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Saturday, August 2, 2008

Theories of Interest

This is the fifth 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 professional 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.

Parsons (1909) was first to identify the importance of one’s interest in selection of an occupation as he wrote about the relationship between how people felt about their occupational activities and their personal adjustment in the selection of an occupation. Parsons suggested self study as the first step in career exploration. By noting the need for one to know one’s self, Parsons gave rise to thought about ways to accomplish the task of accurately measuring interests. This review of literature will discuss prominent interest inventories, theories behind interest inventories, and the best use of inventories in the career development process. The first section presents major theories of interests. The second section will examines theories of career development. In the third section, the history of interest inventories will be reviewed. The fourth section reviews prominent interest inventories. In the fifth section, I will review literature concerning the use of interest inventories to affect change in those completing the inventories. In the final section, studies that address the relationship of career exploration to such independent variables as gender, race, and age will be reviewed.

Theories of Interests
Most theories of interests include 5 determinants that vary in importance depending on how theoreticians envision the career development or career choice process (Hansen, 1984). The five determinants of interest include:
1. Interests arise from environmental and/or social influences.
2. Interests are genetic.
3. Interests are personality traits.
4. Interests are motives, drives, or needs.
5. Interests are expressions of self-concept.

Developers of theories of interest see these determinants as either dynamic or static factors. Those who lean toward the dynamic point of view believe vocational interests are the product of many psychological and environmental influences and emphasize the effect of socialization and learning on the development of interest. Theorists who hold the static point of view believe interests are genetically predetermined. A third, less dominant, viewpoint is held by those who work to define an organizational structure for vocational interests without addressing the process by which interests are developed. Holland (1985) was an example of a theorist who was more concerned for what interests are and developing a relational framework for the interests he measured than for how the interests were developed.

Theories of Vocational Interests
Roe (1956) and Holland (1985) presented theories of vocational interest that accounted for the structure of interests. Holland’s early work was not concerned so much with the development or acquiring of interest, but rather with the organizational structure and relationship of interests. Hanson (1984) noted that studies of the structure of vocational interests have accomplished three functions: (a) refinement of existing inventories, (b) development of new inventories or sets of scales, and (c) accumulation of construct validity data to identify psychological traits measured by interest inventories.

Early in the history of interest measurement, factor analysis was used with Strong’s data to reduce the number of interest variables, to aid in the identification of interest factors, and to aid in the formulation of theories about interests (Hansen, 1984). During a study conducted by Guilford, Christensen, Bond, and Sutton (1954) using new tests they had developed, factor analyses of the Strong Vocational Interest Blank was verified. Guilford et al.’s study is credited with affecting Roe’s (1956) and Holland’s (1959) theories because they found seven interest factors: (a) mechanical, (b) scientific, (c) social welfare, (d) aesthetic expression, (e) clerical, (f) business, and (g) outdoor. Guilford et al.’s (1954) early work supported a belief that vocational interest factors were genuine psychological entities.

Roe (1957) was interested in the relevance of occupations to basic needs and considered Maslow’s (1948) list of basic needs in her study, including several family relationship factors (Roe & Lunneborg, 1990). Attempts to confirm Roe’s theory have not been successful (Brown, 1990a; Hagen, 1960), but the work she did in describing the structure of interests has been of considerable use (Hansen, 1984). Roe (1956) defined two dimensions of interests. First, she described a group dimension that focused on work activities based on eight interest factors or categories: (a) service, (b) business contact, (c) organization, (d) technology, (e) outdoor, (f) science, (g) general cultural, and (h) arts and entertainment. Next, she described a level dimension as being divided into 6 categories according to level of responsibility. Roe defined the level of responsibility as not only the number and difficulty of the decisions to be made, but also the number of different kinds of problems that must be addressed. Level also takes into consideration capacity of performance and skill differentiations at each level.

Stephen R. Richards, EdD
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