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Each school provided one group, although the numbers within the groups varied. In total the number of pupils within the focus groups was 56, an average of The gender and ethnicity characteristics of the sample are shown in Figure 1. In addition to the open-ended discussion questions, data was collected on the individual characteristics and perspectives of each participant, by means of a brief questionnaire.

This enabled accurate pictures of the ethnicity, socio-economic background and individual choice processes and experiences to be identified.

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The interviews with Year 11 tutors, careers and Connexions service representatives and the heads of student guidance in FE sector colleges followed the same themes, to facilitate comparison with student responses. The Year 11 tutors in each of the sample schools were interviewed. Seven Connexions representatives, three careers service representatives and seven college heads of student guidance were also interviewed. Interviews and focus groups were all tape recorded for subsequent transcription, and were analysed using a classification of content approach.

Data is reported anonymously. Although these figures compare favourably with national trends, there remains a small but significant group of young people who struggle with the transition from schools to further education or work and are consequently at risk of long term social and economic exclusion. Of the 56 pupils who participated in the focus groups, 45 indicated that they planned to stay on in full time education. Figure 2 presents the data on the planned destinations of those who indicated an intention to stay on, detailed by ethnic group and specific post institutional choice.

A high number of these 23 out of 34 would prefer to do their A-level study in FE colleges.

Statistics in Brief:

Eleven out of 45, despite their intention to go to college and thus remain in full time education, had given consideration to other options of study besides pursuing A-levels. Although the data is too limited in scale to enable generalisations, given the profile of focus groups with a majority of average to low achieving pupils, the dominance of A-level as a preferred choice across the ability range is apparent. The study considered a wide range of potential influencing factors on the emergent pattern of choice.

These included the influence of parents, peers, finance and the pupils schools; the influence of ethnicity; the role of gender; and the importance of socio-economic status.

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Understanding the interplay between these factors is essential in understanding the process and nature of choice. For example, neither ethnicity nor gender can be dissociated from socio-economic status. Additionally, as one careers guidance professional pointed out, the socio and economic must also be distinguished. Some refugees and asylum seekers, for example, may have families with a long history of professional status, but be financially disadvantaged and there is an automatic correlation between financial status and culture:.

Whatever the occupation of parents they are London based and may well have middle class attitudes rather than the status and attitudes connected with a particular economic position. The significance of the social context within which young people make their choices about progression into post education or training has been highlighted by many researchers within the field Maguire, MacRae and Ball, ; Foskett and Hemsley-Brown, The social context of choice has two distinct meanings.

In general terms it describes the broad social and cultural environment of the individual and their family, and is therefore strongly related to social class and cultural heritage. Choices are framed by this environment, and the relationship between for example, social class and patterns of choice is well-established.

Social context has a second meaning Maguire et al, , though, since it also encompasses the social and leisure life of an individual. It is in this context that pressures to establish or preserve self-esteem and to make decisions that support group identity are found.

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These pressures are important in shaping choice. In relation to school choice it is the social context of the parents that is important, but by the time choice is being made at 16 this combines with, and is probably overshadowed by, the pressures on the young people themselves.

The growing significance of 'lifestyle' as a theme in the development of personal image has been identified by Foskett and Hemsley-Brown , and lifestyle is intimately involved with social relations and the establishment and maintenance of social status. Young people bring together their pre-conceptions of careers, pathways, courses and institutions with the pursuit of a choice that will secure social approval in terms of maintaining self-esteem and peer group acceptance.

The importance of choosing institutions and programmes which attract 'people like me' or 'people like I aspire to be' is akey element in the choice process. Matching choices, too, to the choices of friends and peers protects group identity and bolsters self-esteem. One element of the second of these dimensions of social context of choice has emerged strongly from the data from the West London study as significant.

This relates to the notion of fashionability as a component of choice, and the operationalisation of this influence through peer groups and peer pressure.

Bibliographic Information

Fashionability in this context is seen as the primacy of particular choices on the basis of their perceived acceptability to specific social groups, where that primacy is based on subjective judgements of value rather than, necessarily, objective measures of value. Choices that reflect fashion will in part be associated with establishing membership of a specific social group and of achieving acceptability or enhanced status in a chosen social group. It may also indicate active rejection of alternative social values or social groups.

What is fashionable is often ephemeral and may change over short or long time periods, but once fashionable choice patterns become established within particular social groupings, positive feedback processes may lead to substantial reinforcement of those patterns. This does not mean that the choice has no rational component. Indeed, most young people and their parents will provide a rational explanation for that choice in terms of short-term or long-term benefits relating to career, income or social status.

What it means, rather, is that at the point of choice the choice itself is steered by the concept of fashionability rather than by a separate rational choice process. There is, in effect, an assumption that, if this particular choice is fashionable, there must be a good reason for that, and hence it is a safe and confident choice. Within the London West study a number of aspects of fashion in post choice emerged from the data. Firstly, the fashionability of progression through further education to higher education was clearly established across a wide range of socio-economic and ethnic groups.

As one Y11 pupil indicated,. There is much peer pressure to stay on in education and to see a place at university as the most prized ultimate goal. For example, one young woman spoke of her friend's advice to " fight for a place in the sixth form " even if as seemed likely, her grades would not be high enough to earn her a place. What was considered a good or acceptable outcome was shaped by a flow of values through street life.

Those who opted to go into employment stood in danger of being viewed as failures, with associated peer disapproval, as the decision falls outside the boundaries of acceptability within the range of acceptable fashion. This is illustrated by the case of one young man who was bullied because of his interest in training as a carpenter. Peer pressure, which discriminates subtle grades of success, has always existed, but this is now overlain by a heavy national emphasis on learning and higher education.

One careers advisor explained that. Employment and vocational options are being pushed further away from acceptable norms. In response, the disaffected, excluded from a path which would match the dominant vision of success, or fashion, may adopt another set of values, and reject learning completely. Secondly, course choice reflected clear patterns of fashionability. Between school and university, the aim is to be engaged in, at best, a fashionable course, or at least an acceptable course.

Consequently, young people may choose a course which is of doubtful suitability in order to meet street credibility criteria amongst their friends see, for example, Thomas and Webber, At the time of the study, for example, young people, careers advisors and institutions all identified the fashionability of courses in media and performance art. This fashionability had no relationship to the career prospects emanating from this field, which were identified by most respondents as rather limited.

Rather, it was related to notions of peer group fashion and the idea that it was a 'cool' area to be involved in. The fashionability of courses in this field is, however, relatively temporary as what is popular fashionable and what is not varies over time. Course fashionability also shows some connection to choice patterns amongst different ethnic groups, and to choices differentiated by gender. Teachers and guidance specialists saw the potential influence of ethnic background in a number of ways, but particularly through high aspirations and a preference for high status jobs.

Which led to a considerable narrowing in their choice of curriculum areas. Respondents perceived an attraction to science, business studies, accountancy and computing amongst the Asian community, for example. Such choices within the Asian community have been established by previous studies e. Wrench, ; Siann and Knox, ; Mizra, ; Lightbody et al, ; , and may relate to the status of the subject, but may also reflect very practical entrepreneurial concerns, as one careers advisor indicated:.

Parental pressure among Asian pupils to do Business Studies and computing appears overwhelming. This may be fairly damaging, but it is probably linked to cultural values. The Asian community has been at the forefront of the small businesses in the country and would like their children to follow suit. One college saw the fact that it had a strong achievement record in sciences as a major attraction to the Asian community.

There were further connections drawn, with evidence from both pupils and careers advisors of Afro Caribbean young people's preference for creative areas such as media, art and music. Within the ethnic groups it is clear that some of this notion of fashionability arises from parental pressure and from cultural expectations within the ethnic community. But if we see 'fashionability' as a product of the desire to preserve self-esteem within those social groups within which the individual wishes to participate, then it is also clear that the young people themselves are assuming some of these notions of fashion within their choice process.

In considering patterns of choice by gender, there appeared some evidence that boys are more influenced by their peers in their choice than are girls, and less able to withstand opposition to choices seen as 'uncool'. For example, in the sample of young men, the choice of pursuing science was seen as acceptable only as long as the individual could counter-balance the choice by demonstrating other forms of behavious that were deemed acceptable amongst the peer group.

If science was the choice:. A dork was defined by the way you dressed " If you wear your trousers too high " , talked and walked. The choice of studying science was chancy for these young men, potentially subjecting them to peer disapproval, unless they could in some way give sufficient signals to prove their acceptability in other ways.

Thirdly, choice of institution, for those seeking to pursue full time education post is strongly influenced by fashion and current trends. In part this is related to the provision of particular courses which are currently fashionable, with for example, those colleges providing media and performance arts courses with positive reputations experiencing strong demand. Additionally, though, particular institutions were seen as popular with particular groups, either because they were familiar and were consequently secure, or because they were new and removed from areas or institutions with perceived poor reputations.

Some courses and providers were seen as 'fashionable' and so exerted an attraction which was weakly related to rational choice. For example, one college respondent believed her college to be very popular with Afro-Caribbeans. A snowball effect was apparent with recruitment of some from one ethnic group leading to further recruitment on the basis that people with the same background liked to be together. Search strategy. The figure shows the search strategy including databases assessed for this study. All three factors Intrinsic, Extrinsic, and Interpersonal affecting adolescents' career choices were identified in this review Figure 2.

Figure 2. Diagrammatic illustration of the included studies highlighting the factors that influence youth career choices. The figure shows the number of studies focusing on each of the three factors intrinsic, extrinsic and interpersonal. No articles focused solely on extrinsic or intrinsic factors. Two studies each explored the relationship between intrinsic and extrinsic Choi and Kim, ; Atitsogbe et al. Table 1 summarizes the 30 articles included in this review. Intrinsic factors explored in the literature include self-interest, job satisfaction, and learning experiences.

Extrinsic factors include job security, guaranteed job opportunities, high salaries, prestigious professions and future benefits. Meanwhile, interpersonal factors include parental support, family cohesion, peer influence, and interaction with educators. Italy was considered as partly individualistic and collectivist. Fourteen studies included participants from both collectivist and individualistic cultural settings Mau, ; Lee, ; Caldera et al.

Twelve studies focused on collectivist cultural settings Yamashita et al. Three studies examined participants who moved from collectivist to individualistic settings Hui and Lent, ; Polenova et al. Twenty-nine of the included studies used a range of quantitative designs. Participant numbers in these ranged from 80 to One study used qualitative design with 12 participants.

The quality assessment of methods employed in the 30 studies included in this review are outlined in Table 2. Table 1 and Figure 3 details the study setting and the underlying factors influencing youth career choices. Analysis of the reviewed articles revealed four major themes namely: extrinsic, intrinsic and interpersonal factors and emergent bicultural influence on career choice.

These four major themes had several subthemes and are reported below. Figure 3. Career influencing factors. The figures shows identified career influencing factors and their distribution in cultural settings. Extrinsic factors examined in the reviewed articles included financial remuneration, job security, professional prestige and job accessibility.

Financial remuneration was identified as the most influential extrinsic factor in career choice decision. While amongst Indian management students, it was rated as the third most important factor influencing career choice Agarwala, Financial reward was also a high motivator for career decision among Chinese migrant students in Canada Tao et al. In contrast, the need for higher remuneration did not influence career decision making among engineering students in India Gokuladas, , and Japanese senior college students Yamashita et al.

Prestige statuses attached to some occupations were strong incentives to career choices; was ranked as the second most important positive influence in career decision making by over half of the respondents in a South African study, indicating that these youth wanted prestigious jobs so that they could live good lives and be respected in the society Bojuwoye and Mbanjwa, Japanese and Korean students were also highly influenced by occupational prestige Yamashita et al. Job accessibility was also considered as a deciding factor for youth's career decision in a collectivist Burkina Faso society where nearness to employment locations prevented students from choosing careers related to their preferred fields of endeavor Atitsogbe et al.

Another study explored the perceptions of hospitality and tourism career among college students and demonstrated that Korean students are more likely to focus on current market trends such as job accessibility in comparison to their American counterparts Choi and Kim, , implying that they are less flexible with their choices. However, job accessibility and vocational interest were less predictive of career explorations than personality traits in both cultural settings in a different study Fan et al.

They suggested that their finding are in line with the uncertainty avoidance index proposed by Hofstede which also takes on a relatively high value for Germans. The literature explored intrinsic factors such as personal interests, self-efficacy, outcome expectations and professional development opportunities. Personal interests in career decision-making appeared to be an important factor in the selection of a life career Caldera et al.

Bojuwoye and Mbanjwa ascertained that about fifty per cent of youth career decisions are based on their personal interests Bojuwoye and Mbanjwa, , and Gokuladas maintained that students from urban areas are most likely to consider their personal interests before societal interests when making career decisions Gokuladas, Lent et al.

Atitsogbe et al. They reported that in Switzerland, interest differentiation was significantly associated with self-identity. This scenario was compared to the situation in the collectivist Burkina Faso culture where interest differentiation and consistency were less associated self-identity Atitsogbe et al. Similarly, Korean students were reported to focus on the prevailing market trends such as salary, job positions, and promotion opportunities in contrast to American student who were more future oriented and interested in setting individual desired goals in their reality oriented-perceptions Choi and Kim, Personal interest was also linked to career aspirations in Mexican American women Caldera et al.

Self-efficacy was considered a vital intrinsic factor in the career decision-making process of youth Howard et al. Howard et al. In collectivist cultures, students' self-efficacy was linked to their level of congruence with their parents. Whereas in individualistic cultural settings, like America, families encourage students to become self-sufficient and independent Mau, ; Fan et al. One article that studied the outcome expectations of youth in individualistic cultural setting reported that among students in the United States, strong career maturity, confidence, and outcome expectations were culturally based Lee, The opportunity for professional development is also a major intrinsic career-influencing factor Lee, ; Cheung and Arnold, ; Guan et al.

University students in China were individually matured and influenced by career development opportunities Cheung and Arnold, While American students were shown to score higher for ideal occupations Guan et al. This is similar to high school students in Indonesia, although dependent on congruence with parents Sawitri and Creed, Agarwala suggested the father was seen as the most significant individual influencing the career choice of Indian management students Agarwala, This could be understood in the context of a reasonably patriarchal society.

According to the study, most of the participants' fathers were mainly professionals, which may have motivated their career selection. In another study, mothers Fathers Good rapport among family members culminating in an effective communication within the family set up is crucial for laying sound foundation for career decision making. Higher career congruence with parents also increased career confidence and self-efficacy Sawitri et al.

Furthermore, parents' profession influences career choice as children from agricultural backgrounds tend to take on their parents' job, while those from industrialized settings have more autonomy and career decidedness Howard et al. Other familial influence on career decision-making according to the results of the only qualitative study in our review, include parental values, parental pressure, cultural capital and family obligations Polenova et al.

Students indicated that, parental opinion sometimes put an emphasis on a specific career. Polenova et al. Teachers and educators are significant figures in the process of youth's career decision-making Yamashita et al. Cheung et al. In addition, Cheung and Arnold demonstrated a strong student dependence on teachers followed by peers and less of parents Cheung and Arnold, Two studies carried out in both cultural settings showed peer influence as a third potent force after parents and teachers that can significantly impact on the career decisions of youth, especially girls Howard et al.

Other studies reported that peers are a branch of the significant others and as social agents, they influence their kinds through social comparisons and acceptance Yamashita et al. The impact of social responsibility as a driving force in youth career decision-making was identified by Fouad et al. This is supported by another research, which suggested that societal expectations influenced youth career choices in both collectivist and individualistic cultures Lee, ; Mau, ; Polenova et al. Of the 30 articles, only three explored the career decision making of bicultural youths Hui and Lent, ; Polenova et al.

Strong family support influenced US-born and Asian-born students as shown by a recent study Hui and Lent, Hui and Lent found that students with stronger adherence to Asian values were more likely to perceive family support to pursue science related careers Hui and Lent, High sense of obligation to parents filial piety , internal locus of control, and personal interests were identified as factors that influenced bi-cultural Asian American students' career decision making Polenova et al.

Bicultural Chinese students who were acculturated to Canada were highly intrinsically motivated internal locus of control and self-efficacy in their career decision-making, while those who had stronger Chinese acculturations were influenced by extrinsic financial stability and interpersonal family factors Tao et al. This systematic review examined the existent factors influencing the career choices of the youths from different countries around the globe, from either or both collectivist and individualistic cultural settings.


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Intrinsic and interpersonal factors were more investigated than extrinsic factors in the reviewed articles. In these articles, intrinsic factors included personal interests, professional advancement, and personality traits. Extrinsic factors included guaranteed employment opportunities, job security, high salaries, prestigious professions and future benefits.

Meanwhile, interpersonal factors are the activities of agents of socialization in one's life, such as parental support, family cohesion, status, peer influence as well as interaction with other social agents such as school counsellors, teachers and other educators Lent et al. The three factors intrinsic, extrinsic and interpersonal relating to career choices are pervasive in both cultures. Their level of influence on the youth differs from culture to culture and appear to be dependent on perceived parental congruence leading to self-efficacy and better career choice outcomes.

The studies carried out in Canada, Finland, Germany, Spain, Switzerland and United States of America showed a high level of individualism, which typifies intrinsic motivation for career choice. Youths in individualistic cultural settings were influenced by the combinations of intrinsic personal interest, personality trait, self-efficacy , extrinsic job security, high salaries and to a lesser extent, interpersonal parental guidance factors and are encouraged to make their own career decisions Mau, ; Gunkel et al.

Youths in collectivist cultures were mainly influenced by interpersonal honoring parental and societal expectations and parental requirements to follow a prescribed career path and extrinsic prestigious professions Mau, ; Gunkel et al. The opinions of significant others matter significantly to youths from collectivist cultural settings. Parental influences were found to be significant in collectivist cultural settings Agarwala, ; Sawitri et al. The activities of parents and significant others are very pivotal in the lives of the youth as they navigate their career paths.

Interestingly, one article focused on two different cultural orientations within one country and reported that parents' profession influence career choice as children from agricultural backgrounds tend to take on their parents' job, while those from industrialized settings have more autonomy and career decidedness Howard et al. This finding emphasizes the complex interplay of cultural context and the environment in the career aspirations of youths Fouad et al. The review suggests that youths of collectivist orientations, tend to subordinate personal interests to group goals, emphasizing the standards and importance of relatedness and family cohesion Kim et al, However, such patterns of behavior may be conflicted, particularly during cross-cultural transitions.

Parental influence have been reported to generate difficulties within the family and discrepancies over career choice decisions are not uncommon within both cultures Myburgh, ; Keller and Whiston, ; Dietrich and Kracke, ; Sawitri et al. The conundrum is will adolescents of collectivist orientation be comfortable with their cultural ethos after resettling in a different environment with individualistic cultural beliefs and practices?

Our study revealed that when youth transfer from their heritage culture to a different cultural setting, their cultural values are challenged and their career decision-making patterns may be affected. For instance, Tao et al. Similarly, Asian American students with stronger adherence to Asian values had a high sense of obligation to parents Polenova et al. Movement across cultures migration leads to several changes and adjustments in an individual's life. The internal and psychological changes the youth may encounter, otherwise known as psychological acculturation, also affect their career identity Berry, Given that only three out of the 30 reviewed studies were conducted in bicultural settings Hui and Lent, ; Polenova et al.

Social Learning Theory proposes that the role of a career counselor is to help clients expand their career choices and help clarify beliefs that can interfere or promote their career plans Krumboltz, Culture has a major influence on people's beliefs therefore, it is integral that career counselors are able to provide culturally responsive career directions to guide the youth in the pursuit of their career aspirations.

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Providing accessible sources of support and empowering youths to openly discuss their concerns relating to career decision-making will broaden the youths' understanding and this could have a significant impact on their academic and career pathways. Family support is important for all youths as they navigate their career explorations, especially for migrants.

The role of counselors is not only limited to the youths, it can also benefit the entire family. Essentially, counselors can attempt to engage not just the youths in exploring academic and vocational opportunities, but also offer avenues for families to become involved and connected to the career decision-making processes. Cultural identities combined with the varied expectations for achievement can be an overwhelming experience for the youth.

Counselors can seize this opportunity to provide companionship and direction as the youth figure out their career pathways Gushue et al. The significance of a school environment that is conducive and embraces the racial and academic identity of its students can be a huge asset to boost youth morale. Gonzalez et al. Career counselors together with other educators and service providers hold influential positions as they can furnish academic, cultural and social support that family members alone cannot provide. The major strength of this review is that it has provided increased understanding of the cultural underpinnings of the factors that influence the career choices of youths.

The study has also highlighted areas of knowledge gap in the literature, such as fewer studies exploring the impact of extrinsic factors on career choice and the need for more bicultural studies. However, the conclusions drawn from this review are limited to the data that were extracted from the studies identified. However, the use of these concepts was helpful in classifying the cultural background of the participants included in this review.

The findings of the studies reviewed within each country may not necessarily be representative of all the cultural orientations in those countries. Furthermore, researchers from different cultures or studying different cultures may have chosen to study only the variables that they believe will have relevance. Nevertheless, most of the studies reviewed had large sample sizes and were conducted in various countries across the globe.

Further qualitative studies on this topic are required to provide in-depth understanding of the influences on youth's career choices and to allow causal inferences to be made. Better career choices for the bicultural youth will enhance their self-identity and lead to commitment to duty and eventual career satisfaction. Without harnessing the potentials of youths through career education and training, the bicultural and migrant youths' face uncertainties in the future in the host country.

The rippling effects of such uncertainties in the future could have a detrimental effect on the country's economy. Therefore, there is the need for increased research activities in this area in host countries. Educational system planning should be developed to encourage youth to have self-efficacy and be more involved in job-related information seeking. This will be especially efficient in progressing bicultural youths who might have migrated with their parents into a new culture. Interventions designed to assist youth in strengthening their academic self-efficacy, internal motivation, and goal-setting strategies can foster improved career choice outcomes.

The three factors investigated in this study are pervasive in influencing the career decisions of youths in both individualistic and collectivist societies. In collectivist societies, parental intervention is understood as a requirement to support their children's efforts and equip them to be responsible and economically productive.

Meanwhile, the standard practice in individualistic societies is for parents to endorse their children's opinions and encourage them to choose careers that make them happy. Overall, further research is imperative to guide the understanding of parental influence and diversity in bicultural and migrant youths' career prospects and their ability to use the resources available in their new environments to attain meaningful future career goals. Additional research, particularly qualitative, is required to explore the level of family involvement in youths' career choices among migrant families in different cultural settings.

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Friendship and Educational Choice: peer influence and planning for the future

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