Sex Roles

, Volume 56, Issue 1–2, pp 105–115 | Cite as

Parental Influences on Young Women’s Certainty about Their Career Aspirations

  • Cuiting LiEmail author
  • Jennifer Kerpelman
Original Article


Identity control theory (Kerpelman, Pittman, & Lamke, Journal of Adolescent Research, 12: 325–346, 1997) and the literature on possible selves (Markus & Nurius, American Psychologist, 41: 954–969, 1986) and family influences on adolescents’ vocational choices (e.g., Otto, Journal of Career Development, 27: 111–117, 2000; Whiston & Keller, The Counseling Psychologist, 32: 493–568, 2004) were used to guide this study of young women’s career aspirations. How mother–daughter and father–daughter relationships were associated with young women’s certainty about their anticipated future careers was addressed with data from 304 female undergraduates. Findings indicated that parent–daughter connectedness predicted the young women’s anticipated distress, as well as their willingness to change to fit parental views should their parents disagree with their career aspirations. In addition, anticipated distress mediated associations between willingness to change and connectedness with parents, and between willingness to change and father–daughter career discussions. Discussing career goals with mother increased mother’s influence, but decreased father’s influence, on daughter’s career certainty under conditions of father–daughter disagreement about career choice. The ability to separate her own feelings from those of her father was particularly important in reducing the daughter’s willingness to change her career goals to fit maternal or paternal expectations. Collectively, these findings offer additional insights about the role of parent–adolescent relationships in understanding young women’s career aspirations and note the importance of considering the distinct influences of mothers and fathers on their daughters’ career goals and plans.


Identity Control Theory Career aspirations Parent–daughter relationships 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Human EcologyState University of New York at OneontaOneontaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Human Development and Family StudiesAuburn UniversityAuburnUSA

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