Individualism-Collectivism and the Vocational Behavior of Majority Culture College Students

By Hartung, Paul J.; Speight, Joan D. et al. | Career Development Quarterly, September 1996 | Go to article overview

Individualism-Collectivism and the Vocational Behavior of Majority Culture College Students


Hartung, Paul J., Speight, Joan D., Lewis, Daniel M., Career Development Quarterly


This study examined whether variation on the cultural constructs of individualism-collectivism in a sample of predominantly majority culture (i.e., Anglo American) college students accounts for significant amounts of variance in their occupational choices, career plans, and work values. Participants (135 women, 55 men) responded to the "I am" sentence completion method (Kuhn & McPartland, 1954), the Occupational Plans Questionnaire (Hershenson, 1967), and the Work Values Inventory (Super, 1970). Overall, results indicated no significant relationships between level of collectivism and the career-related variables.

Career counselors and vocational psychologists (e.g., Fouad, 1993; Leong, 1993; Leong & Leung, 1994; Swanson & Bowman, 1994) generally believe that cultural variables such as individualism and collectivism mediate vocational behavior. Echoing this belief, Tinsley (1994) asserted that "individuals from different [emphasis added] cultural backgrounds can be expected to differ in the expectations, aspirations, and values they bring to the career development process" (p. 115). Significant variability in worldviews and behaviors is also often said to exist within similar cultural groups as well as between different cultural groups. For example, Sue and Sue (1990) stated that "belonging to a particular group may mean sharing common values and experiences. Individuals within a group, however, also differ" (p. 48). Thus, people belonging to ostensibly similar cultural groups can also be expected to differ widely in terms of how they approach the career development process. Such within-group differences in vocational behavior may reflect variability in the predominant cultural patterns that individuals represent. Determining whether individual variability on the cultural constructs of individualism-collectivism relates significantly to within-group differences in vocational behavior formed the purpose of this study.

Although some studies support differences in the vocational behavior of people representing similar (Leong & Tata 1990) or diverse (Westbrook & Sanford, 1991) cultural groups, the literature in this area remains scant. Researchers thus continue to call for efforts to examine empirically the interface between multicultural and career psychology (Betz, 1993; Fouad, 1993; Helms, 1994). Examining the extent to which variability on the constructs of individualismcollectivism relates to the contents of Anglo American college students' occupational plans, career choices, and work values provides a response to such calls. This study examined the logical converse of Tinsley's (1994) assertion. That is, we investigated whether individualism- collectivism, as theoretical constructs from the multicultural career literature, explain something unique about the vocational behavior of Anglo American college students.

INDIVIDUALISM-COLLECTIVISM

Individualism refers to cultural patterns that promote emotional detachment and independence from others (Triandis, McCusker, & Hui, 1990). In contrast, Triandis and his colleagues (1990) noted that collectivism represents cultural patterns emphasizing social integrity and regard for in-group (e.g., familial, community, or national) norms. In the United States, cultural groups typically cited as more highly individualistic, Anglo American culture for example, foster idiocentric personality traits such as self-reliance and self-realization (Leong, 1993). Cultural groups typically cited as more highly collectivistic in orientation, for example Asian American, African American, and Hispanic American cultures, advance allocentric personality traits or themes such as interdependence, loyalty, and family integrity (Triandis et al., 1990).

Research indicates that individual attitudes, private interests, and personal goals govern the behavior of individualists (Georgas, 1989; Triandis, 1987; Triandis et al., 1990). Conversely, group norms, shared interests, and common goals regulate the behavior of collectivists (Davidson, Jaccard, Triandis, Morales, & Diaz-Guerrero, 1976; Oyserman, 1993).

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