Career development in a relational context: An examination of family of origin dynamics, relational health, ethnic identity and career development in diverse college women




Villarreal, Adria N.

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Researchers have encouraged continued exploration of the intersection of career and relationships (Whiston & Keller, 2004a), with particular attention to racial and ethnic minorities (Flores & Ali, 2004). The present study explored associations between career development and the quality of interpersonal relationships in a sample of 294 ethnically diverse college women recruited primarily from undergraduate psychology courses in the Southwest. Participants completed a series of questionnaires assessing multiple relationship dynamics and career outcomes including the Career Decision Self-Efficacy - Short Form (Betz, Klein, & Taylor, 1996), My Vocational Situation (Holland, Daiger, & Power, 1980), Relational Health Indices (Liang et al., 2002), the Inventory of Parent and Peer Attachment (Armsden & Greenberg, 1987), and the Family Environment Scale (Moos & Moos, 1994).

As predicted, results of an analysis of variance revealed Caucasian college women tended to report higher vocational identity than Hispanic women. No differences were observed between Caucasian and African American women's vocational identity. Results failed to support predicted ethnic differences in career decision self-efficacy for Caucasian, Hispanic and African American women, indicating women reported feeling similar levels of confidence for career decision tasks.

African American and Hispanic women reporting higher ethnic identity tended to indicate greater confidence for career decision tasks, while no differences were found between these two groups of women in vocational identity. Multiple regression analyses identified greater family cohesion and participation in social and recreational activities, together with higher quality mentor relationships as significantly related to higher vocational identity. An inverse relationship was observed between ethnic identity and vocational identity, such that women who endorsed higher ethnic identity tended to possess less stable views of their skills and talents. Further, greater confidence for career decision-making tasks was associated with a higher quality mentor and peer relationships and greater social and recreational activity in the family-of-origin. While preliminary, findings suggest the quality of multiple relationships may be an important area for further study in ethnic minority college women's career development. Implications for theory, research and clinical practice are presented, together with limitations and suggestions for future research.



Education, Psychology, Family of origin, Career development, Interpersonal relationships, College women, Relational health, Ethnic identity