Career-Related Filial Piety and Career Adaptability in Hong Kong University Students.

Author:Hui, Tracy

According to career construction theory, cultural beliefs represent a social construct that may shape an individual's career path. In Chinese society, the Confucian concept of filial piety is one such influential belief. More specifically, reciprocal filial piety involves mutually supportive processes between parents and their offspring, whereas authoritarian filial piety is characterized by the suppression of the offspring's own wishes to comply with those of their parents. The authors examined the extent to which Hong Kong undergraduate students (N = 522) possess dual career-related filial piety and how it relates to their career adaptability during the school-to-work transition. Results indicated that career-related reciprocal filial piety was regarded as important and was associated with all career adaptability dimensions, whereas career-related authoritarian filial piety was not. The possible complex effect of dual career-related filial piety on career adaptability deserves attention from career counselors and researchers.

Keyword: career adaptability, career-related filial piety, reciprocal filial piety, authoritarian filial piety, career development in China


Globalization and rapid advances in technology in the 21st century have brought with them many changes in the types of employment available and even the permanence of such work. Whereas the career paths of most workers in the past remained stable throughout their working lives, the career paths of present-day workers are likely to be full of transitions as demands for products and services change and the very nature of jobs alter. Consequently, today's workers must be adaptable and flexible and must be ready to manage their own careers in a rapidly changing employment environment (Savickas, 2011). Career construction theory (CCT; Savickas, 1995) addresses the importance of career adaptability, or the readiness of individuals to cope with predictable and unpredictable transitions, adjustments, or changing conditions at work (Savickas, 2011; Savickas et al., 2009). For research and training purposes in career education, it will be increasingly useful to assess the extent to which those entering (or who will soon enter) the workforce display the necessary attributes (self-regulatory strengths) for adapting to career changes. In this study, we examined the relationship between career adaptability and career-related filial piety in a sample of Hong Kong undergraduate students. We chose to examine filial piety because of its importance to career development in China (Fouad et al., 2008).

Career Adaptability

Through the efforts of vocational psychologists from 18 countries, the Career Adapt-Abilities Scale (CAAS; Savickas & Porfeii, 2012) was developed to measure four aspects of career adaptability: concern, control, curiosity, and confidence. Concern pertains to an individual's awareness of the need to prepare for a career in a careful and optimistic manner to develop a career vision. Control refers to an individual's sense of ownership and responsibility to construct, develop, and exert influence on his or her own career. Curiosity involves an individual's exploration and synthesis of work-related information and self-knowledge. Finally, confidence refers to an individual's efficacy in coping with vocational tasks and occupational transitions (Porfeii & Savickas, 2012; Savickas, 1995, 1997). These four self-regulatory strengths are indispensable attributes for workers and for graduates to ensure their employability and their future capacity to master career transitions in the contemporary world of work.

According to CCT, a chosen career path is usually the product of an interaction between environmental factors and the self. Savickas (2011) believed that the self and the social environment are intertwining influences that help create the career story of an individual. This social environment includes an individual's family, neighborhood, and school, as well as cultural mores and racial and religious groups. In Chinese families, filial piety is a salient influence on a person's career development. Consequently, filial piety may be a factor influencing Hong Kong undergraduate students' development of career adaptability.

Filial Piety

The concept of filial piety (xiao) is deeply embedded in Chinese culture, and it has guided intergenerational relationships in Chinese families for many centuries (Ho, 1996; Kwan, 2000). Bai shan xiao wei xian is a popular Chinese proverb, meaning that xiao is the most prominent virtue out of a hundred good characteristics a person may possess. Chinese children learn respect for their parents through their parents' child-rearing practices at home; moral lessons at school (Wu, 1996); and traditional tales, stories, or classic maxims (Sue, 1997; Whyte, 2004).

Yang (1997) defined filial piety as a "specific, complex syndrome or set of cognition, affects, intentions and behaviors concerning being good or nice to one's parents" (p. 252). Filial piety concerns how children should treat, love, respect, and care for their parents. It also underpins the principle that children should bring honor to their families and should protect the reputation of the family and clan (Ho, 1994, 1996; Yang, 1997).

In Chinese culture, the hierarchical parent-child relationship continues across the entire life span of the offspring and tends to exert an influence across many situations, such as academic choices, study motivation, career decisions, courtship, and psychosocial adjustment (Hui, Sun, Chow, & Chu, 2011; Kwan, 2000; Leung, Wong, Wong, & McBrideChang, 2010). Nevertheless, the processes of globalization, modernity, and Western ideology are external forces that may potentially change filial concepts (Yeh, Yi, Tsao, & Wan, 2013; Yi, 2013).

Researchers (Yeh & Bedford, 2003) have argued that two operational forms of filial piety exist in contemporary China--reciprocal and authoritarian. According to the dual filial piety model (Yeh & Bedford, 2003), reciprocal filial piety (RFP) involves emotionally and spiritually attending to one's parents out of gratitude and taking physical and financial care of one's parents as they age. This form of piety is usually regarded as adaptive because it still provides opportunities for offspring to make their own choices and become independent and self-determining. On the other hand, authoritarian filial piety (AFP)

entails suppressing one's own wishes and complying with one's parents' wishes because of their seniority in physical, financial or social terms, as well as continuing the family lineage and maintaining one's parents' reputation because of the force of role requirements. (Yeh & Bedford, 2003, p. 216)

This form of absolute obedience to authority (i.e., submissive filial piety) is usually regarded as maladaptive because it may cause offspring to suppress their own ambitions and independence (Yeh et al., 2013). The overt characteristics of these two dimensions of filial piety are different, but the two may coexist and are interdependent and significantly positively correlated (Jin, 2009; Leung et al., 2010; Yeh & Bedford, 2003). In a study by Yeh et al. (2013), Hong Kong participants reported higher levels of RFP but lower AFP compared with mainland Chinese participants.

Role of Filial Piety in Career Development

It is likely that some aspects of filial piety will exert an influence on how a young Chinese person makes decisions about work and a career path. Carter and Cook (1992) pointed out that work, culture, and family are closely interconnected, and this is certainly true in China. A few empirical studies have shown that filial piety affects career-related variables (e.g., Hou, 2002; Hou, Leung, Li, Li, & Xu, 2012; Jin, 2009; Tang, 2002). For example, Hou (2002) found that Chinese secondary school students with high levels of parental attachment had higher vocational identity and lower career indecision. A comparative study by Tang (2002) revealed that Chinese students were more likely than European American students to make career choices favored by their parents, even though the choices were sometimes inconsistent with their own aspirations.

Jin (2009) extended the dual filial piety model to take into account career aspects and developed the Career-Related Filial Piety Scale (C-FPS). This scale includes reciprocal and authoritarian dimensions. Using the scale, Jin found that individuals with high levels of career-related reciprocal filial piety (C-RFP) tend to talk more with their parents about their career intentions but will still choose their own path if it enables them to repay their parents' love...

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