Family and Youth Career Developement: Towards a Better Understanding of the Mechanisms


Sun, Xiaoran (2019). Family and Youth Career Developement: Towards a Better Understanding of the Mechanisms.


Theoryand empirical evidence havehighlighted the importance of family context to youth career development across adolescence and young adulthood (Eccles, 2011; Lawson, 2018; Lent et al., 1994; Porfeli & Vondracek, 2009; Savickas, 2002; Super, 1980; Whiston & Keller, 2004). Built on a model that incorporatesa variety of theoretical frameworks illuminatingthe role of family in youth career development, this dissertation aimed to advance understanding ofmechanisms underlying the interplay between family systemsand youth career development. In particular, three studies addressed mechanisms in the theoretical model that were highlighted in theory but understudied in prior research. Study 1aimed to explain the long-term implications of mother-and father-adolescent relationship qualityfor career attainment in young adulthood through youth career development processes, in particular, career adaptivity. Using longitudinal data from 236 youth (53% female; age M= 15.17, SD= .96at Time 1)and structural equation modeling, testsof a mediation model revealed the mediating role of adolescent career adaptivity(captured by academic performance, sense of control, and self-worth; one year after Time 1)in the link between mother-adolescent relationship quality (Time 1) and young adult occupational prestige at around age 26, though the effects of father-adolescent relationship quality were nonsignificant. Study 2focused on whether and how youth career development processes, such as their early work experiences, have implications for their family relationships. Given that work is a pervasive yet understudied context for Latino youth (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018), this study took an ethnic homogeneous approach to test longitudinal implications of Mexican-origin youth’s work experiences(including work hours and workplace discrimination)for their relationship quality with fathersas reported by both youth and fathers. Using data with two time points across a two-year interval from 187 youth (52.4% female, 64.7% born in U.S., 50.8% ivolder siblings; M= 19.33, SD= 1.78 at Time 1)from 127 Mexican-origin families, results of multivariate multilevel models revealed a curvilinear link between youth workplace discrimination and fathers’ reports of relationship quality, and linear effects of youth work hours and workplace discrimination on youth relationship reports qualified by youth gender and mother employment. Study 3, based on the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health; Harris & Udry, 1994-2008), took an innovative approach to analytically synthesize 101 prior studies by examining 53 family experience variables in adolescence as predictors of young adults’ educational attainment, an important step in career development that conditions future career opportunities and outcomes (IOM & NRC, 2015). In particular, using a machine learning approach, this study answered three questions: (1) How accuratelydoes this broad range of adolescent family factors predict young adult educational attainment? (2) When examined concurrently, which family experience factors are the best predictors of young adult educational attainment? And (3) What complex patterns, including nonlinearities and interactions involving this range of family factors, merit further examination?Overall, this dissertationprovidedevidence for the theoretical model in illuminating the mechanisms linking family systemsand youth career development processes and their future career attainment, introducedinnovative methods to research on family and career development, provided implications for family-based practicepromotingyouth achievement, and directed attention tofuture research efforts for a better understanding ofthe mechanisms underlying family influences on youth career development.

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Sun, Xiaoran

Series Author(s)

McHale, Susan M.

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Doctor of Philosophy




Pennsylvania State University

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