The effects of socioeconomic status and proactive personality on career decision self-efficacy.

Author:Hsieh, Hui-Hsien
Position:Articles - Report

Career decision self-efficacy (CDSE) has become a popular topic of research in the career development literature because of its significant impact on the career decision-making process of young adults. CDSE is defined as an individual's belief that he or she can successfully complete tasks necessary to career decision making (Taylor & Betz, 1983). Research on CDSE has been linked empirically to several areas of the career development process, including carccr indecision (Gianakos, 2001), career planning and exploration (Gushue, Clarke, Pantzer, & Scanlan, 2006; Rogers, Creed, & Glendon, 2008), and career choice commitment (Jin, Watkins, & Yuen, 2009; Wang, Jome, Haase, & Bruch, 2006). However, the precursors of CDSE have hardly been addressed in the career development literature. Shedding light on the causes of CDSE has both theoretical and practical implications. Theoretically, the study of the causes of CDSE can extend the career development literature by investigating a rarely researched domain, which may provide researchers with some insight into what factors can affect young adults' CDSE. Practically, CDSE has been acknowledged as a critical factor in influencing the career development process of young adults. Therefore, understanding the causes of CDSE may also be useful in helping career counselors better design career interventions to fit the demands of college students from different backgrounds.

Drawing on social cognitive career theory (SCCT; Lent, Brown, & Hackett, 1994, 2000), our research focused on the role of two person input variables as predictors of CDSE. More specifically, we intended to examine whether family socioeconomic status (SES) affects an individual's CDSE positively. Research has shown SES to be positively related to educational expectations (Trusty, 1998), educational choices (Trusty, Ng, & Plata, 2000), and career aspirations (Ali & Saunders, 2009). As specified by Ali, McWhirter, and Chronister (2005), however, there is still a paucity of research investigating the influences that SES has on an individual's career decision-making process. In addressing this void in the literature, our study examined the relationship between SES and college students' CDSE.

In addition to familial and parental influences, we were interested in investigating whether individual personality traits play an important role in determining an individual's CDSE. Unlike most recent studies (Bullock-Yowell, Andrews, & Buzzetta, 201 1; Hartman & Betz, 2007; Jin et al., 2009; Rogers et al., 2008; Wang et al., 2006), which focus on the role of the Five-Factor Model (FFM) of personality traits, we focused on proactive personality--an individual's disposition toward proactive behavior--because, in contrast to the FFM traits, it is specifically related to one's career and has been proven to be a beneficial complement to the personality theories (Major, Turner, & Fletcher, 2006). Given this, we decided to make proactive personality our focal variable and empirically examine its effects on college students' CDSE.


SCCT (Lent et al., 1994, 2000) provides a useful theoretical framework for understanding the relationship between family SES and the CDSE of young adults. SCCT proposes that SES, as a person input variable, may affect the development of an individual's self-efficacy beliefs through shaping his or her learning experiences. Family SES is associated with the opportunities for the learning and achievement of individuals. Individuals from a higher level of SES, for example, are more likely to have higher educational resources and expectations, more occupational role models, and greater access to parental support (Blustein et al., 2002; McWhirter, Hackett, & Bandalos, 1998; Turner & Lapan, 2003), and such efficaciousness may help facilitate higher career self-efficacy beliefs. In contrast, individuals from a lower level of SES are inclined to have poorer quality schooling, fewer career role models, and less financial support (C. Brown, Darden, Shelton, & Dipoto, 1999), which is likely to suppress the development of career self-efficacy beliefs.

Although the aforementioned statement appears to imply that SES can predict CDSE, empirical studies examining the relationship of SES with career-related self-efficacy beliefs have found inconsistent results. Tang, Fouad, and Smith (1999) found that family SE.S had no significant impact on Asian American college students' self-efficacy. Ali et al. (2005) also did not find a significant relationship between SES and vocational/educational self-efficacy with a sample of ninth-grade students from lower SES backgrounds. Yet, Thompson and Subich (2006) found support for the positive relationship of social status with college students' CDSE. Scholars argue that these inconsistent results might be due to inconsistencies in measuring SES (Liu, Soleck, Hopps, Dunston, & Pickett, 2004). Indeed, SFIS has been operationalized in different ways in the literature. For example, McWhirter et al. (1998) assessed SES using the Duncan's Socioeconomic Index (Stevens & Cho, 1985), which is a measure of occupational status corresponding to the average educational level and salary for each occupation based on 1980 census data. Ferry, Fouad, and Smith (2000) and Tang et al. operationalized SES through parental educational level and occupational status. Lorant et al.'s (2003) meta-analysis argued that SES is commonly composed of one's income, education, and occupation, whereas Ali et al. measured SES according to the Hollingshead Four-Factor Index of Social Status (Hollingshead, 1975), which uses an individual's gender, marital status, education, and occupation to compute an SES score. Thompson and Subich measured social status using the Differential Status Identity Scale (DSIS; M. T. Brown et al., 2002), which conceptualizes social status as a psychological construct comprising three dimensions: economic resources, social power, and social prestige. The aforementioned review of the literature shows that there is no consensus on how SES should be operationalized. We thus decided to operationalize it as a latent construct consisting of four indicators: father's education, father's occupation, mother's education, and mother's occupation. Also, following previous studies and scholarship (Bollen, 2007; MacKcnzie, Podsakoff, & Jarvis, 2005; MacKenzie, Podsakoff, & Podsakoff, 2011) regarding the measurement model specification of SES, we specified it as a formative-indicator construct and hypothesized that it would be positively associated with CDSE.

Hypothesis 1: SES is positively associated with CDSE.

Proactive Personality and CDSE

Proactive personality refers to a relatively stable disposition to effect environmental change and differentiates people based on the extent to which they take action to influence their environments (Bateman & Crant, 1993). More proactive individuals are relatively unconstrained by situational forces (Bateman & Crant, 1993) and are more likely to "identify opportunities and act on them, show initiative, take action, and persevere until they bring about meaningful change" (Crant, 2000, p. 439). In contrast, less proactive individuals are passive and reactive; they tend to adapt to environments rather than change them. Research has linked proactive personality to career variables such as career success (Fuller & Marler, 2009; Seibert, Crant, & Kraimer, 1999) and career initiative (Fuller & Marler, 2009; Seibert, Kraimer, & Crant, 2001).

In our view, both theoretical and practical perspectives suggest that proactive personality could predict CDSE. Theoretically, according to SCCT (Lent et al., 1994, 2000), personality traits are considered as a precursor that may affect the formation of self-efficacy beliefs. As stated previously, individuals with high proactive personality are relatively unconstrained by situational forces and thus should have a greater sense of self-determination and self-efficacy in their career lives. Practically, research has shown that CDSE can be predicted by a variety of personality constructs, including the healthy personality (Borgen & Betz, 2008), core self-evaluations (Koumoundourou, Kounenou, & Siavara, 2012), and the FFM traits (Bullock-Yowell et al., 2011; Hartman & Betz, 2007; Jin et al., 2009; Rogers et al., 2008; Wang et al., 2006). Specifically, for the FFM traits-CDSE linkages, Wang et al. (2006) found that extraversion affected CDSE positively for both White college students and college students of color, whereas neuroticism affected CDSE negatively for college students of color but not for White college students. Hartman and Betz (2007) indicated that extraversion and conscientiousness had positive impacts on CDSE, whereas neuroticism had a negative impact on CDSE among U.S. college students. Rogers et al. (2008) reported that extraversion, openness, and conscientiousness were positively associated with CDSE for Australian high school students. Jin et al. (2009) found that CDSE was positively related to conscientiousness and agreeableness and negatively related to neuroticism with a sample of Chinese graduate students. Bullock-Yowell et al. (2011) demonstrated that openness, conscientiousness, and extraversion explained a significant amount of variance in CDSE in a sample of African American and Caucasian college students. Together, the aforementioned research findings...

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