The Roles of Family, Culture, and Social Cognitive Variables in the Career Interests and Goals of Asian American College Students

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Abstract

Although family and cultural factors have been assumed to play important roles in the career development of Asian Americans, theory-driven research on this topic remains limited. We examined culturally relevant factors that may contribute to Asian Americans’ consideration of fields in which they are overrepresented (e.g., science, technology, engineering) and underrepresented (e.g., education, social science). Drawing from social cognitive career theory, a culture-specific, social cognitive model of career interests and choice was tested in Holland’s (1997) Investigative (I) and Social (S) themes. A sample of 802 Asian American undergraduates completed measures of family support, self-efficacy, outcome expectations, interest, and career choice consideration in relation to both Holland themes. Two indicators of acculturation/enculturation (adherence to Asian values and generation status in the United States) were also obtained. The model accounted for a substantial amount of variance in Asian American college students’ career consideration in both themes. Family support and acculturation played varying roles, depending on the Holland theme. For example, family support was linked to career choice consideration both directly (in the S theme) and indirectly, via other predictors (in both themes). Contrary to expectations, the acculturation variables did not moderate the relation of family support or interest to career consideration in either theme. We discuss the implications of these findings for efforts to understand and facilitate the career development of Asian American college students.

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