Article

Sex Roles

, Volume 16, Issue 11, pp 649-668

First online:

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

  • David E. SandbergAffiliated withN.Y.S.P.I.College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University
  • , Anke A. EhrhardtAffiliated withN.Y.S.P.I.College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University
  • , Claude A. MellinsAffiliated withN.Y.S.P.I.College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University
  • , Susan E. InceAffiliated withN.Y.S.P.I.College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University
  • , Heino F. L. Meyer-BahlburgAffiliated withN.Y.S.P.I.College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University

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Abstract

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.