Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Predicting Career Indecision in College Students: The Roles of Identity Formation and Parental Relationship Factors

Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Predicting Career Indecision in College Students: The Roles of Identity Formation and Parental Relationship Factors

Article excerpt

Students' identity formation and perceptions of parental acceptance and encouragement of independence were investigated as predictors of career indecision. The Mother-Father-Peer Scale (Epstein, 1983), Extended Objective Measure of Ego Identity Status (Bennion & Adams, 1986), and Career Decision Scale (Osipow, Carney, Winer, Yanico, & Koschier, 1976) were administered to 169 undergraduate students with a mean age of 19.68. Analysis using multiple regression indicated that career indecision was predicted by a greater degree of identity moratorium and diffusion, less maternal acceptance and fewer years in college. Suggestions for future research and counseling applications are provided.

One inevitable and often difficult choice that students face during their college years is that of selecting a college major. This decision is an important one because it affects not only the course of college study but also gives direction to career selection after graduation. Choosing a major and career comes more easily for some, and vocational theorists, researchers, and counselors have explored various influences on the decision process to better understand how to identify and help those struggling to make a career decision. Among the factors contributing to career development described in the literature are those focusing on familial influences (Grotevant & Cooper, 1988; Lopez & Andrews, 1987; Schulenberg, Vondracek, & Crouter, 1984) as well as personal development, including identity formation (Blustein, Devenis, & Kidney, 1989; Holland, Gottfredson, & Power, 1980; Lucas, 1997).

Both factors are highlighted in the college student population because the college environment stimulates the process of separating from the family, both physically and emotionally. Attending college often requires that students move away from their families for the first time. Students are confronted with many challenges, both academic and personal, through their scholastic courses and relationships. Through their experiences they explore their sense of self and form opinions and ideas separate from those of their parents. This situation fosters the identity development that Erikson (1968) described as a psychosocial developmental task. During this period, adolescents investigate personal values, goals, interests, and the surrounding world to form an internal structure through which they can understand themselves as unique individuals and as part of the communities in which they live (Marcia, 1966).

Marcia (1966) developed the following categories to describe the identity status phases that an individual goes through: diffusion, foreclosure, moratorium and achievement. In identity diffusion, the person is not exploring or questioning his or her opinions and attitudes about issues such as religion, gender roles, politics, relationships, and recreational activities. In foreclosure, the individual usually makes a commitment based on another person's choices, typically adopting the views of the parents. Those in moratorium have not yet made a commitment but are actively exploring possibilities and options, and those who have achieved have been through moratorium and have formed stable commitments based on this sense of identity.

Links between identity development and career decision processes have been proposed in theoretical literature and supported with empirical study. Erikson (1968) stated that "in general, it is the inability to settle on an occupational identity which most disturbs young people" (p. 132). Identity development has been linked to career choice in that those with poorer identity formation have been found to display greater career indecision (Holland et al., 1980). Other more recent studies have also demonstrated positive associations between vocational commitment and development of ego identity (Blustein et al.,1989; Grotevant & Thorbecke,1982; Lucas,1997).

Family influence has been found to be an important component in identity development (Schultheiss & Blustein, 1994; Marcia, 1983). …

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