Occupational Engagement Variation Across Social Status: How Relationship Skills Moderate
Givens, Mary Eleanor
University of Kansas
Psychology & Research in Education
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The purpose of this study was to better understand variables that influence students of low socioeconomic status in their career development. The study was conceptualized on the basis of Super's (1957) assertion that environmental and individual factors interact to influence the course of a person’s career development. Differential social status, derived from Lent, Brown, and Hackett’s (1994) Social Cognitive Career Theory, includes: economic resources – basic needs, economic resources – amenities, social power, and social prestige; and was operationalized as the environmental variable in this study. Self-differentiation, a central construct of Bowen’s Family Systems Theory, includes: emotional reactivity, emotional cutoff, fusion with others, and ability to take an I-position; and was operationalized as the individual variable in this study. Differential social status and self-differentiation served as independent variables in a step-wise multiple regression analysis to predict amount of career exploration, operationalized by career engagement, a central construct of Krieshok and colleagues (2009) Trilateral Model of Adaptive Career Decision-Making. It was hypothesized that differentiation of self would moderate the relationship between social status and occupational engagement in a student sample of 560 university students. Further, it was hypothesized that self-differentiation would correlate positively with occupational engagement for students of lower socioeconomic status, with no such correlation for higher income students. Finally, self-differentiation was hypothesized to correlate inversely with social status. Results included no significant relationship between self-differentiation and social status; differentiation of self and social status each individually explained a statistically significant, though modest, amount of variance in occupational engagement; however no significant moderating relationship existed in terms of how self-differentiation affected the relationship between social status and occupational engagement. Implications for theory and practice, limitations, and directions for future research are discussed.
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