, Volume 4, Issue 5, pp 723-753

Sex differences in the determination of adolescent aspirations: A review of research

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This article reviews research on sex differences in the educational and occupational orientations of adolescents. Because the aspirations and expectations of adolescents are predictive of subsequent adult attainment, these variables are important mediating factors in the process by which individuals of the two sexes come to occupy different educational and occupational positions in adulthood. Adolescent boys aspire to a higher level of education than girls, and the occupational choices of the two sexes are highly sex-stereotyped. Factors influencing levels of adolescent aspiration are reviewed, including socioeconomic background, academic ability, number of siblings, parental encouragement, mother's employment, academic performance, peer aspirations, dating, and participation in school activities. Although sex differences exist in the process by which both educational and occupational aspirations are formed, they are greater with respect to occupational than educational aspirations.

The author wishes to thank Elizabeth Bates Harkins for helpful comments on an earlier draft of this article and Susan M. Ball and Adeline Dinger for typing the manuscript.