Career identity development, i.e., navigating different fields of occupation and understanding one’s aptitudes and capability, is one of the main developmental tasks during adolescence and young adulthood. However, social status, such as a racial/ethnic minority and a child of immigrants, can complicate this development. For example, racial discrimination and levels of acculturation may restrict and/or enhance career opportunities. Moreover, among Asian Americans (AAs), career choices can be narrow, focusing largely on high-status, high-paying professional fields (Lee & Zhou, 2014). Guided by social cognitive career theory, this study aims to examine explanatory factors that affect the development of career identity among AA adolescents and young adults. The factors are organized by varying levels of ecology, i.e., macro context (racial discrimination and perpetual foreigner stereotype), micro context (e.g., parenting behaviors such ash parental pressure to succeed, emphasis on education and granting autonomy), and individual factors (bilinear, multidimensional cultural orientation including language, cultural practice and identity of host and heritage cultures). Their associations with career identity were examined concurrently and longitudinally.
Data are from the Midwest Longitudinal Study of Asian American Families (ML-SAAF) project, a longitudinal survey of Filipino American (FA) and Korean American (KA) youth and their parents living in a Midwest metropolitan area. This study used the 1st and 3rd waves of youth data. The first wave was collected in 2014 from 378 FA youth and 408 KA youth (N=786). The retention rate at Wave 3 in 2018 was 82% of Wave 1 (N=641). Predictors were from Waves 1 and 3 and dependent variable was career identity at Wave 3. Several demographic variables (e.g., age, gender, family SES, nativity, and ethnicity) were accounted for in the analyses.
Racial discrimination and perpetual foreigner stereotype concurrently predicted weaker career identity. Parental emphasis on education and granting autonomy concurrently and longitudinally predicted stronger career identity. Parental pressure to succeed concurrently predicted weaker career identity but only marginally. Different domains of cultural orientation were associated with career identity concurrently or longitudinally. Specifically, ethnic language proficiency, American cultural practice, American identity significantly predicted stronger career identity, both concurrently and longitudinally. Ethnic identity too predicted stronger career identity but concurrently.
The findings of this study provide important implications for social work practice. For example, the results underscore the negative impact of racial discrimination and racial stereotype on the development of career identity development among AA youth and young adults. However, the results also show that parents can provide support for a positive career identity development by emphasizing the importance of education and granting autonomy during the important developmental forming years. Individual acculturations, in particular heritage language, engaging in mainstream cultural practices, and embracing both American and ethnic identities (i.e., bicultural identity), can bolster AA’s career identity. These areas of risks and protection should be targeted in social work interventions.
Lee, J., & Zhou, M. (2014). The success frame and achievement paradox: The costs and consequences for Asian Americans. Race and Social Problems, 6(1), 38-55.