Gendered occupational aspirations and initial occupational choices: The role of parents and children's attributes during late childhood

Open Access
Lawson, Katie Michelle
Graduate Program:
Human Development and Family Studies
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
June 09, 2014
Committee Members:
  • Ann Caverly Crouter, Dissertation Advisor
  • Ann Caverly Crouter, Committee Chair
  • David Manuel Almeida, Committee Member
  • Susan Marie Mc Hale, Committee Member
  • Rachel Annette Smith, Committee Member
  • Career development
  • gender
  • family socialization
  • parent-child occupational consistency
Despite recent gains made by women in the U.S. labor market, gendered occupational segregation continues to be prevalent not only in the United States (Hegewisch, Liepmann, Hayes, & Hartmann, 2010), but across the world (Anker, 1998). Gendered occupational segregation has negative implications at the individual, employer, and societal levels. The present dissertation aimed to better understand the development and correlates of gendered occupational aspirations and initial occupational choices, including the role of children and parents’ attributes. The dissertation consists of three interrelated papers with the following goals: (1) To examine the consistency between gendered occupational aspirations in late childhood, adolescence, and initial occupational choices in young adulthood (including the role of children’s attributes in occupational aspirations and initial occupational choices); (2) To test whether parents’ attitudes and behaviors, measured when their children were in late childhood, predicted the gender typicality of occupations acquired in young adulthood; and (3) To review past literature examining parent and child occupational consistency, propose mechanisms that may account for this consistency (including the consistency in the gender typicality of parents and children’s occupations), and to make recommendations for future research. Results of the first paper suggested that for boys, gendered occupational aspirations in late childhood and adolescence were associated with occupational choices acquired in young adulthood. In contrast, girls desired less sex-typed occupations than they obtained in young adulthood. Sex-typed attributes in late childhood—including attitudes toward women’s roles, personal qualities, interests, and skills—predicted the gender typicality of occupational aspirations in late childhood and/or adolescence, but not initial occupational choices. Results of the second paper indicated that socialization experiences in late childhood – namely mothers’ attitudes towards women’s roles and mothers and fathers’ time spent with children – were associated with the gender typicality of initial occupations acquired 15 years later in young adulthood. However, many of the findings were moderated by child’s gender. Overall, the gender typicality of occupational aspirations and initial occupational choices were related to both children and parents’ attributes reported during late childhood, suggesting that the gendered distribution of the labor force may be, at least in part, the result of early socialization practices.