Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Adolescent Occupational Aspirations: Test of Gottfredson's Theory of Circumscription and Compromise

Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Adolescent Occupational Aspirations: Test of Gottfredson's Theory of Circumscription and Compromise

Article excerpt

The authors investigated the relationship between adolescent occupational aspirations and midlife career success. The model for adolescent occupational aspirations was derived from Gottfredson's (1981) theory of circumscription and compromise. The authors hypothesized that parental socioeconomic status (SES), ability, and gender predict adolescent occupational aspirations and influence career achievement in later life. Gottfredson's model was a good fit for the data. SES and ability influenced the formation of occupational aspirations, and ability and gender predicted career achievement in later life. Additionally, occupational aspirations predicted career achievement in later life. Adolescent girls achieved less career success in midlife than did adolescent boys.

The field of mental health has long recognized the importance of occupational success in life satisfaction. Niles and Harris- Bowlsbey (2005) discussed how people in the United States define who they are based on their careers. A successful career can be a source of self-esteem, fulfillment, and meaning in life. Career achievement often serves as a societal measure of an individual's quality of life and position in society (Super, 1976). Recent research (Caspi, Wright, Moffitt, & Silva, 1998; Dubow, Huesmann, Boxer, Pulkkinen, & Kokko, 2006; Judge & Hurst, 2007; Pulkkinen, Ohranen, & Tolvanen, 1999; Wiesner, Vondracek, Capaldi, & Porfeli, 2003) has shown that future career success can be predicted as early as adolescence. Many factors, such as socioeconomic background, ability, grades, and social behavioral style, were found to predict future career success.

The objective of this study was to investigate the relationship between adolescent occupational aspirations and career attainment in midlife. Our literature review on adolescent aspirations and career achievement showed that the two variables have many common antecedents. The relationship between common background factors (socioeconomic status [SES], ability, and gender) and adolescent occupational aspirations is explained well in Gottfredson's 198 1 ) theory of circumscription and compromise. In this article, we first describe the process of the formation of occupational aspiration, and then, we incorporate occupational aspirations into a bigger picture of the relationship between background variables and career success.

Background Variables and Occupational Aspirations: Gottfredson's Theory of Circumscription and Compromise

According to Gottfredson's (1981) theory, occupational aspirations are a reflection of one's self-concept. People seek occupations that (a) are congruent with their self-image and (b) reflect their knowledge of different occupations.

Self-concept is the total of all the beliefs people hold about themselves, including personality, interests, and perceived place in society. Gottfredson ( 1981 ) highlighted SES, ability, gender-role socialization, and individual values and interests as determinants of self-concept.

These factors influence career decision making in a stagelike manner. Gottfredson (1981) recognized four unique stages of occupational development. Each stage is associated with the elimination of a large number of "inappropriate" career alternatives (Gottfredson & Lapan, 1997).

The first stage occurs between the ages of 3 and 5 years and focuses primarily on "size" and "power." At this stage, children start to recognize occupations as adult roles. They begin to identify real-life occupations as preferred options instead of dreaming about becoming a fictional character or an animal.

In the second stage (ages 6-8 years), children are concerned with fitting into existing career-related gender stereotypes. They perceive that men and women hold different types of occupations and begin to identify themselves with either a male or a female occupational role. Children see this role distinction in a dichotomous way and resent cross-gendered occupational choices. …

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