ERIC Identifier: ED389878
Publication Date: 1995-00-00
Author: Lankard, Bettina A.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Adult Career and Vocational Education Columbus OH.
Family Role in Career Development. ERIC Digest No. 164.
Family influence is an important force in preparing youth for their roles as
workers. Young people form many of their attitudes about work and careers as a
result of interactions with the family. Family background provides the basis
from which their career planning and decision making evolve. However, within
each family, the level of involvement can vary, offering both positive and
negative influences. This Digest examines the research on family influences on
career development and describes implications for practice.
THE INFLUENCE OF FAMILY BACKGROUND
factors found to be associated with career development include parents'
socioeconomic status (SES), their educational level, and biogenetic factors such
as physical size, gender, ability, and temperament" (Penick and Jepsen 1992, p.
208). In a study of the influences on adolescents' vocational development
reported by Mortimer et al. (1992), the variable that had the most effect on
educational plans and occupational aspirations was parental education.
Mortimer et al. also report that parents with postsecondary education tend to
pass along its importance to their children--a finding supported by other
studies. Montgomery (1992) notes that females talented in math viewed their
career choices as reflective of interests that stemmed from early family
influence and educational opportunities. Marso and Pigge (1994) found that the
presence of teachers in the family was a significant factor influencing teacher
candidates' decisions to teach. DeRidder (1990), however, points out that lower
levels of parent education can retard adolescents' career development. "Being
born to parents with limited education and income reduces the likelihood of
going to college or achieving a professional occupational goal and essentially
predetermines the child's likely vocational choice" (p. 4).
Family income is another aspect of family background that influences the
career development of youth, especially for girls (Mortimer et al. 1992). One
reason for this may be that families with limited economic resources tend to
direct them first to the males of the family, giving less hope and encouragement
for further education to the daughters in the family. Also, some
parents--especially working class or lower-income parents--may hold values that
place girls in the homemaker role and reflect less emphasis on occupational
preparation (ibid.). Given this disposition, it is understandable that the
self-efficacy of girls with respect to career opportunities is linked to the
economic support they can expect to receive from their parents.
THE INFLUENCE OF FAMILY PROCESSES
Although much of the
research on the role of family in vocational and career development has focused
on family background, the investigation of family processes viewed in relation
to life roles offers additional insight into the influences of the family.
Family processes of interaction, communication, and behavior influence what the
child learns about work and work experiences. Attitudes about school and work,
educational and career goals and aspirations, and values have a long-term impact
on a youth's career choices, decisions, and plans. "Parents as daily models
provide cultural standards, attitudes, and expectations and, in many ways,
determine the eventual adequacy of self-acceptance and confidence, of social
skills and of sex roles. The attitudes and behaviors of parents while working or
discussing their work is what the children respond to and learn" (DeRidder 1990,
Through the process of educating their children about life roles, parents can
influence the employability skills and values that children subsequently adopt.
Grinstad and Way (1993) report one mother's message to her daughter on the theme
of becoming self-sufficient:
You have to have a way to take care of your family.
And she (her mother) says you cannot depend on a man.
And she said you have to think about number one and
that's you. And she said how are you going to make a
living, how are you going to support your children, if
you don't have some kind of training. (p. 50)
The interaction of many individual variables in family process is a
significant factor to consider in studying family influence on career
development. Middleton and Loughead (1993) suggest that adolescents' career
aspirations be examined from an interactionist perspective rather than a
unilateral process of influence, "focusing on the context and situations in
which adolescents' career development occurs" (p. 163).
ETHNIC MINORITY PARENTS AND CAREER DEVELOPMENT
certain minority groups have a great influence on the educational and
occupational decisions of both boys and girls in the family. Two very different
examples are Mexican American and Korean parents. Clayton et al. (1993) found
that "Mexican American parents want more education for their children than their
children want for themselves" (p. 4). This is especially significant from a
population that typically is undereducated and has high unemployment and dropout
rates and low occupational status (ibid.).
Although the aspirations Mexican American parents hold for their children may
be high, continuing education is often unavailable due to lack of funds. In
fact, "50 percent of the 8th and 12th graders and 55 percent of the community
college students" in Clayton et al.'s (1992) study cited lack of funds as a
primary factor in their plans for continuing education (p. 36). Mexican American
parents should be made aware of the availability of financial aid that could
support their children's continuing education.
Whereas Mexican American parents are focused on the role of continuing
education in the career development process, Korean parents focus on career
selection. "The strong desire of Korean immigrants for their children to be
professionals and earn money and prestige is conveyed either in a rather
demanding form or in a more subtle form that is just as clear" (Kim 1993, p.
237). The pressure to choose certain careers is often initiated when the child
is quite young. Stories by college students of Korean descent, reported by Kim,
confirm that their career choices both "explicitly and implicitly reflect the
cultural model of success their parents share" (p. 239).
One student described how, when he was still young, his father announced at a
potluck dinner that "Tim will be a lawyer and Don will be a doctor." Another
student described how her father introduced each member of their family to his
guests by stating what career each would pursue before any of them had made a
career choice: "Ron, the future doctor; Ben, who will be an engineer before you
know it, and Carrie, who is going into business" (p. 239). "As he announces the
children's career plans proudly in public and as the guests at the party
recognize and envy his success, the Korean immigrants' cultural model of success
is also recognized, reinforced, and transmitted" (ibid.). As happens in other
cultures, Korean parents distinguish between boys and girls in the careers they
assign to their children. "Girls can choose careers that are considered less
stressful and less demanding and that have more flexible schedules so that they
can combine families with careers" (p. 241).
NEGATIVE EFFECTS OF PARENTAL INFLUENCE
Loughead (1993) present three categories to describe types of parental
involvement in adolescents' career development: (1) positive involvement, (2)
noninvolvement, and (3) negative involvement. The greatest anxiety adolescents
feel about their career decisions or exploration, quite understandably, is in
response to parents' negative involvement.
Parents in the "negative involvement" category are often controlling and
domineering in their interactions with their children. The children of such
parents often pursue the careers selected by their parents rather than those
they desire so as not to disappoint their parents or go against their wishes.
Likewise, they feel a strong sense of frustration and guilt when they do not
meet their parents' expectations.
The burden of following a parent's narrowly defined expectations of success
has resulted in "mental health problems, estranged parent-child relationships,
or in socially delinquent behaviors" (ibid., p. 243). Penick and Jepsen (1992)
note that "adolescents from enmeshed families may have difficulty mastering
career development tasks because they are unable to distinguish their own from
parental goals and expectations" (p. 220). Disengagement of family and
adolescents has similarly negative effects. "Adolescents from disengaged
families may lack familial support and interaction, resulting in limits on
self-knowledge and task orientation that interferes with mastery of career
development tasks" (ibid.).
IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE
Structuring or guiding parental
involvement in adolescent career development is increasingly seen as an
important element of a school's career counseling. "Previous research has
suggested that educational institutions are not the only source of learning
related to occupational choice and enactments in this society. It has been found
that the family plays an important role in the transmission of values such as
independence, ambition, career orientation and actual career choice" (Grinstad
and Way 1993, p. 67).
DeRidder (1990) suggests that counselors work directly with parents,
collaborating with them and helping them to improve their effectiveness in
guiding their children. He encourages parents not only to communicate about work
and careers with their children, but to show faith in their children's abilities
to be successful, providing them with encouragement and information. "They
should help their children learn that basic work attitudes of promptness,
respect, responsibility, and interest in schoolwork are expected both at home
and at school" (ibid., p. 4).
Career development professionals can help parents by providing them with
information and support. Middleton and Loughead (1993) recommend that counselors
meet with parents "individually or collectively to disseminate information on
how to facilitate their adolescents' career development and familiarize them
with career resource materials" (p. 166).
Within the school setting, Grinstad and Way (1993) suggest that "vocational
education at all levels should be placed within a contextual framework where the
work of the world and the work of the family are integrated and explored
simultaneously" (p. 67). By increasing communication between home and school
regarding career development, it is possible that the positive aspects of family
influence can be enhanced and the negative aspects can be offset, improving the
career development outcomes of the workers of the future.
Clayton, K. et al. THE ROLE OF FAMILY IN THE
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Clayton, K. et al. FAMILY INFLUENCES OVER THE OCCUPATIONAL AND EDUCATIONAL
CHOICES OF MEXICAN AMERICAN STUDENTS. Berkeley, CA: National Center for Research
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DeRidder, L. THE IMPACT OF PARENTS AND PARENTING ON CAREER DEVELOPMENT.
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Grinstad, J. A., and Way, W. L. "The Role of Family in the Vocational
Development of Family and Consumer Education Teachers: Implications for
Vocational Education," JOURNAL OF VOCATIONAL EDUCATION RESEARCH 18, no. 4
Kim, E. Y. "Career Choice among Korean-American Students." ANTHROPOLOGY &
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Marso, R., and Pigge, F. "Personal and Family Characteristics Associated with
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Conference of the Midwestern Educational Research Association, Chicago, IL,
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OF CAREER DEVELOPMENT 19, no. 3 (Spring 1993): 161-173.
Montgomery, J. "Factors that Influence the Career Aspirations of
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Giftedness: Growing Up Gifted and Talented, Taipei, Taiwan, July 1992. (ED 352
Mortimer, J. et al. INFLUENCES ON ADOLESCENTS' VOCATIONAL DEVELOPMENT.
Berkeley, CA: National Center for Research in Vocational Education, 1992. (ED
Penick, N., and Jepsen, D. "Family Functioning and Adolescent Career
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