Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Career Maturity in College Students with Learning Disabilities

Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Career Maturity in College Students with Learning Disabilities

Article excerpt

More than 130,000 students with learning disabilities attend college in this country and the numbers continue to increase (Matthews, Anderson, & Skolnick, 1987). Two prominent definitions of a learning disability have been proposed. Public Law 94-142 defines a specific learning disability as "a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, which may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculations" (Sattler, 1992, p. 598). The National Joint Committee for Learning Disabilities defines learning disabilities as "a heterogeneous group of disorders manifested by significant difficulties in the acquisition and use of listening, speaking, reading, writing, reasoning, or mathematical abilities" (Sattler, 1992, p. 598).

Although there has been considerable research that has addressed career maturity in the general population, little research has focused on college students with learning disabilities. Even less research has addressed differences in career maturity between college students with and without learning disabilities. This study (a) compared levels of career maturity between college students with and without learning disabilities, and (b) identified factors associated with the career development of college students with learning disabilities. Specifically, the relationships between career maturity and age, gender, academic achievement (grade point average


), educational level, prior work experiences (type and quantity), number of instructional accommodations received by a student with a learning disability, congruence between personality and expressed career choice, and socioeconomic status of college students with learning disabilities were investigated. Given the paucity of research that has investigated the career maturity of individuals with disabilities, the variables chosen for inclusion in the study were based on correlates of career maturity in the general population. A review of this research indicated that socioeconomic status (King, 1990), age (Stern, Norman, & Zevon, 1991), educational level (Neville & Super, 1988), academic achievement (West, 1988), gender (Bernardelli, DeStefano, & Dumont, 1983) and work experience (Nelsen, 1990) are all associated with career maturity in the general population. As such, they were included as variables in this study.


Career development tasks present unique difficulties for persons with learning disabilities (Alley, Deschler, Clark, Schumaker,

Warner, 1983; Rosenthal, 1985). Available research suggests that various interactions and activities that facilitate career development are complicated by several factors related to learning disabilities. For example, in early childhood, persons with learning disabilities may encounter unique difficulties in establishing routines of all kinds as well as accurately observing and effectively imitating work habits of role models (Kronick, 1981; Siegel, 1974). They may also have problems processing information correctly (Zinkus, 1979) and may find facts about the world of work to which they have been exposed in textbooks, lectures, and literature to be both confusing and overwhelming. Persons with learning disabilities have been reported to be passive learners who might not engage in exploratory activities such as part-time jobs or extracurricular activities (Alley et al., 1983). Likewise, they often exhibit low self-esteem, identity confusion, and learned helplessness (Rosenthal, 1985; Watts & Cushion, 1982). As a consequence, their ability to self-assess strengths and weaknesses is often impaired, and decision making of all types, including career decision making, becomes problematic.

A significant relationship was found between type of student (with learning disabilities or without learning disabilities) and career choice status (Biller, 1988). …

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