Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Parent/Guardian Visualization of Career and Academic Future of Seventh Graders Enrolled in Low-Achieving Schools

Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Parent/Guardian Visualization of Career and Academic Future of Seventh Graders Enrolled in Low-Achieving Schools

Article excerpt

These findings are from the first phase of a 5-year longitudinal interpretive study that seeks an understanding of how students enrolled in academically low-achieving schools located in economically disadvantaged areas socially construct their academic and career aspirations. This article describes the general perceptions that parents/guardians of 7th graders hold regarding the future of the students. The research revealed that although family support was evident, many students seemed to develop their ideas about their future in a nondirective environment in which parents/guardians frequently evoked a sense of regret about their own earlier decision making. Implications for practitioners and researchers are provided.

Two consistent features of academic enrichment programs for low-income students at risk for failing in school are (a) relating academics to possible career choices and (b) parental involvement. Although there is increasing overlap in both practice and theory, these two concepts are frequently explored in different literatures.

Brown and Associates (2002) stated that career development theories have emerged from psychology; sociology; and, most recently, social constructionism. Primarily concerned with a proper fit between the person and a particular job, psychologically based theories focus on personality characteristics (e.g., interests, values, personality, and self-concept). Although these theories include environmental variables that affect personal agency, these factors tend to be underplayed.

Career choices from a sociological perspective focus on environment. Lent, Brown, and Hackett (2000) divided environmental variables into proximal factors (e.g., an individual's informal career contacts) and distal factors, which include contextual variables that affect the learning experience. These include role models as well as the support an individual receives for engaging in particular activities.

Blustein (1997) indicated that a compelling view is emerging in which the experience of a safe and secure set of relationships within one's family is an important antecedent to career exploration. In a survey of junior high students, Otto (2000) reported that the most cogent finding was that most young people look to their mothers for help with making career plans. In a study of seventh- and eighth-grade students, Turner and Lapan (2002) reported that perceived parental support was a predictor of career self-efficacy. Their results suggest that early adolescence may be a critical time for parental involvement in the career development of their children.

Recently, career development theories have been explored from a social constructionist position (Brown & Associates, 2002). As individuals understand and participate in their environments, they define themselves and their world (Creswell, 2003). This approach to career development is evidenced in Young, Friesen, and Borycki's (1994) use of narrative to understand how young people retrospectively make sense of parental influences.

Although references to parents as important contextual influences are often made in the career development literature, in education parental involvement is a specific, albeit challenging, goal. Yet, Baker and Soden (1998) reported that there is inconsistent definition of parental involvement. Some researchers have focused on attitude (e.g., parental aspirations or expectations for the child's educational success). Others have focused on behavior, such as assistance with homework or attendance at parent-teacher conferences. In other cases, parental involvement has been conceptualized as parenting style or family interaction patterns. Such differences in definitions make it difficult to assess cumulative knowledge across studies. Because of this lack of clear definition, Baker and Soden recommended exploration through open-ended techniques to provide rich data, shed light on multifaceted interactions and relationships over time, and generate new hypotheses about parental involvement. …

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