Parental support in adolescents' career development: parents' and children's perceptions.

Author:Ginevra, Maria Cristina

Using social cognitive career theory (Lent, Brown, & Hackett, 2000), this study examined the role of parents' and children's perceptions of parental support in adolescents' career choices. A total of 94 Italian adolescents (30 boys, 64 girls) and both of their parents (N= 188) participated in the study. The authors tested a folly mediated model between mothers' and fathers' perceptions of support and career choice through the indirect effect of adolescents' perceptions of parental support and career self-efficacy. Results provided support for the model. Specifically, both mothers' and fathers' perceptions of support predicted their adolescents' career choice through the mediating effect of the youths' perceptions of parental support and career self-efficacy. These results have important implications for practice and underscore that parents need to be involved very early on in their children's vocational development.

Keywords: parents' perceptions of parental support, adolescents' perception of parental support, career self-efficacy, career choice


An increasing number of vocational development researchers are high-lighting the role of social relationships, especially parent-child relationships, in young people's career development (Blustein, 2011; Kenny & Medvide, 2013). Several theoretical models and approaches, including contextual action theory (Young, Valach, & Collin, 2002), life designing (Savickas et al., 2009), the relational theory of working (Blustein, 2011), and happenstance learning theory (Krumboltz, 2009), have examined the various ways in which family context influences young people's career choices. Such theories view career development as the result of not only intrapersonal processes but also contextually constructed processes, and the family context is viewed as being highly significant for adolescents.

Our study was inspired by social cognitive career theory (SCCT; Lent, Brown, & Hackett, 2000), which focuses on the role of parental support. Specifically, we examined the role of parents' and children's perceptions of parental support in adolescents' career self-efficacy and career choices. In SCCT, the career choice process is seen as a complex interaction among a number of variables. These variables include cognitive (i.e., self-efficacy and outcome expectations), contextual (i.e., social support and career barriers), and personal (i.e., ethnic background and disability status) variables. The interaction among these variables can promote or block young people's career choices. Lent et al. (2000) maintained that social support for career plans is a contextual variable that strongly influences young people's career development processes because of its role in facilitating access to various types of school and career opportunities. Parents, as primary sources of social support, influence young people's career-related self-efficacy and outcome expectations, as well as the development of their career interests, intentions, and goals (Kenny & Medvide, 2013). SCCT, therefore, proposes that the environmental support parents provide for their children can have both direct effects on career choice and indirect effects, as mediated through self-efficacy (Lent et al., 2000). It should be considered that the degree to which parental support influences these outcomes may also be influenced by the ways in which young people interpret and respond to parental support. Thus, adolescents receiving support may have differing views on what constitutes supportive behavior by their parents (Lent et al., 2000).

Children's Perceptions of Parental Support, Career Self-Efficacy, and Career Choice

Many studies have examined the relationships between children's perceptions of the support they receive from their parents and their self-efficacy beliefs and career choices. Navarro, Flores, and Worthington (2007) examined the role of children's perceptions of family support in a group of Mexican American middle school students and found that both boys' and girls' perceptions of parental support predicted self-efficacy in science. In another study that involved African American ninth-grade students, Gushue and Whitson (2006) observed that adolescents' perceptions of parental support correlated positively with career self-efficacy. Keller and Whiston (2008) observed similar findings confirming that young adolescents' perceptions of parents' supportive and career-related actions accounted for much of the variance in their career self-efficacy. They concluded that the degree to which young people perceive their parents to believe in their career decision-making abilities has a strong impact on these abilities. Recently, Zhao, Lim, and Teo (2012) surveyed 196 college students and their fathers. The authors observed that the relationship between a father's job insecurity and his children's career self-efficacy was negatively mediated by the children's perception of a lack of engagement and was positively influenced by the perception of parental support.

Other studies have found a relationship between career choice and children's perceptions of parental support (i.e., Constantine, Wallace, & Kindaichi, 2005). Career choice is considered an outcome of career development (Guay, Senecal, Gauthier, & Fernet, 2003). It includes one's readiness to decide on a future career pathway (Carr et al., 2014), one's ability to engage in career planning and exploration, and an internal locus of control. The latter is characterized by a sense of responsibility for one's own career future and the attribution of the career decision (and future) to one's self, abilities, and personal commitment (Creed, Fallon, & Hood, 2009). These career choice components, moreover, take on particular importance in the current employment scenario, because new technologies and global economic changes have rendered employment prospects less predictable for many workers, and the idea of making a single, lifetime career choice is no longer feasible (Lent, 2012). Furthermore, the degree to which young people are able to reflect on and prepare for their vocational futures, including through taking on both the responsibilities and risks of making choices, is directly linked to their abilities to cope and remain flexible in a constantly changing employment world (Savickas & Porfeli, 2012). With respect to the role of parental support in adolescents' career choices, Meszaros, Creamer, and Lee (2009) found that high school and college students' perceptions of parental support had a direct and positive impact on their career interests and career choices, specifically with regard to their opting for majors in information technology.

Some studies have also examined the relationship that exists among career self-efficacy, career choice, and children's perceptions of parental support. For example, Guay et al. (2003) surveyed high school students and found that their perceptions of parental autonomy support was negatively associated with career indecision through the mediational role of self-efficacy beliefs and autonomy. Nota, Ferrari, Solberg, and Soresi (2007) had similar findings. They examined a sample of high school Italian students and found that the relationship between family support and boys' career choices was mediated by career search self-efficacy.

Parents' Perceptions of Support Provided for Youths' Career Development

A number of studies have also focused on parents' perceptions of support provided for children's career development. Restubog, Florentino, and Garcia (2010) conducted a study involving undergraduate students and one of their parents or guardians, and found that both the students' and parents' perceptions of parental support influenced the students' career choice via career self-efficacy. Moreover, the authors observed that the students' decisions, mediated by self-efficacy, resulted in lower school dropout rates. Recently, Nota, Ginevra, Ferrari, and Soresi (2012) surveyed the parents of elementary, middle, and high school students, and found that mothers reported providing greater support than fathers in their children's future career choice. Furthermore, they found that the parents of children attending middle school reported providing more support than the parents of elementary and high school students.

With regard to the assessment of parental support, the literature distinguishes between self-reports and objective procedures. Most of the studies in this area, which were based on self-reports gained from survey tools or interviews (Gottlieb & Bergen, 2010), allowed the researchers to assess children's or parents' perceptions of parental support. With regard to children's perceptions of parental support, one of the most recently developed instruments is the Contextual Support for Post-Secondary Planning Scales (Ali, Martens, Button, & Larma, 2011). With regard to parents' perceptions of their support, the Career-Related Parent Support Scale (Turner, Alliman-Brissett, Lapan, Udipi, & Ergun, 2003) and the My Children's Future questionnaire (Nota et al., 2012) could be listed. Objective procedures include indices of relational and instrumental support provided by...

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