Relationship between school leavers' career development and psychological adjustment : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Occupational Psychology at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
The school leaver's readiness to undertake successful steps toward the world of work was examined in the context of the changing occupational structure, secondary education provision, and the developmental implications of the prolongation of the period between school and work. The hypotheses that (a) the school leaver's level of career development would be related to the clarity of a career direction, and (b) the clarity of school leaver's career goals would be related to personal adjustment in the post-school environment, were tested over a two-week period with 157 school leavers undertaking an academic route toward the world of work. Established instruments were chosen to measure dimensions of effective career development and selected psychological well-being (life satisfaction) and personality variables (self-esteem, and locus of control), indicative of well-adjusted, mature behaviour. Additional issues relating to subjects' prior career guidance and exploration experiences and reasons for choosing their given post-school path were also examined.
Preliminary descriptive, reliability, and factor analyses of the established instruments yielded results consistent with theoretical expectations and with the results of previous research, providing support for the structural validity and internal consistency of the measurement for the present data. Direct discriminant function analyses were used to analyze the data relating to the research hypotheses, while research questions relating to additional issues were examined, in the context of subjects' decision status, using contingency analyses. Results of the subject's decision status revealed over half of the present sample were either unclear of a career direction or had not given any thought to the types of jobs they would like to do. For the present sample of school leavers, 56.7 per cent had chosen to continue on to higher education unaware of the occupational field for which their course will limit, and with little knowledge of their ability to adapt to the types of jobs for which they will eventually be qualified. Career development and career decision status was significantly related, supporting the first hypothesis. Those who were undecided about a career goal also lacked the attitudes, knowledge, and behaviours that both the developmental literature, and the objectives underlying career/transition education consider as necessary for successful movement into the world of work. Career decision status was found to be significantly related to life satisfaction and self-esteem. There was no support for the relationship of locus of control to career decidedness, providing only partial support for the second hypothesis, and suggesting that school leavers who chose a given post-school path with no clear career direction in mind are less likely to be satisfied with their lives, and less likely to feel self confident than school leavers undertaking a path with the intention of attaining a career goal. Results relating to additional research questions revealed that under half of the subjects who had received career/transition education during their secondary school years had found it to be useful in helping them to decide what to do on leaving school. The majority of subjects indicated that improvements needed to be made to the nature of career-related information available, that career advice required more professionalism, and that more work experience/exploration opportunities should be available during their secondary school years. Over half
indicated that the anticapation of job satisfaction was the main reason for undertaking higher education. For subjects who were decided about a career, a second main reason for attending university was to meet the requirements of a preferred job. For those who were undecided about a career direction, the desire to fulfil parental expectations rated second to the belief that higher qualifications will lead to job satisfaction, and a number also reported that they either did not know why they had undertaken further education or that they felt there was nothing else to do. Subjects who had undertaken higher education with no job in mind also reported parental expectations, in addition to the desire to continue learning as main reasons for attending university.
The implications of the present findings, for policy-makers, practitioners, and researchers in the field of career/transition education were discussed. Limitations of the present study were discussed in relevant sections of the study and these were summarised in the final chapter. Recommendations arising out of the research are offered and the importance of a more professional approach in the evaluation of the need, implementation, and impact of career development interventions in secondary schools is stressed.