Developmental Brown Bag: Career Aspirations and Choices within Eccles et al. Expectancy-Value Theory
Fani Lauermann, Ph.D., Professor of Empirical Educational Research, IFS, TU Dortmund University
Which occupation to pursue is one of the most consequential decisions people make, and represents a key developmental task, with long-term implications for job satisfaction, job performance, and psychological wellbeing. Accordingly, it is important to understand the underlying developmental processes associated with either individual or group differences in occupational choices. Programmatic research grounded in Eccles’ et al. expectancy-value theory (EVT) was designed to contribute towards a better understanding of such choices. The theory’s basic premise is that individuals choose to engage in tasks and activities that have high value to them and at which they expect to succeed. For instance, individuals who believe to be good at and expect to be successful in math, and who value math as an academic subject, should be more likely to pursue and attain math-intensive careers than individuals with less positive math self-perceptions. In addition, EVT specifies four components of subjective task value (intrinsic interest, utility, attainment value, and cost) and outlines a comprehensive set of their antecedents and consequences. I will present a set of studies, in which we use EVT to longitudinally investigate the relations between adolescents’ math- and language arts-related expectancy/value beliefs and career aspirations (reported at the end of high school), as well as pathways towards adult career attainment (reported about 15 years after high school). Furthermore, I will focus on potential gender differences in academic self-perceptions and career trajectories, in particular in math-intensive fields. Finally, drawing on both EVT and the Dimensional Comparison Theory (DCT) we will examine potential negative cross-domain influences in the prediction of individual career trajectories. For instance, prior evidence suggests that individuals with high math and high verbal abilities are less likely to attain math-intensive careers than individuals with high math, but only moderate verbal abilities; and actual and perceived verbal ability and academic values negatively predict math-related career aspirations. Our research expands upon this evidence by examining analogous longitudinal cross-domain effects for both math- and language arts-related career outcomes.
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