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Do Our Parents Affect How We View Our Careers?

A backlit photo of a man and a little boy exchanging a high five next to their bikes.

A variety of factors affect our career choices, yet one we often don’t explore is the influence of our parents.

Over on Quartz, Lauren Davidson reviews a study recently released by the University Michigan on how parents transfer their work values to their children. According to the study, there are three general approaches people have to their careers:

  • Job-oriented people are likely to see work as a means to an end—i.e. a paycheck—and prefer activities outside of work.
  • Career-oriented people are likely to value the status and prestige that come with some careers.
  • Calling-oriented people are likely to pursue work they are passionate about because they want their work to be fulfilling.

Researchers discovered that our parents’ work identities are central to how our own work values develop:

"It's not a straightforward transfer of values. People who perceive their father to have a strong career-orientation are more likely to be career-oriented themselves—but career-determined mothers have no effect on their kids’ work orientation. The researchers attributed this to generational gender norms. When the study’s participants were teenagers, mostly in the 1980s, men were more commonly employed outside of the home and were more likely than women to hold “career” jobs with opportunity for advancement.

Mothers do have a notable effect on whether children have a job-orientation mentality. Adolescents who are close to their mothers are less likely to view work as just a job when they grow up, probably because they’ve been raised to value social, rather than instrumental, life experiences."

Read the rest of the study on Quartz.

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by Allison Jones

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