Rural Latino youth career development: an application of social cognitive career theory.

Author:Ali, Saba Rasheed

This study used social cognitive career theory (Lent, Brown, & Hackett, 1994) to investigate the career development of 9th-Evade students living in 2 rural communities with large numbers of Latino immigrants. Participants (55.3% Latino) responded to measures of vocational skills self-efficacy, career decision outcome expectations, career aspirations, and barriers to postsecondary education. Contrary to previous findings, results indicated that Latino students in these communities reported higher self-efficacy beliefs than did White students. Latino students also reported higher perceived barriers, but this did not seem to relate to their career aspirations. Results suggest that school and career counselors should focus on programming that attends to Latino students' self-efficacy and outcome expectations, as 'vell as efficacy for overcoming barriers. Doing so could prove useful for increasing career achievement among rural Latino youth.

Within the past 20 years, an increasing number of Latino families have migrated to rural towns throughout the United States. Grey (1997) argued that because of a population decline and low unemployment rates in rural areas, immigrant labor has been a way for meatpacking and other industries to stay viable. Despite the growth of Latino immigrants in rural areas and a renewed focus on understanding the career development of immigrants, there is still relatively little research regarding the career development of Latino adolescents in general (Flores & O'Brien, 2002; Kenny, Blustein, Chaves, Grossman, & Gallagher, 2003; Spokane, Fouad, & Swanson, 2003) and especially in rural areas. Data from the National Center for Education Statistics (Provasnik et al., 2007) indicate that Hispanic/Latino students were more likely than any other racial or ethnic group to drop out of high school in rural areas during the 2003-2004 academic year (23.9% of Hispanic/Latino students dropped out compared with 10% of non-Hispanic White students). However, a mixed picture emerges when considering other factors. For example, a higher percentage of Hispanic/Latino students living in a metro area increases the likelihood of graduation, yet decreases the likelihood of graduation in rural areas (Jordan, Kostandini, & Mykerezi, 2012).. Jordan et al. (2012) argued that this may be due to the availability of immediate employment opportunities in meatpacking and other industries for high school dropouts. However, the underlying mechanisms of career or job choices for Latinos living in rural areas are poorly understood because of a lack of research. To address this gap, the current study used social cognitive career theory (SCCT; Lent, Brown, & Hackett, 1994) to examine the career development of Latino and White high school students living in rural areas.


SCCT offers a useful framework for understanding career development. SCCT posits that career development is influenced by an interaction of environmental and person variables. Environmental variables rest outside the individual and may affect confidence in one's ability to succeed at a task (i.e., self-efficacy), as well as one's beliefs about what will happen if one attempts a task (i.e., outcome expectations). Self-efficacy and outcome expectations are posited to lead to interests that manifest in goal mechanisms (direct actions) leading to an individual pursuing and succeeding at career-related tasks (performance accomplishments). Person variables reside within individuals and may affect the way they perceive and interpret environmental variables. The theory's central tenet is that environmental variables are interpreted through the lens of individual variables, which create differences in self-efficacy, outcome expectations, and career goals (Lent et al., 1994).

Meta-analyses have provided empirical support for the SCCT model (Brown et al., 2008; Robbins et al., 2004). However, there is relatively little research to explain the overall model's applicability across racial and ethnic groups (Flores 8: O'Brien, 2002; Spokane et al., 2003). Despite this fact, there is a small but important literature base that has investigated the utility of specific SCCT constructs in explaining the career development of Latino youth.


Career decision self-efficacy beliefs of Latino students are probably the most widely researched construct within SCCT. Specifically, Ojeda et al. (2012) found that acculturation, ethnic identity, and conscientiousness were predictive of career decision-making self-efficacy for a group of Latino middle school students. Similarly, Gushue (2006) found that ethnic identity had a direct and positive relationship to career decision making for a group of urban Latino high school students. Gushue, Clarke, Pantzer, and Scanlan (2006) found a significant relationship between higher levels of career decision self-efficacy beliefs and a more differentiated vocational identity and more engagement with career exploration for a group of urban Latino high school students.

Outcome Expectations

Outcome expectations have received relatively little attention within the career literature compared with self-efficacy. In general, membership in minority groups has been found to be associated with lower career outcome expectations (Catraio, 2012) and lower career goals (Teng, Morgan, & Anderson, 2001). Lent et al. (1994) have suggested that outcome expectations can play a mediating role in the formation of career interests and choice goals though self-efficacy. Gushue (2006) found support for this proposition. In addition to the direct relationship between career decision self-efficacy and ethnic identity, he Ibund that vocational outcome expectations mediated the relationship between self-efficacy and career planning for Latino high school students.

Barriers to Postsecondary Education

When considering the role of barriers in the career development of Latino youth, researchers have produced a handful of conflicting results. Several authors have noted that Latino students are significantly more likely to perceive barriers to career development (Luzzo & McWhirter, 2001; McWhirter, 1997; McWhirter, Torres, Salgado, & Valdez, 2007) and have lower self-efficacy for coping with these career barriers (Luzzo & McWhirter, 2001). Yet, career barriers have not necessarily demonstrated a strong relationship to career expectations (e.g.., McWhirter, Hackett, & Bandalos, 1998). Gushue et al. (2006) investigated the relationship between career decision self-efficacy and perception of barriers to vocational identity and career exploration behavior among a group of urban Latino students. They found that perceptions of fewer barriers were related to a more solidified vocational identity.

Although the research on Latino career development is slowly beginning to emerge, most of the research is based on samples from urban, suburban, or mixed geographical populations, and often a geographical distinction (i.e., urban, suburban, and rural) is not stated explicitly in research studies (Flores & O'Brien, 2002; Fouad & Byars-Winston, 2005; Gloria & Hird, 1999; Jackson, Kacanski, Rust, & Beck, 2006; Kenny et al., 2003; Perez-Felkner, McDonald, Schneider, & Grogan, 2012; Teng et al., 2001). Therefore, it is unclear whether the aforementioned findings are generalizable to rural Latino populations. It seems important to investigate how sociocognitive factors operate to influence Latino high school students living in rural areas of the Midwest to pursue career and postsecondary options.

Given the dearth of research regarding the influence of sociocognitive variables on rural Latino students' career development, the purpose of this study was to understand the relationships among SCCT variables (self-efficacy,...

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