Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

From Childhood to Adulthood: A 15-Year Longitudinal Career Development Study

Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

From Childhood to Adulthood: A 15-Year Longitudinal Career Development Study

Article excerpt

In 1987, 208 second graders were interviewed about their occupational aspirations and expectations, school likes and dislikes, educational plans, and other variables. They were reinterviewed every 2 years through senior year in high school. A 5-year post-high school follow-up was conducted, and 35 young adults (23 years old) from the original sample completed a detailed questionnaire. Young adults reported significantly less career direction and preparation in high school than they did as seniors in high school. Comparisons between 3 generations within the same families were conducted on educational and occupational achievement. The importance of teachers and parents in children's career development is discussed.

The process of career development has been discussed and researched for decades, with early formal attempts documented by Ginzberg, Ginsburg, Axelrad, and Herma (1951); Super (1957, 1980); and others. Historically, Super (1957, 1980) provided the most thorough and cutting-edge concepts at the time, with his conceptualization that career development was a process and not a discrete point in time. Super's (Super & Overstreet, 1960) Career Pattern Study, a longitudinal examination that began with ninth-grade boys, was an attempt to validate vocational development tasks that formed the basis of vocational maturity. Although Super (Super & Overstreet, 1960) found that many ninth-grade boys were not vocationally mature, there seemed to be a relationship between level of maturity and success in young adulthood (Zunker, 2002). In analyzing the data gathered over the years with this small sample of men, Savickas (2003) identified the strong role that personality exerts on choice of occupation by turning each individual's struggles and preoccupations into his or her occupation.

Over the years, other attempts to explain career development as a process appeared. For example, Vondracek and Schulenberg (1986) described a developmental-contextual approach for understanding career development. They argued for a dynamic interaction between pertinent individual characteristics, such as cognitive attributes and behavioral style, with contextual factors that contributed to an individual's career development. Vondracek and Schulenberg (1986) encouraged career counselors to address the whole person while being sensitive to "normative, age-graded influences ... ; normative, history-graded influences . . . ; and nonnormative, life-event influences" (pp. 250-251). Their emphasis on the whole person and nonnormative influences is reflected today by constructivism, one current approach in career counseling that focuses on personal stories and the historical events and experiences in the individual's life (Savickas, 2002).

Gottfredson's (1981, 1996) stage development theory focuses on a few critical individual concepts and perceptions and attempts to explain how and why individuals make the career choices they do. By 6 to 8 years of age (Stage 2), children become sensitive to the roles individuals have in the home and society. Men and women take on different roles, and children can see this sex role differentiation extended to the world of work. Consequendy, boys and girls in this age range are likely to pick occupations for themselves that match their sex. Older children, from 9 to 13 years of age (Stage 3), tune in to social valuation in their lives as reflected in the home, in school, with friends, and in the community. Furthermore, children at Stage 3 become aware that occupations carry a different social status and value, and depending on other individual and cultural factors, they are apt to select higher rather lower social value occupations when asked to do so. Individuals 14 years and older (Stage 4) are more apt to know and appreciate their own internal aptitudes, traits, and characteristics and thus choose occupations relevant to these attributes. In occupational selection, they are less swayed by the sex or social status of the job. …

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