Advertisement

Life Span Theory and Career Theories: Rapprochement or Estrangement?

  • Anuradha J. Bakshi
Chapter
Part of the International and Cultural Psychology book series (ICUP)

Abstract

On the assumption that cross-fertilization across (allied) disciplines is profitable, one of the contemporary theories of human development, namely life span theory, is selected for its potential usefulness for career theory, research, and practice. Life span theory is a particularly apt choice for such an exercise because of its overarching framework, comprehensiveness, multiple levels of generality/specificity, and relevance of content. The key ideas of life span theory or life span developmental psychology are outlined and discussed first. Largely adapted from the writings of Paul Baltes, the first set of these key ideas includes the following: Lifelong processes in development; plasticity as pivotal, more importance to change than in previous theories of development; the need to reformulate the concept of developmental change; development as a gain-loss dynamic; and development as a process of selective adaptation involving the coordination of three processes (i.e., selection, optimization, and compensation). The second set of key ideas, also drawn from Baltes's work, includes culture as compensation, coevolution of biology and culture, development as a process of biocultural co-construction, and an incomplete architecture of human development.

Next, in order to clarify the extent to which life span theory opens new perspectives or reiterates extant perspectives, selected career theories are examined for their extent of rapprochement with life span theory: theory of work adjustment; Holland’s theory of vocational personalities in work environments; Super’s life-span, life-space approach to career development; theory of career construction; and social cognitive career theory. It is found that although there is some rapprochement between life span theory in human development and career theories, this rapprochement is neither consistent nor adequate. At best, there is some recognition of the need for a life span orientation and variable acknowledgement of the value of plasticity.

This exercise yields new directions as well as reinforces existing foci in career theory, research, and practice. It is clear, for example, that greater attention needs to be paid to lifelong processes in career development. In which case, there is a simultaneous need to orient ourselves to plasticity in career development. The complementarity of the constructs of lifelong development and plasticity needs better reception and integration in career theory, research, and practice.

Using life span theory, career development can be viewed as constituted of gains and losses in adaptive capacities or functions through selection and selective optimization at multiple points in the life span. Individuals and groups can be assisted in identifying the specific adaptive capacities or functions that they would like to strengthen and the careers or types of jobs that provide the means to do so. Successful career development can be facilitated by promoting (a) general plasticity and (b) assisting individuals and groups in maximizing gains and minimizing losses. Lastly, in the careers field we must recognize that the limits of human development are unknown because these limits are continually extended through biocultural coevolution. Therefore, the conclusions about career development can be only based partly (and not wholly) on the past, and we need to continually regenerate our knowledge base as well as modes of practice.

Keywords

Life Span Adaptive Capacity Career Development Outcome Expectation Work Adjustment 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

References

  1. Ackerman, P. L., & Beier, M. E. (2003). Intelligence, personality, and interests in the career choice process. Journal of Career Assessment, 11(2), 205–218.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Arthur, M. B., Khapova, S. N., & Wilderom, C. P. M. (2005). Career success in a boundaryless career world. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 26, 177–202.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Baltes, P. B. (1987). Theoretical propositions of life-span developmental psychology: On the dynamics between growth and decline. Developmental Psychology, 23(5), 611–626.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Baltes, P. B. (1997). On the incomplete architecture of human ontogeny: Selection, optimization, and compensation as foundation of developmental theory. American Psychologist, 52(4), 366–380.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Baltes, P. B., Lindenberger, U., & Staudinger, U. M. (2006). Life span theory in developmental psychology. In W. Damon & R. M. Lerner (Series Eds.), & R. M. Lerner (Vol. Ed.), Handbook of child psychology, Vol. 1. Theoretical models of human development (pp. 569–664). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.Google Scholar
  6. Baltes, P. B., Staudinger, U. M., & Lindenberger, U. (1999). Lifespan psychology: Theory and application to intellectual functioning. Annual Review of Psychology, 50, 471–507.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  8. Betz, N. E. (2005). Women’s career development. In S. D. Brown & R. W. Lent (Eds.), Career development and counseling: Putting theory and research to work (pp. 253–277). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.Google Scholar
  9. Betz, N. E. (2008). Women’s career development. In F. L. Denmark & M. A. Paludi (Eds.), Psychology of women: A handbook of issues and theories (pp. 717–752). Westport, CT: Praeger.Google Scholar
  10. Bogin, B. (1990). The evolution of human childhood. BioScience, 40, 16–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Brown, S. D., & Lent, R. W. (2013). Understanding and facilitating career development in the 21st century. In S. D. Brown & R. W. Lent (Eds.), Career development and counseling: Putting theory and research to work (pp. 1–28). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.Google Scholar
  12. Cairns, R. B., & Cairns, B. D. (2006). The making of developmental psychology. In W. Damon & R. M. Lerner (Series Eds.), & R. M. Lerner (Vol. Ed.), Handbook of child psychology, Vol. 1. Theoretical models of human development (pp. 89–165). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.Google Scholar
  13. Dawis, R. V. (2005). The Minnesota theory of work adjustment. In S. D. Brown & R. W. Lent (Eds.), Career development and counseling: Putting theory and research to work (pp. 3–23). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.Google Scholar
  14. Dawis, R. V., & Lofquist, L. H. (1984). A psychological theory of work adjustment: An individual-differences model and its applications. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  15. Farh, J.-L., Leong, F. T. L., & Law, K. S. (1998). Cross-cultural validity of Holland’s model in Hong Kong. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 52, 425–440.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hall, D. T. (2004). The protean career: A quarter-century journey. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 65, 1–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hansen, J.-I. C. (2005). Assessment of interests. In S. D. Brown & R. W. Lent (Eds.), Career development and counseling: Putting theory and research to work (pp. 281–304). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.Google Scholar
  18. Hartung, P. J. (2013). The life-span, life-space theory of careers. In S. D. Brown & R. W. Lent (Eds.), Career development and counseling: Putting theory and research to work (pp. 83–114). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.Google Scholar
  19. Holland, J. L. (1959). A theory of vocational choice. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 6, 35–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Holland, J. L. (1997). Making vocational choices: A theory of vocational personalities and work environments. Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources.Google Scholar
  21. Kagan, J. (1980). Perspectives on continuity. In O. G. Brim Jr. & J. Kagan (Eds.), Constancy and change across the life span (pp. 26–74). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  22. Kuhn, T. S. (1970). The structure of scientific revolutions. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  23. Lent, R. W. (2005). A social cognitive view of career development and counseling. In S. D. Brown & R. W. Lent (Eds.), Career development and counseling: Putting theory and research to work (pp. 101–127). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.Google Scholar
  24. Lent, R. B., Brown, S. D., & Hackett, G. (1994). Toward a unifying social cognitive theory of career and academic interest, choice, and performance. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 45(1), 79–122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lent, R. W., Brown, S. D., & Hackett, G. (2002). Social cognitive career theory. In D. Brown et al. (Eds.), Career choice and development (pp. 255–311). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  26. Leong, F. T. L., Austin, J. T., Sekaran, U., & Komarraju, M. (1998). An evaluation of the cross-cultural validity of Holland’s theory: Career choices by workers in India. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 52, 441–455.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Savickas, M. L. (1997). Career adaptability: An integrative construct for life-span, life-space theory. The Career Development Quarterly, 45, 247–259.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Savickas, M. L. (2001). A developmental perspective on vocational behaviour: Career patterns, salience, and themes. International Journal for Educational and Vocational Guidance, 1, 49–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Savickas, M. L. (2002). Career construction: A developmental theory of vocational behavior. In D. Brown et al. (Eds.), Career choice and development (pp. 149–205). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  30. Savickas, M. L. (2005). The theory and practice of career construction. In S. D. Brown & R. W. Lent (Eds.), Career development and counseling: Putting theory and research to work (pp. 42–70). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.Google Scholar
  31. Scarr, S., & Kidd, K. K. (1983). Developmental behavior genetics. In P. H. Mussen (Series Ed.), & M. M. Haith & J. J. Campos (Vol. Eds.), Handbook of child psychology, Vol. 2. Infancy and developmental psychobiology (pp. 345–434). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.Google Scholar
  32. Schmitt, A., Zacher, H., & Frese, M. (2012). The buffering effect of selection, optimization, and compensation strategy use on the relationship between problem solving demands and occupational well-being: A daily diary study. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 17(2), 139–149.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Spokane, A. R., & Cruza-Guet, M. C. (2005). Holland's theory of vocational personalities in work environments. In S. D. Brown & R. W. Lent (Eds.), Career development and counseling: Putting theory and research to work (pp. 24–41). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.Google Scholar
  34. Spokane, A. R., Luchetta, E. J., & Richwine, M. H. (2002). Holland's theory of personalities in work environments. In D. Brown et al. (Eds.), Career choice and development (pp. 373–426). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  35. Super, D. E. (1980). A life-span, life-space approach to career development. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 16, 282–298.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Super, D. E. (1990). A life-span, life-space approach to career development. In D. Brown & L. Brooks (Eds.), Career choice and development (pp. 197–261). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  37. Super, D. E., & Knasel, E. G. (1981). Career development in adulthood: Some theoretical problems. British Journal of Guidance and Counselling, 9, 194–201.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Uttal, D. H., & Perlmutter, M. (1989). Towards a broader conceptualization of development: The role of gains and losses across the life span. Developmental Review, 9, 101–132.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Valsiner, J. (2006). Developmental epistemology and implications for methodology. In W. Damon & R. M. Lerner (Series Eds.), & R. M. Lerner (Vol. Ed.), Handbook of child psychology, Vol. 1. Theoretical models of human development (pp. 166–209). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.Google Scholar
  40. Weise, B. S., Freund, A. M., & Baltes, P. B. (2000). Selection, optimization, and compensation: An action-related approach to work and partnership. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 57, 273–300.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Zacher, H., & Frese, M. (2011). Maintaining a focus on opportunities at work: The interplay between age, job complexity, and the use of selection, optimization, and compensation strategies. Journal of Organizational Behavior, Special Issue: Contemporary empirical advancements in the study of aging in the workplace, 32(2), 291–318.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Human DevelopmentNirmala Niketan College of Home Science, University of MumbaiMumbaiIndia

Personalised recommendations