The role of domestic goals and values in shaping adolescent girls' future occupational plans

Candace E Bell, University of Pennsylvania


This exploratory study examined the influence of private sphere goals and values on career goals and work orientation of adolescent females in high school and college. Intervention efforts have been targeted at changing girls' public sex role expectations, but have failed to address the critical issue of how to interface these revolutionized public gender roles with relatively unchanged cultural expectations for gender roles in the domestic realm. Examining how private sphere concerns and values interact with the developmental processes of adolescence will identify both the evolution of perceived conflicts shaping girls' career decisions and the critical points for intervention. This research was conducted in two phases. First, qualitative data were collected from 29 middle and high school aged girls and content-analyzed. Second, building upon the results of Phase 1, a survey instrument was then developed. This survey used the emergent themes of the qualitative Phase I study: meaning of career, meaning of family, scripts for balancing work and home, parental influences, and feminist identity. Also included in the survey were two previously developed measures: The Life Role Salience Scales (Amatea, Cross, Clark, & Bobby, 1986) and Feminist Identity/Development Scale (Bargad & Hyde, 1991). Survey data were collected from 207 female students attending four institutions: an ivy league university, a competitive public four year college, and two community colleges. Results were interpreted using three theoretical perspectives: identity theory, social learning/ecological theory, and feminist theory. Study findings showed young women seem to be focusing the identity work on their public selves and deferring domestic identity issues to their mid- to late twenties. However, these young women had strongly held beliefs about parenting and male domestic roles that had important implications for their long term persistence in the workforce. Feminist beliefs and exposure to adults pursuing non-traditional career and/or domestic roles were influential in shaping young women's future plans for balancing their public and private identities. The discussion focuses on the importance of exposing young women to a wider range of role models in both domains as well as the inclusion of feminist empowerment in their career development experiences.

Subject Area

Developmental psychology|Vocational education|Personality

Recommended Citation

Bell, Candace E, "The role of domestic goals and values in shaping adolescent girls' future occupational plans" (2001). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3003593.