Career and Family Priorities in College Students
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AMACKER, E. K. (2004). Career and Family Priorities in College Students. National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse, 7. Available online at Retrieved April 25, 2017 .

Career and Family Priorities in College Students

Sponsored by: ELIZABETH HAMMER (
The purpose of the study was to determine whether men and women differ in their feelings towards career and family. Two hypotheses, whether men value career more than women do and whether women value family more than career, were examined using the Life Role Salience Scales (Amatea, Cross, Clark, & Bobby, 1986). Twenty-nine male and 43 female undergraduates rated their agreement with statements concerning role reward value and commitment in four life roles: occupational, marital, parental, and homecare. The score on the occupational subset was then compared with the scores of the other subsets. The first hypothesis was not supported by the results, the second was only supported in the parental subset; the difference in the homecare subset approached significance.

The differences between the sexes have long been a subject of interest and discussion in society and, more recently, in the scientific community. The question of what makes men and women different has been even more controversial since the sexual revolution and women’s movement of the 1960s. People are no longer just asking how men and women are different; they are asking if the sexes are indeed substantially different on an emotional and psychological level. This question merits serious consideration because it is an issue that affects everyone; though it is typically women who are thought of when gender role conflicts are brought up, Good and Mintz (1990) found a positive correlation between gender role conflict and depression in college men. Good and Mintz (1990) also pointed out that a characteristic of the male gender role is inexpressiveness and that males are less likely to seek help for depression than women. Such questioning has led to the reexamination of the role of women in society and the work force and the ways in which men and women interact in the home and the workplace. The way women are socialized and the pressures put upon them by society are causes for concern because females tend to have high levels of achievement when they are young, but once adulthood hits, females’ achievement levels fall far behind males’ achievement levels (Stein & Bailey, 1973). Longitudinal research has shown that gifted women are not achieving their full potential in the work force (Arnold, 1993). Stein and Bailey (1973) also pointed out that because not nearly as much is known about female achievement as male achievement, it may not be appropriate to try to apply what we know about male achievement to female achievement. Is the traditional view that men are more suited for work and women are more suited for homecare accurate, or is this stereotype a product of social conditioning? Is one sex more suited than the other to perform a life role? The consensus seems to be that men and women are different, but there are many theories purporting to explain exactly how and why this is (e.g., Gaeddert, 1979). Before one can begin to examine why men and women are different, one must find out how they are different. There are two basic theories that have gathered support, the domain differences theory and the performance evaluation theory (Gaeddert, 1985). Bakan (1966), Carlson (1971), Gaeddert (1979), and Stein and Bailey (1973) have all found evidence for the domain differences theory, the idea that men and women differ in which areas they choose to achieve rather than their ability to achieve on the same tasks; men are drawn to achieving success in objective, task-oriented areas, whereas women are drawn to achieving in more social and subjective areas. It is not that women would not perform well in the workplace or that they have fewer opportunities than men in the workforce; it is that they choose to focus their achievements on family and homecare. Stein and Bailey (1973) did, however, note that in past research women tended to perform better at feminine tasks than at masculine tasks. They also suggested that while it has been theorized that women achieve to gain social approval, it may be that typically feminine areas happen to also be ones that have a greater possibility for social interaction and approval than typically masculine areas. Bakan (1966) and Gaeddert (1979) theorized that it is the agentic natures of men and the communal natures of women that drive them to achieve in such disparate areas. Agency is a masculine principle that is characterized by aggressiveness, competitiveness, a strong sexual drive, and seeing oneself as a distinct entity, isolated from a larger whole. Communion, agency’s female counterpart, is characterized by generosity, passiveness, altruism, a strong affinity toward love and relationships, and seeing oneself as a part of a whole rather than as a separate entity (Bakan, 1966). This theory is supported by Smith and Schwartz’s finding (as cited in Ryckman & Houston, 2003) that in a 47 country sample of values, women valued benevolence more than men did and men valued power and achievement more than women did. Ryckman and Houston (2003) also found in a study of values in American and British college students that women rated subordination of self to the group highly, a trait that is consistent with the housewife whose life revolves around her family’s needs and wants. In a similar study Myyry and Helkama (2001) found a strong negative correlation between emotional empathy, a value women are typically identified with, and achievement, suggesting that women’s basic values are incompatible with competing in the work force. Stein and Bailey (1973) proposed that these differences are due to gender socialization rather than an inherent feminine or masculine nature. Olds and Shaver (1980) found that differences between men’s and women’s achievements are due not necessarily to their gender but to their sex role (whether or not their personality is more masculine, feminine, or androgynous); a feminine man would drawn to communal, altruistic achievements just as much as a feminine woman would be. The other approach to gender differences posits that men and women do not differ in what they achieve; they differ in how they evaluate their achievements. Kipnis (1974) believed that socialization and parental attention determine how we evaluate our achievements. Girls are more looked after and spend more time with their parents, especially their mothers, and tend to develop the self-assurance to rely on their own internal measures for success. Boys, on the other hand, are typically more independent of their parents, spending more time with their peers, creating a tendency to look to outside sources for approval and validation. Veroff (1977) believed that it was not where men and women were looking for validation that differed but what they considered to be success that differed. He believed that women value the process of and experience gained from performing a task, whereas men focus on the outcomes and results of their efforts. Kipnis (1974) suggested that there may be a relationship between outcome-oriented achievement motivation and cheating behaviors; people who are more concerned with the grade they get on a test than with knowing the information being tested would be more inclined to cheat than someone who valued the learning experience more. If the good grade or the praise resulting from it is more important to a person (especially a child) than the process of earning the grade, they may not see the point in studying and working hard when cheating can reap the same rewards with none of the effort. Many of the past studies of career and family values were limited in that most of them studied only one dimension in both genders, or if both dimensions were addressed, the study was only conducted on women (Amatea, Cross, Clark, & Bobby, 1986). Most previous research was also done only on middle-class whites (Stein & Bailey, 1973). Another flaw was that most studies evaluated only the subjects’ current career and family roles or their general feelings about career and family role expectations but not both. In an effort to address these limitations, the present study was conducted with both male and female subjects of a variety of ethnicities, and the instrument used was designed to address current situations and general feelings, as well as the subjects’ plans and expectations for the future. Based on past research, we believe that the present study will find that men regard their career role as more valuable and rewarding than women do, while women regard their family role as more valuable and rewarding than their career role.

Participants Participants were 72 undergraduate students enrolled in Loyola University New Orleans. Participants included both male and female undergraduates between the ages of 18 and 22. Participants were recruited through fliers on the Psychology Department bulletin board, campus emails, and personal approaches on campus.Materials Career and family priorities were measured by the Life Role Salience Scales (Amatea et al., 1986), a 40 - item inventory in which the participants rate their agreement (on a five-point Likert scale) with statements concerning role reward value and role commitment level regarding four major life roles: occupational, marital, parental, and homecare (e.g., “I value being involved in a career and expect to devote the time and effort needed to develop it“ and “My life would be empty if I never had children“). Also included in the survey were demographic questions (gender, race, age, major, and academic year) and 17 filler questions not included in the scoring, some of which were drawn from “A Women Workplace Culture Questionnaire” (Bergman & Hallberg, 2002) and some of which were written by the author.Design and Procedure The present study was a quasi-experimental design. The subject variable was the gender of the participant, and the dependent variable was whether or not the participant rated his or her career role or family role as more important. This is determined by the participant’s score on the two Occupational subsets of the LRSS and the participant’s score on the Parental, Marital, and Homecare subsets. Each participant was given a consent form that indicated that the study concerned social opinions, that the students were not required to participate, and that, if they did participate, they could withdraw from the study at any time without penalty. Participants were told to sign the consent form but not to put their names anywhere on the survey to ensure anonymity. After signing the consent forms and completing the survey, participants were debriefed and told that the true nature of the study was to examine the relationship between career and family life, particularly the differences in priorities between men and women. Participants were also advised that if they had any questions or comments later they could contact the researchers through the information listed on their copies of the consent form.

The sample of 43 females and 29 males was predominately Caucasian (62.5%), with Latino/a as the second highest ethnicity (16.7%), followed by African American (9.7%), and Asian (5.6%). Psychology was the most prevalent major at 30.6%, followed by Communications at 12.5%; the rest of the sample was distributed fairly evenly among all other majors. The mean age of the participants was 19.58 years old with a standard deviation of 1.17. A little over half of the participants were underclassmen - freshman and sophomores - with freshman as the most-represented group and seniors as the least-represented group. Means and standard deviations, by gender, and t and p values for the independent sample t tests for all scales are shown in Table 1. The first research hypothesis, whether men value career more than women do, was examined using an independent samples t test with P set at .05. This hypothesis was not supported by the results; between men and women there was no significant difference in occupation (t(70)= 1.19, p<.05), marital (t(70)= -1.16, p<.05), or homecare (t(70)= -.54, p<.05). The only significant differences between men and women appeared in the parental subset (t(42)= -2.36, p<.05) and the overall family subset (t(70)= -2.10, p<.05), with women scoring higher than men on both subsets. The family subset score was comprised of the mean of the scores of the marital, parental, and homecare subsets. Though women value their careers just as much as men do, they seem to care about their family lives more than men do. In men, the occupational and homecare subsets tied for the highest score, followed by the overall family subset, the marital subset, and the parental subset with the lowest score. In women, on the other hand, the parental subset had the highest score, followed by the homecare subset, the overall family subset, the marital subset, and the occupational subset with the lowest score. The second hypothesis, that women would regard family as more valuable and rewarding than their career role was examined using a paired samples t test. The results of the paired sample t tests (t value, p value, and degrees of freedom) are shown, by gender, in Table 2. The hypothesis was supported by the comparison within women of the parental subset to the occupational subset (t(42)= -2.34, p<.05), but there was no significant difference within women between the occupational subset and the marital subset (t(42)= -.14, p<.05), or the overall family subset (t(42)= -1.64, p<.05) . The comparison of the occupational subset to the homecare subset was approaching significance (t(42)= -1.88, p=.066). There were no significant correlations among the subsets within individual genders, but there were within the entire sample, including both genders. The correlations between subsets are shown in Table 3. There was a significant correlation between the marital subset and the parental subset (r=.399, p<.05), and between the marital subset and the homecare subset (r=.396, p<.001). There were no significant correlations found between age and any of the subsets or between academic year and any of the subsets.

The first purpose of this study was to determine whether or not men would value their careers more than women would value their careers. In our sample of 72 undergraduate students, we found that men and women actually valued their career role about equally. We did, however, find support for our theory that women would value family over their career roles, in the parental subset, though not in the marital or overall family subsets (the homecare subset was approaching significance). The real difference between men and women was apparent in their priorities. Women ranked the occupational subset the lowest, then marital, homecare, and parental as the highest. Men ranked parental as the lowest, then marital, with occupational and homecare basically tying for the highest. While women rated occupation the lowest of the subsets, men rated parental as the lowest of the subsets. Women, on the other hand, rated their parental role the highest of all the subsets, whereas men rated occupation as the highest of all the subsets. In our sample, nothing was more important to the women than their role as a parent, not even marriage or career. For the men in our sample, occupation was more important than both their parental or marital roles. The fact that both genders rated the homecare subset very highly may be a reflection of either our materialistic, consumer driven society or simply the age of the participants. Though the questionnaire was designed to assess both the present and future feelings of the subject towards each life role, having a nice apartment or house may be a little more of a priority than the far off possibility of marriage and children for the 18-22 year old participants. These results are fairly consistent with both common beliefs and past research that has found women to be more family-oriented and men to be more career-oriented, such as Arnold’s (1993) finding that gifted women are not achieving their potential in the workforce. The one thing that was slightly surprising and is perhaps a sign of the times is that there was no significant difference between men and women in the occupational subset. There was one however in the parental subset. Women today believe they can have their cake and eat it too - a rewarding, successful career and a fulfilling home-life. This attitude is similar to that of the female valedictorians in the beginning of Arnold’s (1993) study; by the end of college many of the women had altered their career plans or lowered their aspirations to accommodate a hypothetical family life. Much as the men in Arnold’s (1993) research, the men in our sample seem to be sticking to the more traditional either-or view - one can either be highly involved in a developing a career or highly involved in raising a family, but not both. These findings could also provide more support for the studies in achievement motivation done by Carlson (1971), Gaeddert (1979), and Stein and Bailey (1973); the women in our sample did value social and subjective accomplishments such as childrearing and homecare highly while the men valued objective and status-oriented career accomplishments highly. The fact that the women in our sample valued family and home life so highly is also consistent with Kipnis’ (1974) research on gender role socialization; women are traditionally socialized to want to be passive and family oriented whereas men are socialized to be aggressive and career oriented. That the women in our sample did not value occupation significantly less than men is an interesting twist on Kipnis’ theory, and is likely a product of the changing social attitude towards and in women.One of the major limitations of this study was the disparity between sample sizes. Though we tried several different recruitment methods – sign-up sheets, emails, personal requests – we were unable to recruit as many men as women. We would have had more statistical power with an equal number of male participants, specifically a larger number of male participants, but we got very little response from the male population of Loyola, even among psychology majors. Another limitation was that the study only examined undergraduate males and females, so the findings only really reflect the attitudes of undergraduates, not necessarily men and women on the whole. The fact that the majority of the sample (62.5%) was Caucasian also narrows the applicability of the findings; the attitudes found may be uniquely Caucasian. The sample was also entirely drawn from Loyola University New Orleans, so the socioeconomic and environmental factors common to the group may be reflected in their attitudes.Future research would benefit from a less homogenous sample in general, particularly regarding age and socioeconomic status. A longitudinal version of the present study would likely reap even more interesting results and answer some of the questions about whether or not the participants’ current views and priorities are practical in real life and whether or not these views and priorities remain stable over time. Such a study would be better able to investigate some of the underlying factors affecting the participants’ attitudes and the changes that occur in them. The field would also benefit from a more in depth examination of men and women’s feelings towards career goals; the LRSS (Amatea et al., 1986) contains a majority of questions regarding family oriented subsets (parental, marital, and homecare).

Amatea, E.S., Cross, E.G., Clark, J.E., & Bobby, C.L. (1986). Assessing the work and family role expectations of career-oriented men and women: The Life Role Salience Scales. Journal of the Marriage and the Family, 48, 831-838.Arnold, K.D. (1993). Undergraduate aspirations and career outcomes of academically talented women: A discriminant analysis. Roeper Review, 15(3), 169-176.Bakan, D. (1966). The duality of human existence. Chicago: Rand McNally & CompanyBergman, B., & Hallberg, L.R.-M. (2002). Women in a male-dominated industry: Factor analysis of a women workplace culture questionnaire based on a grounded theory model. Sex Roles, 46, 311-322.Carlson, R. (1971). Sex differences in ego functioning: Exploratory studies of agency and communion. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 37(2), 267-277.Gaeddert, W.P. (1985). Sex and sex role effects on achievement strivings: Dimensions of similarity and difference. Journal of Personality, 53, 286-305.Good, G.E., & Mintz, L.B. (1990). Gender role conflict and depression in college men: Evidence for compounded risk. Journal of Counseling and Development, 69, 17-21.Kipnis, D.M. (1974). Inner direction, other direction, and achievement motivation. Human Development, 17, 321-343.Myyry, L., & Helkama, K. (2001). University students’ value priorities and emotional empathy. Educational Psychology, 21, 25-41.Olds, D.E., & Shaver, P. (1980). Masculinity, femininity, academic performance, and health: Further evidence concerning the androgyny controversy. Journal of Personality, 48(3), 323-341. Ryckman, R.M., & Houston, D.M. (2003). Value priorities in American and British female and male university students. Journal of Social Psychology, 143, 127- 139.Stein, A.H., & Bailey, M.M. (1973). The socialization of achievement orientation in females. Psychological Bulletin, 80, 345-366.Veroff, J. (1977). Process vs. impact in men’s and women’s achievement motivation. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 1, 283-293.

 LRSS (Amatea et al., 1986), Demographics, and Filler Questions (Bergman & Hallberg, 2002)Survey

Sex: Male Female Age: ­­­­­­______Year: Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior Major:___________________Race/Ethnicity:_______ Asian _______Caucasian _______ African American_______ Hispanic/Latino(a)Other_________________________

Please rate the following statements accordingly: 1 2 3 4 5disagree somewhat disagree neither agree nor disagree somewhat agree agree

______ In general, women value their personal lives more than their careers.______ In general, men are more ambitious and career-oriented than women.

______ Having work/a career that is interesting and exciting to me is my most important life goal.______ I expect my job/career to give me more real satisfaction than anything else I do.______ Building a name and reputation for myself through work/a career is not one of my life goals.______ It is important to me that I have a job/career in which I can achieve something of importance. 1 2 3 4 5disagree somewhat disagree neither agree nor disagree somewhat agree agree

______ I want to work, but I do not want to have a demanding career. ______ I expect to make as many sacrifices as are necessary in order to advance my work/career.______ I value being involved in a career and expect to devote the time and effort needed to develop it._______ I expect to devote a significant amount of my time to building my career and developing the skills necessary to advancing my career.______ I expect to devote whatever time and energy it takes to move up in my job/career field.______ Although parenthood requires many sacrifices, the love and enjoyment of children of one’s own are worth it all.______ If I chose not to have children, I would regret it.______ It is important to me to feel I am (will be) an effective parent.______ The whole idea of having children and raising them is not attractive to me.______ My life would be empty if I never had children.______ It is important to me to have some time for myself and my own development rather than have children and be responsible for their care.______ I expect to devote a significant amount of my time and energy to the rearing of children of my own.______ I expect to be very involved in the day-to-day matters of rearing children of my own. 1 2 3 4 5disagree somewhat disagree neither agree nor disagree somewhat agree agree

______ Becoming involved in the day-to-day details of rearing children involves costs in other areas of my life which I am unwilling to make.______ I do not expect to be very involved in child rearing.______ My life would seem empty if I never married.______ Having a successful marriage is the most important thing in life to me.______ I expect marriage to give me more real personal satisfaction than anything else in which I am involved.______ Being married to a person I love is more important to me than anything else.______ I expect the major satisfactions in my life to come from my marriage relationship.______ I expect to commit whatever time is necessary to making my marriage partner feel loved, supported, and cared for._______ Devoting a significant amount of my time to being with or doing things with a marriage partner is not something I expect to do.______ I expect to put a lot of time and effort into building and maintaining a marital relationship.______ Really involving myself in a marital relationship involves costs in other areas of my life which I am willing to accept._______ I expect to work hard to build a good marriage relationship even if it means limiting my opportunities to pursue other personal goals.______ It is important to me to have a home of which I can be proud. 1 2 3 4 5disagree somewhat disagree neither agree nor disagree somewhat agree agree

______ Having a comfortable and attractive home is of great importance to me.______ To have a well-run home is one of my life goals.______ Having a nice home is something to which I am very committed.______ I want a place to live, but I do not really care how it looks.______ I expect to leave most of the day-to-day details of running a home to someone else.______ I expect to devote the necessary time and attention to having a neat and attractive home.______ I expect to be very much involved in caring for a home and making it attractive.______ I expect to assume the responsibility for seeing that my home is well kept and well run.______ Devoting a significant amount of my time to managing and caring for a home is not something I expect to do.______ Women have fewer opportunities than men for professional development in the workplace.______ Women receive more unfair judgments of their work performance than men.______ Generally, the working life is characterized by a negative attitude toward women.______ It is more difficult for women than men to “be themselves” at work.______ Men have greater employment security than women.______ Women’s contributions in the workplace are perceived differently than men’s.______ Women have to be more accomplished in their work than men in order to be promoted.1 2 3 4 5disagree somewhat disagree neither agree nor disagree somewhat agree agree

______ Women are frequently hired for jobs they are not qualified for because they are women.______ Women are less assertive compared to men in obtaining fair compensation, promotion, or opportunities for professional development.

______ Women do not receive enough organizational support in order to manage their professional work and their domestic responsibilities.______ Unwelcome sexual connotations, glances, gestures, or comments towards women are common occurrences in the workplace.______ Unwelcome conscious body contact or unwelcome suggestions towards women are common occurrences in the workplace.______Women should report any unwelcome sexual behavior or comments from coworkers to their supervisors, even if the behavior or comments were made in jest.______Companies should provide day care facilities free of charge for employees with children.______ Women who work full time and have children are less devoted to their work than men who work full time and have children.______ Women have to make more sacrifices than men to advance their work/career.______ In general, women who work full time devote less time and energy to rearing their children.

 Table 1       Mean subscale and independent samples test scores for men and women	   Subscale	Mean Score	Standard Deviation	t	p	    	Male	Female	Male	Female	Male and Female	    	n = 29	n = 43	n = 29	n = 43	n = 72	   Occupation	3.81	3.63	.51	.69	1.19	.238	   Family	3.57	3.86	.62	.56	-2.36	.02	   Marital	3.47	3.65	.68	.64	-1.16	.25	   Parental	3.42	4.02	1.22	.77	-.54	.59	   Homecare	3.81	3.91	.76	.69	-2.10	.04	 

Table 2 Paired sample test scores for men and women Subscale t df p Male Female Male Female Male Female n = 29 n = 43 n = 29 n = 43 n = 29 n= 43 Occupational - Parental 1.62 -2.34 28 42 .12 .02 Occupational - Marital 2.16 -.14 28 42 .04 .89 Occupational - Homecare -.04 -1.88 28 42 .97 .07 Occupational- Family 1.74 -1.64 28 42 .09 .11

Table 3 Intercorrelations between subscales for men and women (n = 72) Subscale 1 2 3 4 5 1. Occupational ___ -.09 -.05 -.09 -.03 2. Parental ___ .40 .22 -.80 3. Marital ___ .40 .75 4. Homecare ___ .67 5. Family ___

Tables in Microsoft Word

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