Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Relationships among Middle-School Adolescents' Vocational Skills, Motivational Approaches, and Interests

Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Relationships among Middle-School Adolescents' Vocational Skills, Motivational Approaches, and Interests

Article excerpt

This study examined gender differences in relationships among vocational skills, motivational approaches, and same-gender and cross-gender interests for urban adolescents. Results showed gender differences in interests, with males having greater Realistic interests and females having greater Artistic and Social interests, based on Holland's (1997) theory of interest types. Structural equation modeling revealed that males tended to approach the occupational world with assertiveness, the desire to create opportunities, and the use of instrumental support. Females tended to approach the occupational world by being adaptable, capitalizing on their skills and abilities, actively preparing themselves for the future, exploring options, and using emotional support. Recommendations for career development practice are provided.

Researchers continue to identify ways in which the career development of male and female adolescents differ. In considering their options, young people tend to be attracted to careers that are perceived to be more suitable for persons of their own gender (Lapan, Adams, Turner, & Hinkelman, 2000; Turner & Lapan, 2002). These gender-based preferences continue into adulthood, when men are more likely to choose occupations that are stereotypically masculine, and women to choose occupations that are stereotypically feminine (Lease, 2003). The result is that women are highly underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and applied mathematics, and men are underrepresented in artistically expressive and social services fields, thus Hmiting the potential contributions and job satisfaction of each group. These types of gender-based choices may be particularly problematic for the upcoming generation of workers as they enter into a more globalized world of work characterized by quickly changing job demands and the need to adapt flexibly on the basis of organizational needs for effectiveness rather than on gender role expectations.

In examining the source of gender differences in career development, researchers have indicated that as early as middle school, young people circumscribe their interests to be consistent with social expectations regarding gender-based career options (Gottfredson & Lapan, 1997). For example, urban and rural middle-school adolescents' interests, efficacy, and gender suitability ratings have been shown to follow gender-traditional career choices for men and women (Ji, Lapan, & Tate, 2004; Lapan et al., 2000; Lapan & Jingeleski, 1992; Turner & Lapan, 2002, 2005). In this body of research, Holland's (1997) theory of types was used. Although there were some differences in study results, overall, these researchers found that adolescent males were more interested in Realistic (R). and Investigative (I) careers, adolescent females were more interested in Social (S), Artistic (A), and Conventional (C) careers, and approximately equal numbers of adolescent males and females were interested in Enterprising (E) careers. These differences have been shown to persist throughout high school and college, with young people continuing to express greater interests in, efficacy for, and commitment to occupations that are dominated by members of their own gender (Betz & Schifano, 2000; Brown, 1997; Chung, 2002; Lapan & Jingeleski, 1992). Thus, the findings of these studies suggest the need for further empirical investigation of the correlates of same-gender and cross-gender interests to inform practitioners about ways to promote the pursuit of personally valued rather than socially prescribed career paths. Therefore, in this current study, we examined factors associated with the career interests of urban middle-school adolescents through testing, a model that focuses on adolescents: the Integrative Contextual Model of Career Development (ICM; Lapan, 2004a).

The ICM

Regarding the ICM, Lapan (2004a) argued (and this model is still being expanded and elaborated on) that for adolescents to pursue interests congruent with their intrinsic talents, abilities, and desires, rather than interests that are overly responsive to gender- restrictive messages, they need to develop adaptive, résilient, and proactive approaches to their present situations and possible career futures (Markus & Nurius, 1986). …

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