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The Role of Parental Socializing Behaviors in Two Domains of Student STEM Career Interest

Abstract

The shortage of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) professionals worldwide calls for research to identify social forces that can foster student career interest in this domain. In this study, we examined the underlying structure of middle school student STEM career interest and the role of their parents’ STEM-specific behaviors in explaining this interest. Students (N = 488) reported their interest in eighth grade (Mage = 14.48 years), while parental data were collected approximately 15 months earlier. Parents (N = 488) reported on their encouragement of their child’s STEM interest, provision of STEM materials for the child, and their own participation in STEM activities. Student grades in STEM school subjects were collected at the end of seventh grade. The findings suggest that in this age, students differentiate between their interest in science and engineering–technology-oriented career activities. Boys showed higher STEM interest than girls but only in the engineering–technology domain. Prior STEM school achievement predicted student science interest but not engineering–technology interest. After controlling for student gender and STEM achievement, the overall parent STEM support predicted both types of STEM interest, equally for boys and girls. However, parents reported more STEM-specific practices in case of sons than daughters. The results are discussed in the framework of the ontogeny of children’s STEM vocational interest and previous findings on the gendered socialization in STEM within the family. Implications for interventions and curricula in the STEM domain are also discussed.

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Funding

This research was supported by the Croatian Science Foundation grant “IP-09-2014-9250”—STEM career aspirations during primary schooling: A cohort-sequential longitudinal study of relations between achievement, self-competence beliefs, and career interests (JOBSTEM).

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Correspondence to Mara Šimunović.

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All procedures performed in this study were reviewed and approved by the Ethical Committee of the Ivo Pilar Institute of Social Sciences. The research was also approved by the Croatian Ministry of Science and Education and by the principals of the participating schools. For each participating student, we have obtained signed parental consent.

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Šimunović, M., Babarović, T. The Role of Parental Socializing Behaviors in Two Domains of Student STEM Career Interest. Res Sci Educ 51, 1055–1071 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11165-020-09938-6

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11165-020-09938-6

Keywords

  • STEM
  • Vocational interest
  • Parental behaviors
  • Gender differences