Vocational Identity in College Students: Path Analysis of Childhood Attachment, Gender, Age, and Socioeconomic Status


The purpose of this study was to explore the effect of gender, age, socioeconomic status, and early childhood parental attachment on vocational identity. Participants included 309 college students who completed a demographic questionnaire, the Adult Scale of Parental Attachment-Short Form (ASPA-SF; Michael & Snow, 2019), and My Vocational Situation (MVS; Holland, Gottfredson, & Power, 1980). Responses were examined through structural equation modeling. Results indicated an overall acceptable model fit and the specific strength of the corresponding variables had on the levels of vocational identity. Implications and areas for future research are proposed.

  • attachment
  • career counseling
  • college students
  • vocational identity
How to Cite
Strate, L., Michael, T., & Hammond, M. (2023). Vocational Identity in College Students: Path Analysis of Childhood Attachment, Gender, Age, and Socioeconomic Status. COUNS-EDU: The International Journal of Counseling and Education, 8(1), 45–53. https://doi.org/10.23916/0020230842010
  1. Allen, J. P., & Land, D. (1999). Attachment in adolescence. Google Scholar

  2. Blustein, D. L., Chaves, A. P., Diemer, M. A., Gallagher, L. A., Marshall, K. G., Sirin, S., & Bhati, K. S. (2002). Voices of the forgotten half: The role of social class in the school-to-work transition. Journal of Counseling psychology, 49(3), 311. https://doi.org/10.1037//0022-0167.49.3.311

  3. Blustein, D. L. (1992). Applying current theory and research in career exploration to practice. The Career Development Quarterly, 41(2), 174-183. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.21610045.1992.tb00368.x

  4. Blustein, D. L., Prezioso, M. S., & Schultheiss, D. P. (1995). Attachment theory and career development: Current status and future directions. The Counseling Psychologist, 23(3), 416-432. https://doi.org/10.1177/0011000095233002

  5. Blustein, D. L., Walbridge, M. M., Friedlander, M. L., & Palladino, D. E. (1991). Contributions of psychological separation and parental attachment to the career development process. Journal of counseling psychology, 38(1), 39. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-0167.38.1.39

  6. Blustein, D. L., Devenis, L. E., & Kidney, B. A. (1989). Relationship between the identity formation process and career development. Journal of counseling psychology, 36(2), 196. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-0167.36.2.196

  7. Bretherton, I. (1992). The origins of attachment theory: John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth. Developmental psychology, 28(5), 759. https://doi.org/10.1037/0012-1649.28.5.759

  8. Brown, S. D., & Lent, R. W. (Eds.). (2004). Career development and counseling: Putting theory and research to work. John Wiley & Sons. Google Scholar

  9. Brown, K. W., & Ryan, R. M. (2003). The benefits of being present: mindfulness and its role in psychological well-being. Journal of personality and social psychology, 84(4), 822. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.84.4.822

  10. Chang, Y., & Edwards, J. K. (2015). Examining the relationships among self-efficacy, coping, and job satisfaction using social career cognitive theory: An SEM analysis. Journal of career assessment23(1), 35-47. https://doi.org/10.1177/1069072714523083

  11. Cohen J. E. (1988). Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203771587

  12. Dempster, M., Howell, D., & McCorry, N. K. (2015). Illness perceptions and coping in physical health conditions: A meta-analysis. Journal of psychosomatic research, 79(6), 506-513. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpsychores.2015.10.006

  13. Edwards, H., & Dirette, D. (2010). The relationship between professional identity and burnout among occupational therapists. Occupational therapy in health care, 24(2), 119-129. https://doi.org/10.3109/07380570903329610

  14. Eigen, C. A., Hartman, B. W., & Hartman, P. T. (1987). Relations between family interaction patterns and career indecision. Psychological Reports, 60(1), 87-94. https://doi.org/10.2466/pr0.1987.60.1.87

  15. El-Hassan, K., & Ghalayini, N. (2020). Parental attachment bonds, dysfunctional career thoughts and career exploration as predictors of career decision-making self-efficacy of Grade 11 students. British Journal of Guidance & Counselling, 48(5), 597-610. https://doi.org/10.1080/03069885.2019.1645296

  16. Gadassi, R., Waser, A., & Gati, I. (2015). Gender differences in the association of depression with career indecisiveness, career-decision status, and career-preference crystallization. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 62(4), 632. https://doi.org/10.1037/cou0000113

  17. Galles, J., Lenz, J., Peterson, G. W., & Sampson Jr, J. P. (2019). Mindfulness and decision-making style: Predicting career thoughts and vocational identity. The Career Development Quarterly, 67(1), 77-91. https://doi.org/10.1002/cdq.12164

  18. Galles, J. A., & Lenz, J. G. (2013). Relationships among career thoughts, vocational identity, and calling: Implications for practice. The Career Development Quarterly, 61(3), 240-248. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.2161-0045.2013.00052.x

  19. Gati, I., & Levin, N. (2014). Counseling for career decision?making difficulties: Measures and methods. The Career Development Quarterly, 62(2), 98-113. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.2161-0045.2014.00073.x

  20. Germeijs, V., & Verschueren, K. (2009). Adolescents' career decision?making process: Related to quality of attachment to parents? Journal of Research on Adolescence, 19(3), 459-483. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1532-7795.2009.00603.x

  21. Grotevant, H. D., & Cooper, C. R. (1988). Role of family experience in career exploration: a life-span perspective. Life-span development and behavior. Google Scholar

  22. Hair, J. F., Black, W. C., Babin, B. J., & Anderson, R. E. (2010). Multivariate data analysis, Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall. Google Scholar

  23. Holland, J. L. (1959). A theory of vocational choice. Journal of counseling psychology, 6(1), 35. https://doi.org/10.1037/h0040767

  24. Holland, J. J., Gottfredson, D. C., & Power, P. G. (1980). Some diagnostic scales for research in decision making and personality: Identity, information, and barriers. Journal of personality and social psychology, 39(6), 1191. https://doi.org/10.1037/h0077731

  25. Holland, J. L., & Holland, J. E. (1977). Vocational indecision: More evidence and speculation. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 24(5), 404. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-0167.24.5.404

  26. Holland, J. L., Johnston, J. A., & Asama, N. F. (1993). The Vocational Identity Scale: A diagnostic and treatment tool. Journal of career assessment, 1(1), 1-12. https://doi.org/10.1177/106907279300100102

  27. Hsieh, H. H., & Huang, J. T. (2012). The effects of socioeconomic status and proactive personality on career decision self?efficacy. The Career Development Quarterly, 62(1), 29-43. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.2161-0045.2014.00068.x

  28. Jacobs, S. J., & Blustein, D. L. (2008). Mindfulness as a coping mechanism for employment uncertainty. The Career Development Quarterly, 57(2), 174-180. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.2161-0045.2008.tb00045.x

  29. Jia, Y., Hou, Z. J., Zhang, H., & Xiao, Y. (2022). Future time perspective, career adaptability, anxiety, and career decision-making difficulty: Exploring mediations and moderations. Journal of Career Development, 49(2), 282-296. https://doi.org/10.1177/0894845320941922

  30. Larson, J. H., & Wilson, S. M. (1998). Family of origin influences on young adult career decision problems: A test of Bowenian theory. American Journal of Family Therapy, 26(1), 39-53. https://doi.org/10.1080/01926189808251085

  31. Lopez, F. G., & Ann-Yi, S. (2006). Predictors of career indecision in three racial/ethnic groups of college women. Journal of Career Development, 33(1), 29-46. https://doi.org/10.1177/0894845306287341

  32. Lopez, F. G., & Andrews, S. (1987). Career indecision: A family systems perspective. Journal of Counseling & Development, 65(6), 304-307. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.1556-6676.1987.tb01291.x

  33. Lopez, F. G. (1989). Current family dynamics, trait anxiety, and academic adjustment: Test of a family-based model of vocational identity. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 35(1), 76-87. https://doi.org/10.1016/0001-8791(89)90049-3

  34. MacCallum, R. C., Browne, M. W., & Sugawara, H. M. (1996). Power analysis and determination of sample size for covariance structure modeling. Psychological methods1(2), 130. https://doi.org/10.1037/1082-989X.1.2.130

  35. Mau, W. C. J. (2004). Cultural dimensions of career decision?making difficulties. The Career Development Quarterly, 53(1), 67-77. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.2161-0045.2004.tb00656.x

  36. Melvin, B., Galles, J. A., & Lenz, J. G. (2012). Assessing career readiness in culturally and ethnically diverse populations. Career Planning & Adult Development Journal, 28(1). Google Scholar

  37. Michael, T., & Snow, M. (2019). The adult scale of parental attachment-short form: psychometric properties, factor analyses, and validation. International Journal for the Advancement of Counselling, 41(4), 509-529. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10447-019-09375-9

  38. Nauta, M. M. (2010). The development, evolution, and status of Holland’s theory of vocational personalities: Reflections and future directions for counseling psychology. Journal of counseling psychology, 57(1), 11. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0018213

  39. Neuenschwander, M. P., & Hofmann, J. (2022). Career decision, work adjustment, and person–job fit of adolescents: Moderating effects of parental support. Journal of Career Development, 49(1), 76-89. https://doi.org/10.1177/0894845321995960

  40. Niles, S. G., & Harris-Bowlsbey, J. A. (2022). Career development interventions (6th ed.). Pearson. Google Scholar

  41. O'Brien, K. M. (1996). The influence of psychological separation and parental attachment on the career development of adolescent women. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 48(3), 257-274. https://doi.org/10.1006/jvbe.1996.0024

  42. Olmos-Gómez, M. D. C., Luque-Suárez, M., Becerril-Ruiz, D., & Cuevas-Rincón, J. M. (2021). Gender and socioeconomic status as factors of individual differences in pre-university students’ decision-making for careers, with a focus on family influence and psychosocial factors. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(3), 1344. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18031344

  43. Scott, D. J., & Church, A. T. (2001). Separation/attachment theory and career decidedness and commitment: Effects of parental divorce. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 58(3), 328-347. https://doi.org/10.1006/jvbe.2000.1769

  44. Shen, X., Gu, X., Chen, H., & Wen, Y. (2021). For the future sustainable career development of college students: Exploring the impact of core self-evaluation and career calling on career decision-making difficulty. Sustainability, 13(12), 6817. https://doi.org/10.3390/su13126817

  45. Snow, M. S., Sullivan, K., Martin, E. E., & Helm, H. (2005). The adult scale of parental attachment: Psychometric properties, factor analysis, and multidimensional scaling. Unpublished manuscript, Department of Leadership and Counselor Education, The University of Mississippi, University, Mississippi.  Google Scholar

  46. Strauser, D. R., Lustig, D. C., & Çiftçi, A. (2008). Psychological well-being: Its relation to work personality, vocational identity, and career thoughts. The Journal of Psychology, 142(1), 21-35. https://doi.org/10.3200/JRLP.142.1.21-36

  47. Tarka, P. (2018). An overview of structural equation modeling: its beginnings, historical development, usefulness and controversies in the social sciences. Quality & quantity52(1), 313-354. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11135-017-0469-8

  48. Tian, X., Huang, B., Li, H., Xie, S., Afzal, K., Si, J., & Hu, D. (2021). How parenting styles link career decision-making difficulties in Chinese college students? The mediating effects of core self-evaluation and career calling. Frontiers in psychology, 12. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.661600

  49. Trusty, J., Ng, K. M., & Plata, M. (2000). Interaction effects of gender, SES, and race?ethnicity on postsecondary educational choices of US students. The Career Development Quarterly, 49(1), 45-59. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.2161-0045.2000.tb00750.x

  50. Van Rosmalen, L., Van Der Horst, F. C., & Van der Veer, R. (2016). From secure dependency to attachment: Mary Ainsworth’s integration of Blatz’s security theory into Bowlby’s attachment theory. History of Psychology, 19(1), 22. https://doi.org/10.1037/hop0000015

  51. Whiston, S. C., & Keller, B. K. (2004). The influences of the family of origin on career development: A review and analysis. The counseling psychologist, 32(4), 493-568. https://doi.org/10.1177/0011000004265660

  52. Wright, S. L., Jenkins-Guarnieri, M. A., & Murdock, J. L. (2013). Career development among first-year college students: College self-efficacy, student persistence, and academic success. Journal of Career Development, 40(4), 292-310. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.1556-6676.2014.00128.x

  53. Wright, S. L., & Perrone, K. M. (2010). An examination of the role of attachment and efficacy in life satisfaction. The Counseling Psychologist, 38(6), 796-823. https://doi.org/10.1177/0011000009359204

  54. Zhou, D., & Santos, A. (2007). Career decision-making difficulties of British and Chinese international university students. British Journal of Guidance & Counselling, 35(2), 219-235. https://doi.org/10.1080/03069880701256684