The effects of father involvement

Abstract

This study aimed to examine the relationship between father involvement as measured by the Father Involvement Scale (Carlson, 2006) and career maturity as measured by the Attitude Scale of the Career Maturity Inventory (Crites, 1973) as well as the emotional Stroop task. The study also examined whether level of college education, and the academic program the student is enrolled in predicted career maturity. 18 male and 91 female college students with a mean age of 20.70 (SD = 1.31) enrolled in education, social sciences and administration programs participated in the study. The results indicated that father involvement predicted career maturity as measured by the Career Maturity Inventory, but not by the emotional Stroop task. The indications of these findings regarding social and educational politics are discussed.

Career Maturity and Father Involvement

Vocational psychology operationalizes career attitudes as the individual's beliefs about working and career planning. Career attitudes comprise the issues of who makes the individual's career choices and whether a certain line of work is satisfying for the individual. Career maturity is indicated by possessing the attitudes that entry to occupations is not a matter of chance, that what one knows is more important than whom one knows and that acquainting oneself with available jobs will increase the individual's likelihood to get the job (Crites, 1973). It is conceptualized that those who are mature in their career attitudes will have more success in their careers as they possess more realistic expectations. Possessing realistic career expectations will in turn lead to the career development initiations seeking to facilitate the maturation of career attitudes (Healy, O'Shea & Crook, 1985). Mature career attitudes have been demonstrated to be related with scholastic aptitude, emotional development, confidence, self-esteem and internal locus of control (Gable, Thompson, & Glanstein, 1976; Kahn & Alvi, 1983; Karayanni, 1981; Westbrook, Cutts, Madison, & Arcia, 1980). Career attitudes also facilitate adjustment to work; in a longitudinal study, McNamara (1975; cited in Healy, O'Shea & Crook, 1985) found that mature career attitudes at the twelfth grade level was related to occupational adjustment one year later.

Career maturity is much more than career decidedness; it is related to commitment to a career decision. Blustein, Devenis and Kidney (1989) depict a series of stages individuals go through on the path to career commitment. The individual first engages in exploratory activities such as gathering information about available careers, reflecting on possible choices and then experimenting with various occupational options. The individual can thus form specific career goals. When the individual has gone through self- and environment-examination and overcome the obstacles which stand in his/her way to that specific career goal, career commitment is achieved. Scott and Church (2001) argue that commitment to a career choice indicates a certain degree of confidence and positivistic anticipations about the career choice in the face of expected hard labor of attainment.

Literature has focused on a number of familial factors affecting career maturity such as parental attachment (Lee & Hughey, 2001) career-specific parental behaviors (Dietrich & Krake, in press) and parental involvement (Culp, Schadle, Robinson & Culp, 2000). These studies however, have focused on the family triads, rather than the specific parent-child relationships. Among these, more studies have focused on the mother-child relationship rather than the father-child relationships. The increase in mothers returning to workforce following childbirth, political and social movements supporting more egalitarian childrearing practices and preschool initiatives have altered the social reality of mothers being the primary caregivers. Recent reviews of research on father-child relationships and father involvement indicate that this pattern is changing and such a change deems considerations of father-child relationship dynamics necessary when researching into developmental factors (Allen & Daly, 2002; Lamb, 2000).

The degree of father involvement is argued to be a critical factor for the healthy development of children (Caldera, 2004). The father provides the child with the cognitive and social stimulation that is qualitatively different from that provided by the mother (Bridges, Connell & Belsky, 1988). The father-child relationship is especially critical for the child's development of social relationships outside the family. When compared to mother-child interaction, father-child interaction had a more important role in the development of children's openness to the world. It has also been demonstrated that children of involved fathers are more likely to become educationally mobile young adults with higher levels of economic and educational achievement, career success, occupational competency and psychological well-being (Allen & Daly, 2002). Tokar, Withrow, Hall and Moradi (2003) specifically showed that children who are connected to their fathers, but psychologically independent from their mothers have a clearer and more assured view of themselves in relation to the work-business environment. Tokar et al. (2003) in fact indicate that the separation from mother and connectedness to father is the determining factor in effective career decision making.

Literature reveals that fathers become a role model for their children in the interactions outside of the family, outer world and more specifically for business world. Zimmerman, Salem, and Notaro (2000), for example, suggested that fathers helped their children to develop interpersonal connections, social networks and social resources in the community and at school. Emotional support from fathers was related to greater life satisfaction, self-esteem and personal adequacy for the children (Zimmerman, Salem & Notaro, 2000). Fathers also serve the role of catalysts for risk-taking; they encourage their children to be initiative in unfamiliar situations, to be explorative when obstacles need to be overcome, and to stand up for themselves in the presence of strangers, increasing self-esteem and self-efficacy (Paquette, 2004). Research on the effect of self-efficacy and self-esteem implies that career decision making process is strongly related to self-esteem and self-efficacy by initiating exploratory behaviors leading to mature career attitudes (Blustein et al., 1989).

One other explanation for the positive influence of father involvement on career maturity is that children whose fathers are involved in their daily lives are more likely to have engaged in educational activities with their parents such as visiting a museum (Bryant, Zvonkovic & Reynolds, 2006). Access to community resources is also more attainable when fathers participate in community organizations, and children become endowed with professional resources and opportunities when comes the time to explore a career (Flouri & Buchanan, 2004). Amato (1994) further argues that father involvement is associated with mother involvement, that is, the family culture that promotes father involvement also promotes mother involvement. Children with involved fathers, then, are products of a family environment in which all members are interested in each other's activities. Such an environment is indicative of healthy development, which in turn is predictive of career maturity (Blustein et al., 1989).

Father involvement does surely not appear to be to sole factor influencing the maturity of one's career attitudes. Literature has considered age as a possible influence on career maturity. Healy, O'Shea and Crook (1985) discussed that effective coping with work and vocational training support self-reliance and planning skills which are the requirements of a successful career. Late adolescence tasks are viewed to be more challenging than those of early adolescence and thus require and educe greater self-reliance and planning skills. Adulthood similarly requires and educes more. Successful aging is thus argued to generate more mature career attitudes. Healy, O'Shea and Crook (1985) have indeed revealed that career attitudes matured with age and that this maturity had a direct effect on the number of months employed during college and the students' GPA. Age is further argued to endow the individual with the competencies, rank and references which will facilitate higher level of entrance to work (Healy, O'Shea & Cook, 1985). Grade level, as well as age, is repeatedly found to be significant indicators of career maturity (Niece & Bradley, 1979; Rogers & Westbrook; Rowland, 2004).

Literature has also considered the departmental program the individual is enrolled in as a possible influence on career maturity. Hall (1983) conceptualized career maturity as related to the need the student has for career guidance. Her study revealed that career planning needs were associated with majoring in an area of social science. Gender is also investigated as an influence on career maturity and confictual findings exist in the literature regarding this factor. Blustein, Wallbridge, Friedlander and Palladino (1991) and Pallodino and Bluestein (1994), for example, found significant gender differences in college student and career development whereas these findings are not replicated in other studies, such as in Larson, Heppner, Ham and Dugan (1988) and Lee and Hughey (2001).

There is increasing criticism regarding major theories of career development and parental involvement being based on small samples of Western, White, middle-class individuals, where careers may take on a different meaning and more egalitarian childrearing practices are observed (Herr & Cramer, 1990; cited in Lundberg, Osborne & Minor, 1997). It is interesting to see whether these finding of career maturity and father involvement are replicated in non-Western cultures. A Nigerian study, for example, found that attachment to and psychological separation from the mother predicted mature career behavior whereas combined attachment and psychological separation from the father did not predict mature career development (Salami & Aremu, 2007). Aside from father involvement, a Lebanese study revealed that college freshmen overall possessed unrealistic career goals (e.g. wanting to be engineers even when GPAs were low). The researcher indicated that lack of formal career guidance programs in schools lead to career immaturity (Theodory, 1982). Similarly, a Taiwanese study revealed that students overall possessed high levels of state anxiety regarding career choice, which is counter-indicative of career maturity, and counseling programs aimed at reducing anxiety did not have any treatment effect. Lack of career preparation was proposed to lie behind the career immaturity of Taiwanese students (Peng & Johanson, 2006). Mexican-American students were also less mature in terms of career choice than Anglo-Americans (Lundberg et al., 1997). It is important to see whether career maturity is a relevant construct and whether it is influenced by father involvement in Turkey, a non-Western country where fathers are typically uninvolved, having a career is associated with dignity and honor, and high-school programs are aimed at preparing the students for the national university entrance exams, not for specific careers.

Measurement of father involvement has been controversial in literature. Time spent with children was initially conceptualized as a marker of father involvement; however, findings varying from 37 seconds to 8 hours a day indicate that a measure of father involvement should take other factors into account. A more balanced and integrative approach is to consider factors of engagement, accessibility and responsibility of the father when measuring father involvement (Lamb, 2000). One method frequently used to measure reported father involvement in young adults is retrospective reports (Finley & Schwartz, 2007). Warshak (2003) indicates that retrospective reports are a unique method to assess children's views of parental experiences from a mature perspective. As Arnett (1998) suggests, young adults adopt a cognitively, psychosocially and affectively more mature outlook on their parents and thus provide a unique perspective on their family of origin experiences than children. Father Involvement Scale, which is employed in this study, is a retrospective report measuring perceived engagement and accessibility of the father as well as the time spent with the child.

When measurement of career maturity is concerned, the Attitude Scale of Crites' (1973) Career Maturity Inventory is one of the most widely used vocational psychological measures. It was deemed to be the most relevant measure for the present study as it measures how realistic the individual's career attitudes are and it reveals gradual maturity changes in individuals. As attitudes also carry an emotional component, a more direct measure of the emotional consequences of career choice was also deemed beneficial. Numerous experimental methodologies appear in literature that measure emotional consequence of attitudes. One such methodology is the Emotional Stroop paradigm (Bruce & Jones, 2004; Hafer, 2000; Mahamedi & Heatherton, 1993). In the Stroop color naming task (Stroop, 1935) participants are shown color words which are incongruent with the color they are printed in and instructed to name the color of the word as quickly as possible, while ignoring the meaning of the word. The latency of the naming response reflects the extent to which the processing of word meaning takes place. When respondents are slower to color name a particular class of words compared to neutral control words, it indicates that Stroop interference has occurred. The Emotional Stroop task differs from the Stroop task in that emotional- and neutral-content words are presented instead of color-incongruent words and the interference effect is a result of emotional content rather than incongruence of color (Gotlib & McCann, 1984). The reliability and validity of the Emotional Stroop task has been established (Eide, Kemp, Silberstein, Nathan & Stough, 2002; Williams, Mathews & MacLeod, 1996).

Based upon the previous considerations, the present study tested these hypotheses:

  1. Individuals whose fathers are perceived to be more involved in their lives will be more mature in their attitudes towards career choice as measured by scores obtained on Career Maturity Inventory - Attitude Scale.
  2. Individuals whose fathers are perceived to be more involved in their lives will be more mature in their emotions towards career choice as measured by their responses to career-related stimuli on the emotional Stroop task.
  3. Individuals who are at a more advanced level in college in terms years of schooling will be more mature in their attitudes towards career choice.
  4. Individuals enrolled in "occupation-oriented" programs (education, administration) will be more mature in their attitudes towards career choice than those enrolled in "theory-oriented" (social sciences).

Method

Participants

The participants were 113 undergraduate students of Bogazici University. Four of the participants were excluded from all analyses due to the age limit set at 25, the fact that their fathers were no longer alive, or a technical problem experienced during the procedure, leaving a total of 109 students (91 females, 18 males). The mean age of the participants were 20.70 (SD = 1.31). For analyses with emotional Stroop as the dependent variable, two subjects were dropped out because they failed at the incidental memory task as described below, and two subjects were excluded because their Stroop accuracy was below 90%. Fourteen students were additionally removed from analyses because they were irregular and did not yet have a GPA. Moreover, two students were outliers in their scores at the Career Maturity Inventory. Participants were given extra credit for their involvement in the study.

Materials

Career Maturity Inventory (CMI) - Attitude Scale. The CMI-Attitude Scale is composed of 50 items. It is designed to measure the maturity of attitudes which are crucial in reality-based career decision making (Crites, 1973). The scale educes the emotional and temperamental as well as intellectual of the individual regarding deciding on a career and entering in a line of work. Participants either agree or disagree with the item presented. Higher scores indicate more mature attitudes towards career decision making and maximum scores that can be obtained is 50. Ten experts have reportedly and unanimously agreed that the attitudes are characteristic of mature and successful adults. The test manual reports test-retest reliability over a year of .71 for 1,648 high school students (Crites, 1978). CMI, the original language of which is English, was translated into Turkish and peer-reviewed for clarity and accuracy. A pilot study was conducted to test the measure and the feedbacks from the participants of the pilot were taken into account during revision of the translated scale. The Turkish translation of CMI is presented in Appendix A.

Father Involvement Scale (FIS). The 7-item scale assesses fathers' investments of quantity of time (i.e., how often he listens, how often he talks to his child) as well as the affective quality of that time (i.e., closeness) which load to the high-quality father involvement construct (Carlson, 2006). Participants were administered a 5-point Likert scale, ranging from Hiçbir Zaman (1) to Her Zaman (5) to present their perceptions of interactions with the father. Higher scores on the scale indicate greater involvement and the maximum score to be obtained is 35. Carlson (2006) reported an internal consistency estimate of .85. FIS, the original language of which is English, was translated into Turkish and peer-reviewed for clarity and accuracy. A pilot study was conducted to test the measure and the feedbacks from the participants of the pilot were taken into account during revision of the translated scale. The Turkish translation of FIS is presented in Appendix B.

Emotional Stroop Task. The task was composed of emotional and neutral stimuli. Emotional stimuli were 24 career-related words and the two neutral word categories, each consisting of 24 words, were animal and transport categories. Sets of words were matched for word length, word frequency and concreteness. The stimuli were presented using the computer program, E-Prime. The words appeared on screen in the print colors of red, blue, and green. Prior to the experimental trials, the participants performed practice trials provided by E-Prime. Each category was grouped into a set of six words and presented in a counterbalanced order. Overall, each participant completed 72 trials of naming colors. Emotional Stroop stimuli were presented in Appendix C.

Incidental Memory Task. This recognition task was administrated to ensure that participants have actually read the words presented in the emotional Stroop task. A word list composed of 36 new and 36 old items was given to participants in a counterbalanced order. The accuracy cutoff was 50%.

Demographic Information Form. This form aimed to collect information about the subject's age, sex, major, class, GPA, parents' education level and occupation. The form is presented in Appendix D.

Procedure

Following informed consent, which is presented in Appendix E, each participant completed the emotional Stroop task, incidental memory task, two questionnaires and a demographic information form, respectively. The CMI and FIS given in a counterbalanced order. The whole procedure took 30 minutes to complete. Participants' confidentiality was protected by assigning each participant a subject number.

Results

Career Maturity as the Dependent Variable

Firstly, scores obtained on the CMI were screened in order to examine the variance in career maturity explained by the scores obtained on the FIS. Descriptive statistics for both CMI and FIS are presented in Table 1.

An exploratory factor analysis (principal-axis factor with direct oblimin rotation) was conducted for the CMI. The results yielded no significant factors, therefore the analysis utilized the inventory as a whole.

Next, a stepwise multiple regression analysis was run with the scores obtained on the FIS as a forced entry entered as the first step, and age, class, GPA, faculty, gender and order of counterbalance entered in the second step. Faculty and gender variables were dummy-coded. The results are presented in Table 2.

Emotional Stroop as the Dependent Variable

After screening the data for reaction times that were two standard deviations above or below the mean of each subject's own reaction times, an average for each stimulus category was calculated. A measure was constructed by dividing the mean of reaction time for career category by the mean of reaction time for neutral categories. It was intended to find out whether the reaction times in milliseconds for animal category (M = 649.99, SD = 111.45) differed from transport category (M = 623.84, SD = 105.84). The difference between the categories was significant, revealed by a paired samples t-test, (t (103) = 5.79, p .001). There was a difference between these groups; participants responded faster to the transport category than to the animal category. As neither category was decided to be more preferable to the other, the average for the neutral categories was taken into analysis. A manipulation check was run to assess whether emotions were successfully triggered by the career category, so the average for neutral categories was compared (M = 636.91, SD = 106.21) with the average for the career category (M = 628.45, SD = 106.15). A paired samples t-test revealed that participants significantly responded faster for career category compared to neutral categories (t (103) = - 2.05, p .05). The results of the stepwise multiple regression analysis with emotional Stroop as the dependent variable are presented in Table 3. These results will be discussed in the next section.

Discussion

The principal aim of this study was to examine the relationship between father involvement and career maturity. The attitudinal aspect of career maturity was measured by the Attitude Scale of the CMI (Crites, 1973) whereas the emotional aspect of career maturity was measured by the emotional Stroop task. The results revealed that father involvement predicted career maturity as measured by the CMI as hypothesized, but not by the emotional Stroop task. These findings suggest that the attitudinal and emotional aspects of career maturity should be taken as two different constructs and investigated separately.

The finding that father involvement predicted mature career attitudes is supported by the literature originating from Western cultures. These findings suggest that even though there exists a conviction that fathers' uninvolvement and emotional detachment are the social reality of the Turkish culture, Turkish adolescents and young adults find their fathers' involvement in their lives welcome, and their encouragement regarding career choice is character building. It seems that young Turkish parents are modeling themselves according to the Western norm of egalitarian parenting and that Turkish fathers are increasingly more involved with their children. Their children may thus have higher self-esteem or self-efficacy, or more access to the community opportunities, leading to the maturity of their career attitudes (Blustein et al., 1989; Paquette, 2004). Turkish adolescents and young adults appear to value their fathers' contributions to their decision-making processes and allow their attitudes to be maturely shaped by their fathers' real-life experiences and recommendations based on these experiences.

The finding that father involvement did not predict mature emotions regarding career does not support our hypothesis. Careful study of the data showed that participants' reactions to career-related stimuli were faster than those to neutral stimuli, contrary to what was expected. This may be explained in terms of participants' hypervigilance towards career-related stimuli, which would imply a certain level of emotional preoccupation with career issues. Even though there is a considerable change in the overall career attitudes of the Turkish culture, the emotional ground for these attitudes have not been properly lay yet, as this is a relatively new social development. As in the other non-Western, collectivistic cultures, professional parents in highly-rated occupations such as law, medicine and academia have increased levels of psychological demands on their children to follow in their parents' footsteps. Parents, who are not involved in such occupations have similar demands on their children in their wish for a better future for their children, a better economical status for the family and also to compensate for their shortcomings (Salami & Aremu, 2007). Literature indicates and it is also a clinical observation that adolescents and young adults of collectivistic cultures shape their career plans according to the demands of their parents instead on their own interests and wishes. It is argued that the collectivistic value orientation where family ties, family honor, interdependence, obedience to older individuals are of primary importance lies behind the occupational sacrifice (Choi, 2002; Tang, Fouad & Smith, 1999). So even though the individual has realistic attitudes towards career choice, the emotional consequences of not attaining those goals is high. Viewed in this light, the individuals' career attitudes are realistic and thus mature, as basing one's occupational aspirations on those of the parents is the reality of this culture. However, abandoning one's own interests and aspirations leaves the individual emotionally conflicted, below one's potential and consequently immature. It is the cost of being a citizen of a developing country negotiating its traditional and the aspired modernist values. Future studies should perhaps adopt a more qualitative design to investigate what is emotionally going on in the adolescents' and young adults' career choices and how they arte negotiating parental demands and own interests.

The finding that enrolled program did not predict mature attitudes and emotions regarding career does not support our hypothesis. One explanation of this finding is that the participants were mostly first and second year students. At this level, students take classes from a more general pool, such as history, Atatürk principles, and Turkish literature among classes related to their departmental programs. Perhaps first and second year students are not fully identified with their departments and the related profession yet. Opportunities for departmental transfer are still open, and internships and other career-related activities are far away on the horizon. Some need to complete graduate level education in order to be able to start working. So there is not much variance between the participants to be able to elicit predictive value. Similarly, the finding that age and college level in terms of years completed did not predict mature attitudes and emotions can be explained with low variance between the participants in terms of college level (mostly freshman and sophomore) and age, which ranged from 18 to 25. There was also an unequal number of male and female participants, which females vastly dominating the participant frequency, which would help explain the finding that gender did not predict mature attitudes and emotions regarding career is does not support our hypothesis. Future studies should use a more balanced sample, including students from all levels of college, more departmental programs and with an equal number of male and female participants.

The practical implications of these findings is that career counselors in high schools and colleges, when they are part of the school's structure, should take into account the emotional consequences of negotiating parental vocational demands and personal career goals in their clients. Career interventions should aim at assessing parental views on occupation and parental resistance to students' activities of career search that would pose a risk to their occupational values. Gathering such emotional and cognitive information and exploring this information with the student would facilitate his/her openness to vocational and further educational opportunities and endow the counselor with the necessary tools to help clients maturely negotiate parental vocational demands and personal career goals. Salami and Aremu's (2007) recommendation for Nigerian counselors of implementing seminars and workshops regarding open communication, relationship autonomy and self-exploration would also be relevant for the Turkish student population.

These findings have further implications for parental involvement in their children's career plans. Parents, especially fathers, should support their children's educational and career endeavors by educational assistance when applicable, participation in school activities, and assignment of job-related chores and activities around the house. Turkish parents are reluctant to allow their underage and even college level children to work in part-time jobs, which would ideally introduce the individual to different vocational opportunities and have a realistic appraisal of the professional world. Encouraging their children to earn their own allowance by working in a developmentally appropriate job would positively influence the maturity of their children's career expectations.

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