choice.

To date, research on working high school students has been focused primarily on educational outcomes, personality development, and problem behavior (Bachman & Schulenberg, 1993; Barling, Rogers, & Kelloway,1995; Finch, Shannahan, Mortimer, & Ryu,1991; Green, 1990; Kablaoui & Pautler, 1991; Mortimer, Finch, Shannahan, & Ryu, 1992; Mortimer et al., 1994; Mortimer & Lorence, 1991; Steitz & Owen, 1992; Steinberg, Fegley, & Dornbusch, 1993; Steinberg, Greenberger, Garduque, Ruggiero, & Vaux, 1982; Stevens, Puchtel, Ryu, & Mortimer, 1992; Tymms & Fitz-Gibbon, 1992). Many of these studies have examined the effects of workload on various normative tasks of adolescence, but little work has been done to examine specifically how part-time work influences career development variables, such as choice attitudes, work values, or career decision making. When adolescent work has been examined in relation to career development, work was treated both as a part and an indicator of vocational maturation (e. …