Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Middle School Children's Career Aspirations: Relationship to Adult Occupations and Gender

Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Middle School Children's Career Aspirations: Relationship to Adult Occupations and Gender

Article excerpt

The authors explored the relationship between the career aspirations of 89 preadolescents from low socioeconomic backgrounds and the actual occupations of the working adults in their homes with regard to status, job gender identification, and interest (Holland, 1997). There was a significant relationship between boys' career aspirations and the occupations of the working male adults in their homes, specifically job gender identification and interest. More adult males had stereotypically male jobs - classified as Realistic by Holland (1997) - that was mirrored in the preadolescent boys' career aspirations. There were no significant matches between the boys and working women or with the girls and the working adults of either gender.

Keywords: preadolescent occupational aspirations, career self-efficacy, gender stereotypes

In the last decade, there has been an increase in the amount of research on career development in childhood (for reviews, see Härtung, Porfeli, & Vondracek, 2005; Watson & McMahon, 2005). Whereas much of the past occupational research has been focused on adolescents and adults, more recently, researchers have established a need to understand the developmental trajectory of occupational aspirations (Porfeli, Härtung, & Vondracek, 2008) or an individual's desired or ideal occupation (Rojewski, 2007). Although it has not been firmly established that occupational aspirations have predictive validity, they are believed to be a determinant of the choice of course work and educational goals that shape the individual's pursuit of a future career (Rojewski, 2007). Researchers believed that parents have a significant influence on children's occupational aspirations (Schultheiss, 2007) and serve as influential role models for children as they consider future career directions (Watt, 2008); thus, it is essential to consider the impact of parental occupations.

One of the most prominent and well-cited theories that attempts to explain the development of children's career aspirations is that of Gottfredson (1981, 2005). Gottfredson's theory involves a process that is labeled as circumscription or "eliminating occupational alternatives that conflict with self-concept" (Gottfredson, 2005, p. 77). According to Gottfredson (2005), middle school children are in an "orientation to social valuation" (p. 79) stage during which they understand their socioeconomic status and it becomes a part of their reference group. Gottfredson concluded that children from low socioeconomic status groups do not aspire to hold more prestigious occupations than do their parents because they fear estrangement or risk of failure, and they begin to restrict their occupational preferences and choices. In addition to social evaluation and awareness of the prestige of occupations, children in this age group also categorize and limit occupations by gender roles and sex type. Although several recent studies have found empirical support for Gottfredson's theory (Helwig, 2001; Tracey, 2001 ), one criticism of this theory is that it "falls short of a multifaceted view of childhood career development" (Schultheiss, 2008, p. 14). An important direction for future research is to focus on students from low socioeconomic backgrounds so that interventions can be targeted to enhance the career development of children who may be at risk for academic failure (Rojewski, 2007; Schultheiss, 2008; Schultheiss, Palma, & Manzi, 2005). We tested Gottfredson's theory by determining whether the aspirations of a middle school sample of préadolescents from low socioeconomic backgrounds were matched to the actual occupations of in-home working adults.

Trice and Knapp (1992) also sought to examine the relationship between adolescents' occupational choices and those of their parents. They developed a three-tiered coding system for job status based upon the work of Gottfredson (1981) and coded interest according to a classification developed by Holland (1985). …

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