Career aspirations of elementary school children



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Introduction and Statement of the Problem Career choices in general are molded or partially determined by sex because children are conditioned early to specific sex appropriate choices. Literature indicates that sex differences in career aspirations and job-role stereotyping seem to develop early in childhood and persist into adulthood. Male and female career choices rarely overlap since females seem to learn early that certain adult career choices are open to them and that these are few in number, reflecting a recognition of traditional sex role expectations. Therefore, female career choices generally fall within the narrower range of female-dominated occupations, such as nursing, teaching, social work, etc., while males generally perceive a wide range of opportunities open to them and choose more male-dominated occupations. Purpose of the Study The major purpose of the study was to investigate the differences in career aspiratioirs between elenentary school males and females of different ethnic groups, and to determine what effect sex, grade level, ethnicity, socio-economic status, parental influences, and teacher expectations have on career aspirations of elementary school children. Procedures and Source of Data Since this study was designed to test hypotheses, the sample was stratified by ethnicity, grade level, and sex. The stratified random sample selected to participate in this study consisted of 240 subjects: 180 first and sixth grade students of three ethnic groups, 60 Afro-Americans, 60 Anglo-Americans, and 60 Mexican-Americans. Twenty first and sixth grade teachers of the students, and 40 parents of the first grade grade and sixth grade children's parents. Three questionnaires, which consisted of open-ended questions pertianing of sex typing and career choices were used in this study. A questionnaire was administered to the sixth grade students as a group. Personal interviews were conducted with the first grade children, the teachers and a sanple of the parents of the first grade and sixth grade children. Prior to assessing relationships univariate descriptive analysis was performed in order to present a profile of the sanple, looking at each of the variables separately. This allowed the researcher to establish an initial frame of reference from, wliich the hypotheses could be treated. To assess the inpact of sex, ethnicity, grade level, and socio-economic status on the differences between the range of male and female career aspirations, the variance for males and females were conpared (using the "F" table for the .05 significance level) in each sub-group. To assess the difference between children's career aspirations and their parent's and teacher's eqiectations, the means for children and teachers or parents were cccpared (using "t" Table for the .05 level of significance). Summary and Conclusions Within the limitations of this study, the following conclusions were reached: 1. The career aspirations of elementary school children are highly differentiated by sex. Males perceive a wide range of career choices open to them, whereas females' career aspirations shaved considerably less variability than those of males. Females career aspirations were characterized by a higher mean level of prestige of career choices than those of males. 2. Males in the first and sixth grade perceived greater variety of career choices than did the first and sixth grade females. Havever, females and males in the sixth grade were found to perceive more prestigious careers. 3. The effect of ethnicity on career aspirations of elementary school children showed that Afro-American females and tales perceived a wider range of career choices while the Anglo-American females and Lfexican-American males perceived higher levels of career choices. 4. The low socio-economic status males and females were found to perceive a wider range in career aspirations than those of low middle socio-economic status. However, the females of the lew socio-economic status and low middle socio-economic status was found to perceive the more prestigious careers. 5. The effect of parental influences on career aspirations showed that males were perceived by their parents to aspire to more varied careers when adults. Females were perceived by parents to aspire to higher level careers than males when adults and parents exerted more influence on females than on males. 6. The effect of teachers' expectations on career aspirations showed that teachers expected a wider range for males tan they did for females. Females were ejected to work in higher levels of careers than males. 7. Anglo-Aterican teachers were found to perceive a wider range in career choices for Anglo-American children than they did for Afro-American and Mexican-American children. Afro-American teachers were found to perceive somewhat similar careers for all children. However, fernales were expected to aspire to more prestigious levels of careers. Recommendations As stated earlier, research in the area of career awareness programs for young females and males is lacking and needs to be investigated in children in elementary schools. More models in varied careers need to be seen so that stereotypic role expectations perceived for females and males would be eliminated. Since the sample employed in this study was limited to one geographic area of the United States, i.e., the southwest, this study should be replicated using subjects from other areas of the United States including ttie Oriental in the sample. Further, research should include a longitudinal study over a five or seven-year period in order to determine vdiether the subjects have remained constant to their perceived career aspirations or if they change, and what caused the change. An important area for further study would be to develop a career model in general for all children that would exclude male and female designated roles. Along these lines efforts can be exercised in the directions of school developing curricula that will eliminate stereotype occupational roles for males and females. Similar research on career aspirations in grades 1, 3, and 6, including other variables such as religious affiliations, peer influences and parental influence (by sex) intelligence and high and middle socio-economic status.