Family Influence and Career Choice: What is the impact of family influence on the career decision of adolescents?

While the popular narrative suggests that, career choice is an individual decision, research indicates a broad range of issues that are most likely to determine one’s ultimate career choice. Family structure, values and parents have been found to be amongst the top influences that molds the thinking and the behavior of adolescents towards choosing their future career path. Family of origin might knowingly or unknowingly hold some sway over the direction the adolescent takes in career pursuits than previously thought. Career development is a process which starts already in childhood and one in which the family plays a particularly crucial role. A variety of influences such as, parents, family, school, economic and social factors are likely to manipulate an adolescent’s career decision.

Theories adolescents’ Career Aspirations

In order to understand the fundamentals underlying the reasoning behind family influence of adolescent’s career choices, it is imperative to highlight four main theories behind the development of adolescent’s career paths. These theories include those of Eli Ginzberg (1988) who suggests that it is during the early stages of life, before the age of 11 where fantasy choices are made, the ones that are mostly influenced by parental occupation or suggestions, that occupational choices are constructed. Robert Havighurst (1964) postulate a theory with six stages of career development where the issue of parental influence is visible on the first stage through the child´s identification with their parent’s occupation is most likely to have impact on long term career choice.  Anne Roe (1957) states that needs that were not satisfied during childhood, would either be eliminated from one´s consciousness, or serve as unconscious motivators and most importantly the parenting style also matters, and Linda Gottfredson (1981) asserts that children’s career choices are influenced by seven major elements including gender, social class, background, intelligence, interests, competencies, and values where the social class and background is largely shaped by family.

Family Composition, Structure and Dynamics

With regards to this, there are a couple of elements that directly or indirectly influence the career choice of adolescents and these entails, opportunities that the family offers, parental separation, paternal absence, inter family conflicts, compromised parenting practices, income and social class of the family and number of children among others . These family dynamics correlate to eventual career choices.

Parental values and Expectations

Parental values and expectations play a large role in the career path that children choose to follow.  Children especially from the low to middle income families pay much attention to what their parents expect of them, particularly when it comes to choosing a career. By showing support for particular activities, making reactions and comments about particular careers as well as norms they advocates for at home,  parents demonstrate their preference for certain career options over others. While at times this might happen indirectly children use their intuitive abilities to decode and thus may be greatly influenced by a “hidden” meaning, while parents may assume little to no influence.

 The parent-child relationship

There a correlation between a high-quality parent-child relationship and job characteristics though it might not exactly be the same jobs, at least ties are visible on the characteristics of the parents’ jobs and the job characteristics of the jobs the children expressed an interest in pursuing. Characteristics are those attributes of a job including skills, knowledge, and abilities to do a job, along with the type of interests and personality that might go well with job performance. By and large there is some influence of parent-child relationship on the type of career the children are interested in, even if it might not be a lock-step correlation of the actual occupation of the parents and that which the child wishes to pursue. A sense of parental connection, along with challenge and support, all play a role in the motivation that adolescents will develop when making plans for their future.

A Gender Perspective

The gender dynamics that influence adolescents` career paths is characterized by two main ideas, one emanating from the mother and father view point where the divergence of influences that mothers and fathers pose towards their children`s career choices matters especially in the light of balance of power between and the involvement of parents, while the other is driven by the specific gender of the child, where families usually families express some sort of bias between a boy or a girl child.

At the bottom of the story

Family and specifically parental influence over their children’s career decisions is prevalent and widely communicated through many channels. These channels include, family dynamics, structure as well as composition, parental values and expectations, the parent-child relationship, and gender perspectives. Other areas that could of interest going forward include, exploring longevity in the workforce and look for trends in mentoring other workers as another contributing factor for career decision-making. Also, looking at the  changing roles of parents, research about the role the grandparents, research about the role the grandparents, siblings and extended family members might also be worthy of further investigation.

Bates C W (2015). The Influence of Family on the Career Interests and Choices of Youth. International Journal of Education and Social Science. Vol. 2 No. 9

Chope, R. C. (2006). Family matters: The influence of the family in career decision making. Austin, TX: Pro-Ed.

Hynes, K., & Hirsch, B.J. (2012). Career programming: Linking youth to the world of work. New Directions for Youth Development: Theory, practice, research, 134 (Summer 2012). Noam, G.G., editor-in-chief; Hymes, K. & Hirsch, B.J., issue editors. San Francisco: Wiley Periodicals, Inc. ISSN: 1533-8916.

JungenK A. (2008) Parental Influence and Career Choice: How Parents Affect
the Career Aspirations of Their Children. The Graduate School University of Wisconsin-Stout

One thought on “Family Influence and Career Choice: What is the impact of family influence on the career decision of adolescents?

  1. I think region also matters. For example, from my perspective, one grows up in Asia would be more influenced from the family or society than one who grows up in the western world. This might due to Asian are more collective and there is hierarchy or high barrier that young people need to keep in mind to respect and listen to their elder. Moreover, in western countries young people are more free to express themselves and less influenced or more difficult to persuade.


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