Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Career Decidedness Types: A Literature Review

Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Career Decidedness Types: A Literature Review

Article excerpt

Twenty years of research on multiple subtypes of career undecided and decided students was examined to determine if any similarities exist across the types identified in these studies. Some common characteristics of students at various levels of decidedness seemed evident in the 15 studies reviewed. This article organizes the results of these studies based on level of decision status and the descriptions of characteristics or traits ascribed to the students in various types. Counseling implications are offered for each type.

The extensive research on undecided students has taken many approaches over the last 70 years. Some studies have attempted to determine the differences between decided and undecided students, with the majority reporting few significant differences. Other studies have concentrated on a wide variety of variables in an attempt to isolate the causes of indecision among students who have not made a commitment to an educational or occupational direction (Crites, 1981; Slaney, 1988). An important shift in emphasis has taken place in the last 20 years (Gordon, 1995). Savickas (1995) described this evolution in the study of indecision as "first moving from dichotomy to unidimensional continuum and then to a multidimensional concept" (p. 364). Instead of attempting to isolate the variables causing indecision, multiple sets of variables have been used to identify heterogeneous subtypes of undecided students.

This article examines some of these studies to determine if there are any patterns or similarities among the subtypes identified. Obviously, the type of participants (i.e., college students, high school students, employed adults) can influence the subtypes identified. Extremely important in identifying subtypes are the variables used to define them. Although most studies used some form of career decision status, the type of personality variables used were varied, with the most frequent being state-trait anxiety, locus of control, self-esteem, vocational identity, and maturity. The instruments used to measure these variables also influenced the results.

A variety of theoretical frameworks are evident in this research. Chartrand et al. ( 1994) suggested that scholars must integrate career indecision with broad theoretical frameworks if research on subtypes is to be productive. Many of the studies reflected either directly or indirectly the tenets of adolescent and adult developmental theory, including psychosocial and career development and decision making theory. For example, Savickas and Jarjoura ( 1991) based three of their subtypes on the developmental tasks that college students use during what Super ( 1980) termed the "exploration stage." They reported three distinctive groups who were either "implementing," "specifying," or "crystallizing" a vocational choice. Lucas and Epperson (1988) used Chickering's (Chickering & Reisser, 1993) developmental vectors to characterize their subtypes. Cohen, Chartrand, and Jowdy ( 1995) reported four career decision subtypes related to Erikson's ego identity development stages. Although the differences in the earlier stages of trust, autonomy, and initiative were moderate, the largest differentiation between career decision groups appeared in the stages of industry and ego identity. The very terms "decided,""undecided," "undecided," and "indecision," imply the involvement of decision making in identifying subtypes. Other aspects of decision making such as goal setting or decision-making style were used as variables in some studies (Chartrand et al., 1994; Larson, Heppner, Ham, & Dugan, 1988; Lucas & Epperson, 1990). It seems from these broad theoretical frameworks that no one theory sufficiently explains the subtype phenomenon.

Although the idea of multiple subtypes had been mentioned in the literature previously, two studies in the 1970s set the stage for pursuing this course of inquiry. Holland and Holland (1977) reported three types of undecided students. …

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