Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Self-Efficacy, Perceptions of Barriers, Vocational Identity, and the Career Exploration Behavior of Latino/a High School Students

Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Self-Efficacy, Perceptions of Barriers, Vocational Identity, and the Career Exploration Behavior of Latino/a High School Students

Article excerpt

This study explored the potential relationship between the social cognitive variables of career decision making self-efficacy and perceptions of barriers and the outcome variables of vocational identity and career exploration behaviors in a sample of 128 urban Latino/a high school students. The results indicated that higher levels of career decision making self-efficacy were related to both a more differentiated vocational identity and a greater engagement with career exploration tasks. Perception of fewer barriers was also found to be related to a more integrated vocational identity. Implications for career counseling and future research are discussed.

The term Latinos/as is a socioracial categorization, representing an aggregation of a number of distinct national subgroups (e.g., Puerto Rican, Mexican, Dominican, Cuban), based on supposed differences in cultural practices (e.g., language, religion) as compared with the Anglo-Saxon Protestant norm in the United States (Chapa & Valencia, 1993; ComazDiaz, 2001; Eamon & Mulder, 2005; Helms & Cooke, 1999). In 2002, 38.2 million Latinos/as resided in the United States, constituting 12% of the total U.S. population (Ramirez & de la Cruz, 2003). Although Latinos/as represent the fastest growing sector of the U.S. labor market, their levels of educational and occupational attainment remain significantly below that of non-Hispanic Whites (Ramirez & de la Cruz, 2003; Tsai, Pole, Levenson, & Munoz, 2003). Given the youthfulness of the Latino/a community as compared with other demographic groups (Eamon & Mulder, 2005; Hobbs & Stoops, 2002; Zayas, Lester, Cabassa, & Fortuna, 2005), Latinos/as constitute not only a growing proportion of the U.S. population but also a segment of the population likely to be making career-related decisions in the coming years.

Despite the occupational and educational discrepancies just noted, relatively little is known about the factors affecting the career development of Latino/a adolescents (Arbona, 1995; Fouad, 1995). Some authors have found support for the potential usefulness of the Social Cognitive Career Theory (SCCT) model of career development with Latino/a adolescents (e.g., Flores & O'Brien, 2002; McWhirter, 1997; McWhirter, Hackett, & Bandalos, 1998). The SCCT model highlights the role of cognitive factors such as self-efficacy beliefs and perceptions of barriers in career development (Lent, Brown, & Hackett, 1994, 2002). According to Lent et al. (1994, 2002), interests are not simply expressions of personality. Rather, people's perceptions and appraisals of themselves and their environments play an important role. From this perspective, vocational inclinations can only become career interests to the extent that people believe they can perform the tasks required in a given occupation (i.e., self-efficacy) and do not perceive any overwhelming obstacles (i.e., barriers) to their success. The present study explored the relationship among perceptions of barriers, career decision-making self-efficacy, vocational identity, and engagement in career-related activities in a sample of Latino/a adolescents.

Decision-making self-efficacy has been identified as an important variable in the career development of high school students. Career decision-making self-efficacy refers to the degree to which individuals feel confident in their ability to successfully engage in tasks associated with making a career choice and with commitment to a career (Taylor & Betz, 1983). It has also been observed that career-related self-efficacy in general may prove to be an important element in formulating a model of career development for Latinos/as (Arbona, 1995; Fouad, 1995). Research has shown support for the relationship between career self-efficacy and career interests, as well as careers considered among young adult Latino/a students studying for high school equivalency degrees (Bores-Rangel, Church, Szendre, & Reeves, 1990; Church, Teresa, Rosebrook, & Szendre, 1992). …

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