Influence of Parents Vs Peers in Career Selection

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Table of Contents

  • Background
  • Statement of Problem
  • Environmental Factors
  • Personality Factors
  • Opportunity Factors
  • Parental Factor


Career choice is an imperative constituent in one’s life to set his/her aspiration to achieve their career. Primarily during the transitional stage children are forced to choose a particular career or course of study. During this stage predicament is inevitable due to various aspects such as family members influence, peer group influence, role model influence, parental influence etc. The most frequent reason is parental influence. Explicitly, parents play a most important role in selection of career of any child. In most of the culture, interpersonal influence, role model influence and momentous other’s influence are also such factors evident in choice of their career or vocation. Parents are more intensively involved in their child's learning more advantageous are the achievement effects (Wikelund, 2006). Regardless of the potentials, actual needs and ego of the child, education, economic incentives, peer group influence and parental influence are occasionally used as pressures to induce the children into predestined careers (Alika, A. H., 2010).

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Even though, students also have a propensity to approach parents, family members, and experienced persons and peer group members to make clear decision and avoid confusion in this regard. On the other hand, characteristics of an individual, socially habituated through family influence, social position and relations, and developed social role characteristics also conscientious for career choice decision making (Blau, et al…1986; cited in Zunker, 2002). Whiston (2004) recommended to students, distinguish parental expectations had a stronger influence than socio-economic condition, but the influence was indirect through the variables of student’s occupational prospects, which in turn influenced career choice.

Endicott (1984) point out that student perception of parental expectations is an important factor in career choice as a parental influence. Preliminary researches emphasized that adolescents articulated most frequently about career issues with their parents (Fend, 1991; Otto, 2000) and reported parents are their foremost dominant numbers during educational and career transitions (Mortimer, Zimmer-Gembeck, Holmes, & Shanahan, 2002). Parental pressure put forth a lot of influence on the educational acquisition of the child specially the socio-economic status of parents. Academic efficiency is positively associated with parents who impose rules at home (Ryan, 2005).

Parents play a noteworthy role in laying the base of their children's career (Tella, 2003). Many theories signify that, family plays a role in determining the values and needs of its members. Social learning theory highlights possible pressures that the family can have on adolescent’s career selection. Parents can have an influence on their child’s career selection by positively developing or punishing certain behaviors that can encourage or discourage certain interests or abilities. Some individuals also reported that their parents controlled their career actions and choices too much (Schultheiss et al., 2001). Some of these parents deliberately applied or impose their personal ideas about their children’s career regardless of their wishes (Young et al., 2001). Children in such families were found to be more unreceptive in the process of career selection (Kracke & Noack, 2005).

Besides, some adolescents reported that their parents never involved in the career selection process (Altman, 1997; Mortimers et al., 2002; Oechsle et al., 2002). Such parental behaviors were noted to cause diminution in child’s progress in career development, consequential in less stable career paths (Mortimer et al., 2002).

Statement of Problem

Parental influence exists in career selection amid students and also there is an interrelationship between father’s wish and mother’s liking; father’s occupation and mother’s wish; father’s profession and mother’s profession; father’s profession and career and mother’s profession and career. Self-sufficiency in making career selection amid students is restricted to parent’s wish.

Career selection is one of many imperative decisions students make in determining future plans. Mbato and Ackermann (2003) identified career choice as one of the major areas of concern for young people nearing the end of their schooling. Every student, at one time or another, is faced with the challenge of making a choice of career. This, buttressed by Cicero, quoted by Hippock (1767) saying “we must decide what manner of men we wish to be and what calling in life we would follow and this is the most difficult problem in the world”. Majority of the students are motivated principally by field of study interests when they make their initial tertiary application (Harvey-Beavis and Elsworth, 1998).

Borchert (2002) observed that several factors influenced career choices of students and identifying these factors would give parents, educators, and industry an idea as to where students place most of their trust in the career selection process. These factors include the students immediate environment, opportunities available to the student and finally his/her personality. He further observed that every student carries the unique history of their past and this determines how they view the world. This history is created, in part by the student’s environment, personality, and opportunity and it determines how students make career choices. Consequently, how a student perceives his/her environment, personality, and opportunity will also determine the career choices that the student makes. Splaver (2011) observes that students never perceive their environment, personality, and opportunity in the same way and this explains the different career choices they make.

Akomolafe (2008) pointed out that the individual’s career is one of the most important aspects of human endeavor because it determines a lot of things in human existence. It would neither make nor mar one’s joy and happiness. He further contended that true joy, happiness and satisfaction are linked to proper choice of career. He also posited that emotional and marital stability could be enhanced by the type of occupation one engages in. In Nigeria, many youths make wrong career choices due to ignorance, inexperience, peer pressure, wrong modeling, and advice from friends, parents and teachers, or as a result of the prestige attached to certain jobs without adequate vocational guidance and career counseling (Salami, 1999). Consequently many of them are unsuited for their careers, as they usually find themselves in jobs that do not satisfy their value needs. They are usually unable to contribute meaningfully to the society they ultimately become liabilities to the nation and society at large.

Environmental Factors

The environment in which a student is brought up may greatly influence the career that one chooses. The student’s support system made up of parents, relatives, siblings, peers, teachers, and counselors may be the most important environmental factor. There are many examples of public figures in Kenya whose children have taken up careers of their parents. Lawyers, Doctors, Teachers, Accountants and Engineers, are some of the occupations which may run down in families as children take up careers of their parents. For example, students who have lived in a hospital environment may choose a career dealing with medicine. On the other hand they may hate the hospital environment and consequently don’t choose a career that has anything to do with a hospital. Those who live near Airports may choose a career in piloting due to the fascination they get whenever they see airplanes overflying their homes.

In some cases the career chosen is as a result of significant impact or impression made in the student’s life, leading to a definite career choice. Parents’ educational background may influence student views on whether or not to continue their education. Someone they saw on television may have influenced the student, or parents may have demanded that they assume a family business. These are various environmental factors that would lead a student to a chosen career.

Personality Factors

How students have seen themselves in a role in which personality is a determining factor may influence a chosen career. Some careers demand that you have the personality to match the qualities of the occupation. For example, sales people have to be outgoing. Splaver,(1977), notes that personality plays an important role in the choice of the right career. A student’s personality must be a self-motivated type, as to investigate career possibilities from early on in their lives, and not the procrastinating type that waits until they are compelled to decide. Students must take seriously the role grades play in limiting opportunities in the future. Splaver goes on to say, “It is important for one to have a good understanding of his personality, if you are to make intelligent career plans” (Splaver, 1977).

Opportunity Factors

Opportunity is the third factor that has shaped career choices for students. Opportunity may influence how students have perceived their future in terms of the reasonable probability of a future in particular career fields. The issue of poverty has played an important role in determining the opportunities available to all.

The income level of families may determine what career a student chooses during a specific time in the student’s life; choices that will determine a large part of that student’s future. Some students will have to budget education according to their personal income. Individuals living in poverty must be assisted through special training programs to overcome educational and social handicaps so that minimum job standards can be met.

Parental Factor

A close scrutiny of the three factors above shows that they are all related to parental factors.As the child grows up, the immediate environment comprises of the nuclear family and the extended family comprising of uncles, aunts, cousins, and grant parents. Accordingly, these people will be expected to have a significant effect on the student’s choice of career. The family and parents shape the future personality of the student as he grows up.

Parents have a crucial task of preparing the child for education. Students’ from rich backgrounds are more likely to gain a better education than those from poor backgrounds. In their task of socializing the child, the parents have a great influence on the child’s development and future life choices and thus shaping their personality. Parents shape the personality of their children by influencing the level of education or training that their children achieve; the knowledge they have about work and different occupations; the beliefs and attitudes they have to working; and the motivation they have to succeed. Most of this is learned unconsciously as children and teenagers absorb their parents’ attitudes and expectations of them as they grow up.

According to Keller (2004) the key parental influencers to a student’s career choice include; the attitudes and behavior the parents reward or punish, approve or disapprove of, the expectations parents have for their children's education and career, the examples they set for their children, the values they show to their family, friends and to society, the opportunities they offer their children to learn and develop themselves, and the kind of parent-child relationship they develop. 

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