, Volume 16, Issue 11-12, pp 649-668

The influence of individual and family characteristics upon career aspirations of girls during childhood and adolescence

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The term pioneer is used for girls aspiring to male-dominated careers. This longitudinal study assesses the career choices of 68 middle-class girls during childhood (8–13 years, Phase I) and again during adolescence (13–18 years, Phase II), and investigates the relation between pioneering career choice and personal and family characteristics. Subjects were originally selected for exposure vs nonexposure to exogenous hormones during pregnancy. In childhood, pioneers were somewhat older, were more often persistent tomboys, had higher IQs, and had parents with higher educational attainment. In adolescence, paternal education was the only variable that showed the same relation to career choice. Adolescent girls who had wanted to get married at the time of the childhood assessment were now less likely to choose pioneering careers. Adolescent pioneers also had higher educational aspirations than nonpioneers and less likely anticipated being married within ten years than nonpioneers. A number of statistically borderline relationships were also observed: pioneers had somewhat fewer older brothers than nonpioneers, less often came from homes in which traditional femininity was stressed, and more frequently had mothers who had worked outside the home throughout their daughters' school years than mothers of nonpioneers. Prenatal exposure to exogenous sex hormones was not related to career choice during either childhood or adolescence.

Dr. Sandberg has been supported as a postdoctoral fellow by the Medical Research Council of Quebec and is a recipient of the National Research Service Award HD06726 from the NICHD. In addition, this work was supported in part by grants from the Spencer Foundation, the William T. Grant Foundation, and the Ford Foundation, and by NIMH Clinical Research Center Grant MH-30906.
We wish to thank the children and parents who participated in the study. Dorothy Lewis and Patricia A. Connolly provided secretarial assistance. We also acknowledge the helpful comments of Jennifer D. Lish.