Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

The Career Decision-Making Process of Chinese American Youth

Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

The Career Decision-Making Process of Chinese American Youth

Article excerpt

According to the U.S. Census Bureau (2000), Chinese Americans are the largest Asian ethnic group in the United States. In New York City, Chinese Americans comprise approximately 375,000, with a 53.4% growth since 1990 (Asian American Federation of New York, 2004). A large percentage of this population includes school-age children and youth who are expected to make decisions about their future career plans upon high school graduation. In spite of this expectation, a limited number of studies examine the career development of Asian youth (Leong & Tata, 1990; Ma & Yeh, 2005), especially among low-income, urban youth. Hence, this study attempted to explore the career decision-making processes of Chinese American and Chinese immigrant youth as they negotiate Chinese and American cultural values and norms.

The model minority myth creates a dangerous perception that all Asian American youth are self-sufficient, academically successful, and psychologically healthy (A. B. Kim & Yeh, 2002). Because of this misconception, it has only been in recent years that research studies have examined Asian American career development (e.g., Hardin, Leong, & Osipow, 2001; Leong, 1991; Leong & Chou, 1994; Leong & Serafica, 2001). However, Brown and Brooks (1991) indicated that Asian Americans actually form a bimodal distribution of success, with a highly educated and successful group and a poorly educated and less successful group. In addition, high socioeconomic status and occupational prestige do not necessarily imply that individuals are satisfied with their career choices, or that they do not struggle in making career decisions (Leong & Chou, 1994). Furthermore, the term Asian American implies a sense of homogeneity that does not exist in reality (Leong & Gim, 1995). Rather, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are extremely diverse, comprising about 43 different ethnic subgroups (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Surgeon General, SAMHSA, 2004); Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Asian Indian Americans are the predominant participants n previous studies on career development (E.-Y. Kim, 1993; Leong & Tata, 1990; Sue & Frank, 1973; Sue & Kirk, 1973). Because there are vast differences in cultural values across Asian ethnic groups, within-group differences among Asian Americans need to be acknowledged in understanding their career decision-making process.

It is of a particular importance to study the decision-making process of this population during their adolescent years (Brew, Hesketh, & Taylor, 2001). Specifically, when considering the development of career beliefs, adolescence is a period of intense exploration (Super, 1990). The adolescent years involve the formation of a general vocational goal through awareness of resources, contingencies, interests, values, and planning for the preferred occupation (Peterson & Gonzalez, 2000). To understand how Chinese Americans arrive at their career aspirations and interests, it is imperative to study them during this critical period of their development.

Construction of Career Interests and Aspirations

Very little is known about the process of how Asian Americans construct their career interests and aspirations. Only one study is available that used a qualitative method in gathering information about the experience of Korean American career decision making (E.-Y. Kim, 1993). More qualitative research needs to be conducted to understand the complex process of career development among Asian Americans. Despite the lack of research in this area, there are several cultural assumptions that may influence the career decision-making process of Chinese American youth.

Factors Influencing Career Decision Making

Family influence has been found to be one of the major factors influencing Asian adolescents' career decisions (E.-Y. Kim, 1993; Leong & Chou, 1994). Asian parents implicitly or explicitly convey their career expectations to their children, and familial pressure on career choices has been mentioned by various researchers (E. …

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