Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Life-Role Salience and Values: A Review of Recent Research

Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Life-Role Salience and Values: A Review of Recent Research

Article excerpt

In this article, recent research using the Work Importance Study (WIS) instruments in English-speaking countries is reviewed. Research results indicate several consistent trends. First, that life-role salience and values must be viewed within specific developmental and cultural contexts. Second, in diverse settings and with different groups, there are sex differences related to the relative importance of life roles and values. Third, career counselors need consider the client's values and life-role salience to facilitate personal development. Recommendations for future research are offered.

The multinational team of researchers involved in the Work Importance Study (WIS) strove to produce a more extensive knowledge base for developmental career counseling. On the basis of the concept of role salience derived from Super's notion of the Life-Career Rainbow (Super, 1980), the WIS research team examined the degree to which people residing in 12 countries across 5 continents seek and find values in major life roles (Super, 1984). As noted by Super (1984), "an important value not sought in work might reveal its importance in being sought in homemaking, or in community service, in studying, or in leisure activities" (p. 35). Referring to the expectations of the WIS, Super (1990) noted that research findings were expected to provide the following:

A clearer picture of the meanings of work, homemaking, leisure, study, and community service; a better understanding of the impact that a change in occupations has on self-actualization; and an understanding of the degree to which, when work is not rewarding or is not available, other roles replace it as outlets for abilities, interests, and values. (p. 219)

To measure values and life-role salience, the WIS researcher used the Values Scale (Super & Nevill, 1986a) and the Salience Inventory (Super & Nevill, 1986b). As administered in each of the 12 countries, minor differences exist in the individual scale items and the number of values measured in these instruments (e.g., the Portuguese version of the Values Scale measures 18 values, the Canadian version measures 20 values, and the United States version measures 21 values). These differences represent the WIS researchers' attempts to be sensitive to national and cultural differences (Macnab, Fitzsimmons, & Casserly, 1987).

The Values Scale measures the importance both of work values (e.g., advancement and working conditions) and of more general values (e.g., personal development and lifestyle). Intrinsic values (e.g., ability utilization, physical activity, and creativity) and extrinsic values (e.g., economic rewards, economic security, and prestige) are also measured by the Values Scale. Completing the Values Scale requires respondents to indicate how important the value is to them using a Likert scale that ranges from little or no importance to very important.

The Salience Inventory measures the relative importance of five primary life roles (student, worker, citizen, homemaker, and leisurite) on three dimensions, one behavioral and two affective. The behavioral component, Participation, assesses what the respondent does or has done recently in each of the life roles. The first affective component, Commitment, requires the inventory-taker to indicate how he or she feels about each of the five life roles. The second affective component, Values Expectations, requires the respondent to indicate the degree to which there will be opportunities, now or in the future, to express important values in each of the life roles.

Overall, WIS research findings indicate similarities and differences between and within countries for scores on these two assessment instruments (Ferreira-Marques, 1983; Lokan, 1983; Sverko, 1982). The results of much of the WIS research conducted in English-speaking countries (e.g., Brintnell, Madill, Montgomerie, & Stewin, 1992; Nevill & Super, 1988) indicate that the consideration of life-role salience and values is critical for increasing an understanding of how people and their careers develop. …

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