Sex Role Expectations in Children's Vocational Aspirations and Perceptions of Occupations
Franken, Mary L.
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The Problem. The problem of this study was to determine whether children held sex role expectations in their vocational aspirations and perceptions of occupations. In addition, the differences in responses between boys and girls; between preschool, lower elementary, and upper elementary school children; and between children attending schools in two neighborhoods--one predominantly lower to lower-middle, the other middle to upper-middle class--were calculated and analyzed. Procedure. A standardized interview procedure was developed for use by a male and a female interviewer with 120 children who were randomly selected from three grade levels from schools representing two socioeconomic levels. Children were asked the questions, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" and "Have you any other ideas about what you might like to do?" The number (variety) of specific occupations mentioned as first and second choices were reported on frequency distributions. Responses were further analyzed in terms of whether the occupations named as aspirations by children were sex-typed, using Chi-square (p<.05) to test for independence of the variables of sex, grade level, and socio-economic level. A slide-tape presentation depicting thirty actual occupational settings without a worker present was developed for use in the interviews. Children were asked who could do the work in each of the occupations--a woman, a man, or both a woman and a man. Chi-square (p<.05) was used to test for independence of sex, grade level, and socio-economic level as factors in sex role expectations in perceptions of occupations. Findings. Results indicated that sex-typing in vocational aspirations was present both in the number (variety) of occupations named as aspirations by boys and girls and in the way these occupations conformed to traditional sex roles. Boys named 29 different occupations to 25 by girls as aspirations. The number of occupations named by children increased with each higher grade level. No important differences were found in the number of occupations nominated by children from the two socioeconomic levels. Second-choice aspirations concurred with the above trends, but of 120, 49 responses were, "I don't know." A significant relationship (.001) was found between sex-typing of first-choice occupational aspirations and the sex of the respondents. No significant differences in sex-typing of aspirations were found on the variables of grade level and socio-economic level. Responses to the slide-tape series were found to be significantly related to the three variables of sex (.01). grade level (.001), and socio-economic level (.05) of the respondents. A majority of responses of "both" indicated that occupations were perceived as places where both a woman and a man could work. However, both boys and girls excluded women from jobs more than they excluded men from jobs. Girls, more than boys, perceived women as being able to do the work in the occupations. Sex-typing in the perceptions decreased as the grade level of the respondents increased. Responses of children from the lower to lower-middle class schools revealed more sex-typing than their middle to upper-middle class counterparts. Conclusions. Children named a wide diversity of occupational aspirations. It appears that boys begin naming a greater variety of occupations than girls sometime between preschool and second grade. Vocational aspirations tend to be crystallized into single choices for many children, which may indicate a lack of awareness of other vocational possibilities. While children may perceive both a man and a woman as workers in an occupation, boys especially tend to choose jobs for themselves that fall within the usual stereotypes. Recommendations. Career information experiences should extend to young children, parents, and teachers to encourage them to view occupations as places both men and women can work. Exposure to many opportunities and non-traditional role models is needed by both boys and girls, especially those from the lower to lower-middle class. Inquiries into the effects of career education and the vocational development of children and adults should not neglect the aspect of sex role expectations.
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