This is the sixth article in a series of articles that will discuss the literature on the predominant career theories; history of and theory behind interest inventories; a discussion of the prominent interest inventories; the best use of interest inventories in the career development process; conceptual additions applicable to the study of interest inventories; literature that has focused on career indecision in adolescents; and educational interventions with additional focus placed on middle schools. All of these articles come from dissertations by Virginia Robinson Richards, EdD, and Stephen Randall Richards, EdD, both copyrighted 1998. These articles are presented as a quick refresher for professionl guidance counselors, an introduction to these theories for the non-professional, and as a starting point for students of the many disciplines related to career development theory. The bibliographies are purposely missing. If you choose to copy our work (shame on you), you will at least have to go to the library to find the work and maybe touch the covers of these works. We appologize for the non-academic format, but in a blogging forum it is not possible to keep the work as originally presented.
In this section, I will examine theories of vocational interest that are clearly an important part of the history of career development theory. Then, I will examine two career development theories that strongly influenced this study. The first is Holland’s theory (1966, 1973, 1985) pertaining to the use of interest inventories as tools of exploratory interventions. The second theory, the work of Super (1990), will be described as it provides a master plan of how the RIPA is used as an exploratory intervention and how it fits in a complete career development scheme.
Roe’s Personality Development Theory
Roe’s (1956) theory was examined earlier as it influenced theories of vocational interests, but also of considerable importance is Roe’s personality development theory. Trained as a clinical psychologist, Roe began her theory development through observations of artists and research scientists focusing on “possible relationships between occupational behavior (not just choice) and personality” (Roe & Lunneborg, 1990, p. 68). In looking at other studies, Roe identified and categorized a list of needs involving persons’ feelings concerning work. Common threads in these studies were bodily well-being, a need for food, a need for activity, and a need for self-realization through work. Roe argued that people do not work just to earn a living but that “much more is involved in and expected of a job than a pay check” (p. 23). Roe determined that occupations form a major focus of individuals’ lives through thoughts and activities, e.g., “in our culture, social and economic status depend more on the occupation (of the individual, the father, or even less frequently now, the husband) than on any other one thing‑even wealth” (p. 69). Roe turned to Maslow’s (1948) hierarchy of needs including physiological needs, safety needs, need for belonging and love, need for importance, respect, self-esteem, independence, need for information, need for understanding, need for beauty, and a need for self-actualization. Maslow’s theory suggested that people place greater urgency on basic needs such as food, shelter, and safety before being capable of expressing needs on the higher levels, and, consequently, these other needs remain unachievable to the average individual until those basic needs are satisfied. Roe believed that occupations in modern society can provide satisfaction at all levels of need.
Roe (1957) saw the interaction of heredity and environment as important in causing a child to develop a person or nonperson orientation, and to lead an individual to select an occupation that requires either high or low levels of interaction with others. Roe (1957) wrote extensively in describing her theory, but it has been summarized by others (Osipow, 1973; Walsh & Osipow, 1983) as follows:
1. Limits of potential development are set by genetic inheritance including intellectual abilities, temperament, interests, and abilities.
2. General cultural background and socioeconomic status of the family affect unique individual experience.
3. Individual experiences governed by involuntary attention determine the pattern of development of interests, attitudes, and other personality variables that have not been genetically controlled.
a. Early satisfactions and frustrations resulting from the family situation, particularly relations with parents; i.e., overprotectiveness, avoidance, or acceptance of the child.
b. Degrees of needs satisfaction determine which of Maslow’s (1948) needs will become the strongest motivators.
4. The eventual pattern of psychic energies, i.e., attention-directed, is the major determinant of interests.
5. The intensity with which an individual feels (Maslow, 1948) needs and the satisfaction of needs determine the degree of motivation to accomplish.
Roe (1956) was dissatisfied with available classifications of occupations and developed a list of eight occupational groups including service, business contact, organization, technology, outdoor, science, general culture, and arts/entertainment. Each group was divided into 6 levels of responsibility, capability, and skill needed to perform at each level.
Several instruments have been developed using Roe’s (1956) theory. These include Roe’s own (1957) Parent-Child Relations Questionnaire (PCR 1), Career Occupational Preference System (COPS, Knapp & Knapp, 1984), Computerized Vocational Information System (CVIS, Harris, 1968), Ramak and Courses (Meir & Barak, 1973), and Individual Career Exploration (ICE, Miller-Tiedeman, 1976).
Although Roe’s theory has not been validated (Osipow, 1973), her work has contributed to an understanding of the importance of the role of occupations in the lives of individuals. Walsh and Osipow (1983) noted that Roe’s greatest achievement may lie in the use of her two-way job classification and the concept of people versus ideas meaning that people will either have an orientation toward people or an orientation away from people. These two ideas have changed the way counselors work with clients.
Social Learning Theory of Career Choice and Counseling
Social cognitive theory of behavior was developed by Bandura (1969) to explain the way personality and behaviors arise from an individual’s unique learning experiences and the effects negative and positive reinforcement have on these experiences. According to social cognitive or learning theory, three major types of learning experiences influence behaviors and skills that allow a person to function effectively in society. Bandura proposed that (a) instrumental learning experiences occur when an individual is positively or negatively reinforced for a behavior, (b) associative learning experiences occur when an individual associates a previously neutral event with an emotionally laden event, and (c) vicarious experiences occur when one individual observes the behavior of others or gains new information and ideas from other sources.
Krumboltz’s theory (Krumboltz, 1981; Mitchell & Krumboltz, 1996) built on the work of Bandura (1969, 1977) to develop his revised theory which “posits two major types of learning experiences that result in individual behavioral and cognitive skills and preferences that allow people to function effectively in the world” (p. 234). First, is instrumental learning experiences which “occur when a person is positively reinforced or punished for the exercise of some behavior and the associated cognitive skills” (p. 234). Second, is associative learning experiences which “occur when people associate some previously affectively neutral event or stimulus with an emotonally laden event or stimulus” (p. 234). Within these factors, Krumboltz developed a number of testable propositions and determined that equal importance rests on the inverse influence of each. Listed here are the three basic factor groups.
1. Factors that influence preferences with an educational or occupational preference being an evaluative self-observation generalization based on those learning experiences pertinent to any career task and propositions explaining the acquisition of these preferences.
2. Factors influencing career-decision making skills with propositions explaining how these particular skills are acquired.
3. Factors influencing entry behaviors into educational or occupational alternatives with propositions explaining factors accounting for the actual entry behaviors into occupations, training programs, or educational courses of study.
Brown (1990a) pointed out that the social learning theory is not developmental, does not really account for job change, and would therefore not be useful in determining normative behavior or designing career development programs. Brown maintained that Krumboltz’s (1981) theory is not a major influence on career development research or the practice of career counseling. Brown did, however, expect to see researchers attracted to projects involving the constructs of the Krumboltz theory because the theory is tightly constructed and hypotheses of the theory are testable.
Social Cognitive Career Theory
Hackett and Betz (1981), Taylor and Betz (1983), Multon, Brown, and Lent (1992), Hackett and Lent (1992), Lent, Brown, and Hackett (1994), and Lent, Brown, and Hackett (1996) all worked to refine Bandura’s (1969) general theory on social cognition. The work in this area can be summarized with Lent et al.’s (1994) propositions:
1. An individual’s occupational or academic interests at any point in time are reflective of his or her concurrent self-efficacy beliefs and outcome expectations.
2. An individual’s occupational interests also are influenced by his or her occupationally relevant abilities, but this relation is mediated by one’s self-efficacy beliefs.
3. Self-efficacy beliefs affect choice goals and actions both directly and indirectly.
4. Outcomes expectations affect choice goals and actions both directly and indirectly.
5. People will aspire to enter (i.e., develop choice goals for) occupations or academic fields that are consistent with their primary interest areas.
6. People will attempt to enter occupations or academic fields that are consistent with choice goals, provided that they are committed to their goal, and their goal is stated in clear terms, proximal to the point of actual entry.
7. Interests affect entry behaviors, (actions) indirectly through their influence on choice goals.
8. Self-efficacy beliefs influence career-academic performance both directly and indirectly through their effect on performance goals. Outcome expectations influence performance only indirectly through their effect on goals.
9. Ability (or aptitude) will affect career/academic performance both directly and indirectly through its influence on self-efficacy beliefs.
10. Self-efficacy beliefs derive from performance accomplishments, vicarious learning, social persuasion, and physiological reactions (e.g., emotional arousal) in relation to particular educational and occupationally relevant activities.
11. As with self-efficacy beliefs, outcome expectations are generated through direct and vicarious experiences with educational and occupationally relevant activities.
12. Outcome expectations are also partially determined by self-efficacy beliefs, particularly when outcomes (e.g., successes, failures) are closely tied to the quality or level of one’s performance.
Super (1990) saw learning theory as cement holding together various segments of career development theory. In agreement with this, Lent et al. (1994) saw their framework as an effort at unifying rather than proliferating additional theories and should therefore be viewed as “evolving constructions, subject to further empirical scrutiny” (p. 118).
Prior to 1967, sociological theory was concerned primarily with how social status affected the level of schooling achieved, which in turn affected occupational level achieved, i.e., intergenerational mobility, and was primarily confined to imprecise verbal statements and rough classifications of occupations into broad socio-economic groups, such as blue-collar and white-collar workers (Hotchkiss & Borow, 1996). Blau & Duncan (1967) developed a more formal model of occupational or status attainment with the development of the Socioeconomic Index (SEI), a graded scale to indicate level of occupational status. Blau and Duncan’s work, closely followed by Sewell, Haller, and Portes (1969) and Sewell, Haller, and Ohlendorf (1970), expanded intergenerational mobility theory to include intervening social-psychological processes, such as educational and occupational aspirations, parent and teacher encouragement for further educational attainment, and plans for further educational attainment, along with parental status and parental years of schooling. This model, known as the Wisconsin model or status attainment model, also included academic performance and standardized test scores as measures of ability. Hotchkiss and Borow (1996) summarized the basic theory of the status attainment model by espousing a model whereby a path of influence flows from the parental status to significant others’ attitudes about appropriate levels of education and occupation to career plans to schooling to occupational status level, thereby, affecting the occupational level of their offspring.
Trait and Factor Theory
Parsons (1909) put forth a three-step schema forming the basis of the first conceptual framework of career decision making (Brown & Brooks, 1990a) and the foundation of the vocational guidance movement (Srebalus, Marinelli, & Messing, 1982; Super, 1983). Parsons’ three-part model advocated personality analysis, where individuals gain an understanding of both their strengths and weaknesses of attributes or traits; job analysis, i.e., given these traits, their conditions for success in occupations; and matching through scientific advising, i.e., make career choices based on the aforementioned information to provide the basis for career decision-making (Brown & Brooks, 1990a; Herr & Cramer, 1988; McDaniels & Gysbers, 1992). Parsons’ formulations are often referred to as the basis of trait and factor theory (Brown, 1990b; Brown & Brooks, 1990b), but the work of Holland (1966, 1973, 1985) brought trait and factor theory to center stage where it remains today.
Holland’s Personality Theory
Holland’s work with the theory of careers can be traced back to his military experience during World War II. As an induction interviewer, he hypothesized that people could be classified into a relatively small number of types. Holland later counseled students at Case Western Reserve University, and physically disabled and psychiatric patients at a Veterans Administration Hospital. These experiences reinforced his belief about classification (Weinrach & Srebalus, 1990).
Holland’s (1985) theory contends that every individual resembles one of six basic personality types, and as a result, manifest some of the behaviors and traits associated with that type. Holland also defined six environments, declared that environments are characterized by the people who occupy them, and stated that an environmental type can be assessed by surveying the occupants of the environment. Holland’s (1985) theory is built on four basic assumptions:
1. In our culture, most persons can be categorized as one of six types: realistic, investigative, artistic, social, enterprising, or conventional.
2. There are six kinds of environments: realistic, investigative, artistic, social, enterprising, or conventional.
3. People search for environments that will let them exercise their skills and abilities, express their attitudes and values, and take on agreeable problems and roles.
4. Behavior is determined by an interaction between personality and environment. (pp. 2-4)
In developing his types, Holland looked at results of a study conducted by Guilford, Christensen, Bond, and Sutton (1954) in which they used factor analyses with data gathered using the Strong Vocational Interest Blank. In that study, Guilford et al. found seven interest factors: mechanical, scientific, social welfare, aesthetic expression, clerical, business, and outdoor. Holland dropped the outdoor classification and renamed the other six as Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, and Conventional. Holland (1985) defines the types as follows:
1. Realistic people have a preference for activities that entail the explicit, ordered, or systematic manipulation of objects, tools, machines, and animals. Realistic people have an aversion to educational or therapeutic activities.
2. Investigative people have a preference for activities that entail the observational, symbolic, systematic, and creative investigation of physical, biological, and cultural phenomena in order to understand and control such phenomena. Investigative people have an aversion to persuasive, social, and repetitive activities.
3. Artistic people have a preference for ambiguous, free, unsystematized activities that entail the manipulation of physical, verbal, or human materials to create art forms or products. In addition, artistic people have an aversion to explicit, systematic, and ordered activities.
4. Social people have a preference for activities that entail the manipulation of others to inform, train, develop, cure, or enlighten. Social people have an aversion to explicit, ordered, systematic activities involving materials, tools, or machines.
5. Enterprising people have a preference for activities that entail the manipulation of others to attain organizational goals or economic gain. Enterprising people have an aversion to observational, symbolic, and systematic activities.
6. Conventional people have a preference for activities that entail the explicit, ordered, systematic manipulation of data, such as keeping records, filing materials, reproducing materials, organizing written and numerical data according to a prescribed plan, operating business machines and data processing machines to attain organizational or economic goals. Conventional people have an aversion to ambiguous, free, exploratory, or unsystematized activities.
Holland (1985) revised his belief that individuals could be characterized as belonging to a single one of the six types to a belief that one of the six types will predominate and other subtypes influence the person’s personality. All six types are represented in a person’s total profile, but Holland developed a system of defining personalities based on the three most prevalent types found in the individual. A three-letter code was used to describe personality types. The code called RAI would describe a person who is realistic, artistic, and investigative.
Through research on Holland’s theory, correlations were calculated that showed the psychological similarity across types. In an effort to present a visual representation of the theory, a hexagonal model was developed showing the relationships between the types. Holland (1973) introduced five key concepts in addition to his four basic assumptions:
1. Consistency. Using the hexagon to graphically represent the relationships between the personality types, Holland defined the degree of personality consistency. The closer the types appear on the hexagon, i.e., when the first two letters of the subtype are adjacent on the hexagon, the more consistent the person is thought to be. Low consistency is separation of the first two code letters by two intervening letters.
2. Differentiation. Some people and environments more closely resemble a single type, thereby showing less resemblance to other types. Some others may more equally resemble several types. Those personality types resembling several types equally are said to be poorly differentiated while those closely resembling a single type are said to be highly differentiated.
3. Identity. Holland considers this construct necessary to support the formulations of personality types and environments. An individual having identity is said to have clear and stable goals, interests, and talents established.
4. Congruence. This is an example of the old idiom, “Birds of a feather flock together”, meaning persons tend to be happier and perform better in an environment providing the type of reward that is important to that person. For example, a Conventional personality type who enjoys working in a Conventional environment would be said to be a perfect fit , likewise, the least congruence occurs when persons and their environments are at opposite points of the hexagon, i.e., a Realistic personality type working in a Social environment.
5. Calculus. The hexagon not only presents a graphic representation of consistency between person and environment, but also the internal relationships of Holland’s theory, in that “ the distances between the types or environments are inversely proportional to the theoretical relationships between them” (1985, p. 5).
Holland’s (1985) theory has strong implications for this study for a number of reasons. First, the RIPA was designed using Holland’s types and the process of the assessment instrument identifies the individual’s interest profile by use of the Holland types. Second, the three-letter code developed by Holland is used to search for a pallet of congruent occupations. Third, the Career Exploration Report uses the Holland types and definitions of those types to explain the use of interest inventories in the matching of individual characteristics with occupations for career exploration purposes. Fourth, Holland’s overall concept of matching people of a given interest profile with environments of the same profile is the basic belief behind the use of the RIPA to stimulate career exploration. This research will test these beliefs in an attempt to encourage middle school students to participate in career exploration.
Super’s Theory of Career Development
Super’s (1990) theory of career development is a “loosely unified set of theories dealing with specific aspects of career development, taken from developmental, differential, social, personality, and phenomenological psychology and held together by self-concept and learning theory” (p. 199). Super felt that in a sense, there is no “Super theory”, but rather, the synthesizing of ideas and concepts. Though Super himself was continually seeking to more clearly define an accurate model of career development, his theory is considered a well-ordered, highly systematic representation of the process of vocational maturation (Osipow, 1983). Building on the ideas presented by Ginzberg, Ginsburg, Axelrad, and Herma (1951), Super felt the need to formulate a theory that incorporated their ideas and their attempt to formulate a theory.
Much of Super’s thinking about how and why careers unfold as they do was derived from Buehler’s (1933) longitudinal studies of work and related lives of men and women, and Davidson and Anderson’s (1937) work on occupational histories of a representative sample of American men (Super, 1983). From Bordin’s (1943) writings, Super took the notion of self-concept which was described by Bordin as an individual’s self-descriptive and self-evaluative thoughts revealed by behavior. Super (1963) said “an individual’s self-concept is his concept of himself, not inferences made by outside others” (p. 5). Super noted that self-concept formation happens during several phases.
The first phase of self-concept formation is exploration. Exploration necessary for self-concept development takes place throughout the life span as individuals adapt to their ever changing environments (Super, 1990; Super, Savickas, & Super, 1996). Super defined specific parts of the exploration process as differentiation, identification, role playing, and reality testing with each being an important part of exploration.
The second phase of self-concept formation is translation which can occur in three ways. First, adolescent identification with adults may lead to a desire to portray the occupational role filled by an adult, but role playing or reality testing may lead the adolescent to discard the role. Second, role playing or reality testing may allow adolescents to discover that their self-concept and role concept are congenial. Last, adolescents may discover self-attributes that are thought to be important in a certain field of work, therefore leading to conformation that the field of endeavor might be enjoyable and one in which an individual might do well.
The third phase of self-concept development is implementation or actualizing. As one’s education is completed, individuals move into their chosen profession for which education and training have been received. Or in the case of individuals who have failed to prepare for a career, a poor occupational self-concept will often be reinforced by low paying jobs or loss of jobs.
Evolving over several years, Super (1990) defined fourteen propositions concerning the role of abilities and interests, self-concepts, life stages, and person-situation interactions in his theory. Super’s propositions are:
1. People differ in their abilities and personalities, needs, values, interests, traits, and self-concepts.
2. People are qualified, by virtue of these characteristics, each for a number of occupations.
3. Each occupation requires a characteristic pattern of abilities and personality traits, with tolerances wide enough to allow both some variety of occupations for each individual and some variety of individuals in each occupation.
4. Vocational preferences and competencies, the situations in which people live and work, and, hence, their self-concepts change with time and experience, although self-concepts, as products of social learning, are increasingly stable from late adolescence until late maturity, providing some continuity in choice and adjustment.
5. This process of change may be summed up in a series of life stages (a maxicycle) characterized as a sequence of growth, exploration, establishment, maintenance, and decline, and these stages may in turn be subdivided into the fantasy, tentative, and realistic phases of the exploratory stage and the trial and stable phases of the establishment stage. A small (mini) cycle takes place in transitions from one stage to the next or each time an individual is destabilized by a reduction force, changes in type of manpower needs, illness or injury, or other socioeconomic or personal events. Such unstable or multiple-trial careers involve new growth, reexploration, and reestablishment (recycling).
6. The nature of the career pattern-that is, the occupational level attained and the sequence, frequency, and duration of trial and stable jobs-is determined by the individual’s parental, socioeconomic level, mental ability, education, skills, personality characteristics (needs, values, interest trails, and self-concepts), and career maturity and by the opportunities to which he or she is exposed.
7. Success in coping with the demands of the environment and of the organism in that context at any given life-career stage depends on the readiness of the individual to cope with these demands (that is, on his or her career maturity), Career maturity is a constellation of physical, psychological, and social characteristics; psychologically, it is both cognitive and affective. It includes the degree of success in coping with the demands of earlier stages and substages of career development, and especially with the most recent.
8. Career maturity is a hypothetical construct. Its operational definition is perhaps as difficult to formulate as is that of intelligence, but its history is much briefer and its achievements even less definitive. Contrary to the impressions created by some writers, it does not increase monotonically, and it is not a unitary trait.
9. Development through the life stages can be guided, partly by facilitating the maturing of abilities and interests and partly by aiding in reality testing and in the development of self-concepts.
10. The process of career development is essentially that of developing and implementing occupational self-concepts. It is a synthesizing and compromising process in which the self-concept is a product of the interaction of inherited aptitudes, physical makeup, opportunity to observe and play various roles, and evaluations of the extent to which the results of role playing meet with the approval of superiors and fellow (interactive learning).
11. The process of synthesis of or compromise between individual and social factors, between self-concepts and reality, is one of role playing and of learning from feedback, whether the role is played in fantasy, in the counseling interview, or in such real-life activities as classes, clubs, part-time work, and entry jobs.
12. Work satisfactions and life satisfactions depend on the extent to which the individual finds adequate outlets for abilities, needs, values, interests, personality traits, and self-concepts. They depend on establishment in a type of work, a work situation, and a way of life in which one can play the kind of role that growth and exploratory experiences have led one to consider congenial and appropriate.
13. The degree of satisfaction people attain from work is proportional to the degree to which they have been able to implement self-concepts.
14. Work and occupation provide a focus for personality organization for most men and women, although for some persons this focus is peripheral, incidental, or even non-existent. Then other foci, such as leisure activities and homemaking, may be central. (Social traditions, such as sex-role stereotyping and modeling, racial and ethnic biases, and the opportunity structure, as well as individual differences, are important determinants of preferences for such roles as worker, student, leisurite, homemaker, and citizen.) (pp. 206-208)
Super’s (1990) propositions are of particular importance in this study as an explanation of why and how adolescents use information about self as they cycle through the exploration life stage. Super pointed out that interests are learned and as such are manifestations of self-concept. Information about self is needed in the development of self-concept, and it is important that this information be available to the student at the time and in the amount needed. Super pointed out that “if a student or an adult has given little thought to occupational choice or to the unfolding of a career, he or she is not likely to be ready to use aptitude, ability, interest, or value data in planning the next stage or steps in a career” (p. 244). Super prescribed a plan for career exploration, and it called for guiding the adolescents through the exploratory life stage by facilitating the maturing of abilities and interests, by aiding in reality testing, and in the development of self-concepts.
Super (1957) also laid out measures of career maturity that provide a yardstick for determining an individual’s progress through the life stages. Super’s five developmental tasks occurring within the exploratory stages are: a) concern with vocational choice, b) increased vocational information, comprehensive and detailed planning, c) increasing consistency of vocational choice, d) the crystallization of traits relevant to vocational choice, and e) increasing wisdom of vocational preferences.
Stephen R. Richards, EdD
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Virginia and Randall Richards
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Virginia and Randall Richards