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Review in Psychology Research March 2013, Volume 2, Issue 1, PP.9-14

A Hierarchical Antecedent and Taxonomic Intervention Model of Career Indecision Baoguo Xie 1#, Mian Xia 2 1. Career Development Center, Wuhan University of Technology, 430070, China 2. Department of Psychology, Huazhong Normal University, 430079, China #Email:

Abstract In academia, the term of career indecision is typically defined as the difficulties encountered by individuals while making careerrelated decisions. Searching the antecedents and effective career intervention are the focus of researchers and practitioners all the time. Based on the former empirical studies, we divided the difficulties into four clusters: motivation, personality, emotion and cognition. According to their power of effects on career indecision, these difficulties can be constructed into a hierarchical model. Meanwhile, we indentified six kinds of career intervention, and constructed a taxonomic intervention model of career indecision. Keywords: Career Indecision; Hierarchical Antecedents; Taxonomic Interventions

1 INTRODUCTION Career indecision has long been a phenomenon of interest to parents, faculty, school counsellors, and others who advise young adults on their career choices. In academia, career indecision is typically defined as the difficulties encountered by individuals while making career-related decisions (Saka, Gati, &Kelly, 2008), or the inability to select and commit to a career choice (Tokar, et al., 2003). In the short term, career indecision will result in lack of motivation to engage in student role, inactivity in job search behaviour and frequently transferring career path and learning field. In the long term, career indecision will have negative effects on their future career life and social development outcomes. So indeed, career indecision is among the most researched issues in vocational psychology.

2 A HIERARCHICAL ANTECEDENT MODEL OF CAREER INDECISION The earliest work on career indecision focused almost exclusively on the negative consequences young adults faced. Because the researchers have found the negative consequences of career indecision through empirical studies, the primary focus of the current research is on the antecedents of career indecision. So far, the researchers have identified a number of antecedents of career indecision. Summarily, the antecedents can be divided into four components, i.e., personality, emotion, cognition and motivation. The role that the four components played in career decision can be illustrated by the following figure. Because the effects of four components on individual career indecision are different, the model was constructed into a hierarchical model. The influential power of four components is, in order, personal components, career decisionmaking motivation, emotional components and cognitive components. Personal difficulties often result in chronic indecision. Cognitive difficulties are associated with development of indecision. Meanwhile, these four components interplay.

2.1 Personality Personality is the deepest and most pervasive components resulting in individuals’ career indecision. Personal difficulties emerged prior to career decision making, and triggered the emotional, motivational and cognitive difficulties. Empirical study had consistently found that five traits have the most powerful effect on career indecision. These traits are uncrystallized identity, self-esteem, neuroticism, proactive and trait anxiety. 9


1) Uncrystallized identity It refers to difficulty in forming a stable sense of personal identity, which may be manifested in difficulties in expressing consolidated beliefs, values, preferences, and life goals (Saka, Gati, &Kelly, 2008). Uncrystallized identity often results in identity confusion, which leads to difficulty in processing career information about self and vocation during career decision making. 2) Self-esteem Self-esteem is typically defined as a disposition that a person has which represents their judgments of their own worthiness (Olsen, Breckler, & Wiggins, 2008). Super claimed that career choice is an expression of the individual’s self-concept in vocational terms. As a core part of self-concept, self-esteem therefore plays a central role in career decision making. People tend to choose careers that will allow them to actualize their perceived potential and to enhance their feelings of self-worth. Measures of self-esteem have consistently been found to be negatively correlated with indecision measures—the lower one’s self-esteem is, the higher one’s career indecision is (Emmanuelle, 2009). Low self-esteem also can lead to emotional difficulties in career decision, such as state anxiety, pessimism. 3) Neuroticism Neuroticism is a fundamental personality trait in the study of psychology. Individuals who score high on neuroticism are more likely than the average to experience such feelings as anxiety, anger, envy, guilt, and depressed mood. When it comes to career decision making, higher neurotic individual often responds with such feelings as state anxiety, worry about outcomes of career decision making and strong need for career information. In fact, in dimensions of the big 5 model, neuroticism was consistently found being associated with career indecision. For instance, Stărică(2012)found neuroticism is the only significant predictor of career indecision in big 5 model (Stărică, 2012). 10

4) Proactive Proactive personality is the disposition that individual take self-initiated behaviour to change external environment, regardless of the constraints situation imposed. Individuals who score higher on proactive personality have stronger motivation of career decision making and willing to implement process of career decision making, and vice versa. 5) Trait anxiety Trait anxiety is ingrained in a person's personality, and refers to the level of proneness of individuals to experience anxiety. As a personal trait, trait anxiety endures over time and is manifested across a variety of situations. Individuals with high trait anxiety perceive career decision making as more threatening and are more likely to respond with dysfunctional emotion such as increased state anxiety. In the field of career decision, negative correlations have consistently been found among trait anxiety and commitment to a career choice, whereas positive correlations have been found between trait anxiety and career indecision. For example, Santos (2001) reported a high positive correlation between trait anxiety and general indecisiveness and a negative correlation between trait anxiety and vocational identity (Santos, 2001).

2.2 Motivation Motivation is defined as the desire or drive to do things. Motivation is the premise that initiates, guides and maintains goal-oriented behaviors. Career decision-making motivation refers to the level of desire to make career decision. Selecting a career choice is a process. Firstly, individuals have to realize the need to make career decision. Meanwhile, there are many obstacles during career decision making, in which strong career decision-making motivation is helpful for decision-makers to make the effort to overcome these obstacles. When individuals are aware of urgency to select a career choice, they will actively take proactive behaviours to gather career information, as well as learn career decision knowledge and skills. Powell (2000) reported that individuals at critical career decision points develop career decision ability more rapidly than their counterparts (Darrell, 2000).

2.3 Emotion Though there is no consensus in the literature on a definition of emotion, the term is taken for granted in itself and, most often, emotion is defined as feelings such as anger, disgust, fear, joy, sadness, surprise and so on. As a kind of psychological arousal, individuals often encounter some emotional difficulties arising during the actual choice process. Emotional difficulties often further lead to some cognitive difficulties such as troubling in problem solving, lower level in career decision-making self-efficacy. During period of career decision making, the two emotion difficulties have strong association with career indecision. 1) State anxiety Different from trait anxiety, state anxiety is a temporary emotional condition characterized with apprehension, tension, and fear about a particular situation or activity. Individuals who score high on state anxiety are more likely than the average to perceive tress in the career decision-making process. Meldahl and Muchinsky (1997) testified this conclusion. Their research result indicated that state anxiety and level of perceived stress can discriminate among individuals with different levels of indecision and indecisiveness (Meldahl & Muchinsky, 1997). In academia, various aspects of state anxiety have consistently been shown to be associated with career indecision. In the Emotional and Personality Career Difficulties Model (EPCD), Saka, Gati and Kelly identified four kinds of state anxiety during career decision-making. They are anxiety about the process, uncertainty, the choice, and the outcomes, respectively (Saka, Gati, &Kelly, 2008). 2) Pessimism Pessimism is a state of mind in which one anticipates undesirable outcomes. Pessimists often focus on the negative aspects of situations and expect negative outcomes. The role of pessimism in affecting the process of career decision making has been demonstrated in several studies. For example, Krumboltz(1991) and Sampson et al.(1996) reported that pessimistic and dysfunctional thoughts and beliefs may be manifested in various ways during the different stages of the career-decision-making process. Meanwhile, individual who is pessimistic often has low career decision11

making self-efficacy. Based on a number of studies, Saka, Gati and Kelly identified three kind of pessimistic views in their EPCD model. They are pessimistic views about the process, the world of work and one’s control (Saka, Gati, &Kelly, 2008).

2.4 Cognition Cognitions have been generally recognized as important factors that affect an individual's career decision-making process and overall vocational development. Not only do personality, motivation and emotion involve in this process, but also cognition involves in. There are mainly three cognitive difficulties impeding people to make a career choice. 1) Lack of career information There is extensive consensus on the perspective that career information plays major role in career decision. Peterson, Sampson and Reardon (1991) developed a new approach to career decision and development, i.e., cognitive information processing theory (CIP) (Peterson, Sampson, & Reardon, 1991). According to the theory, if individual makes career decision on the basis of pyramid of information processing domains, he or she will obtain good outcomes of career decision. So we can indentify three informational difficulties, i.e., lack of self-knowledge, lack of occupational knowledge and lack of skills about career decision making. 2) Dysfunctional career thoughts/ believes Everyone has a set of assumptions on oneself, world of work. Positive and functional career thoughts boost the career decision-making process and career development behaviors. Dysfunctional and negative career thoughts can have a negative impact on the career decision-making process. For example, if individual holds this career belief that I cannot make a good career decision, he or she will be lack of career decision-making motivation and avoid making career decision. Several empiric studies testified the substantial relation between dysfunctional career thoughts and career indecision (Saunders, et al., 2000; Kleiman, et al., 2004). 3) Career decision-making self-efficacy Career decision-making self-efficacy is defined as the confidence individual has in their capacity to carry out a series of tasks associated with career decision. Career decision-making self-efficacy consistently has been shown to be associated with career indecision. Specifically, individuals who are low in career decision-making self-efficacy don’t well in career decision-making tasks such as gathering career information, goal selection, planning and problem solving. Meanwhile, individuals low in career decision-making self-efficacy will be lack of career decision-making motivation. That is because self-efficacy has function of motivation.

3 A TAXONOMIC INTERVENTION MODEL OF CAREER INDECISION Making out the difficulties in career decision-making provides possibility for career intervention. On the basis of the hierarchical antecedent model of career indecision, we develop a taxonomic intervention model of career indecision. In the model, the career interventions are divided into six categories. They are campus culture, informationproviding, career group, group counseling and individual counseling, respectively. The shape of model is funnel, which means that career invention at the top of model covers the most people but it only can solve the superficial career decision-making difficulties. Career invention at the bottom of model covers the least people, but it can solve the deeper career decision-making difficulties. But there is no good and bad. It is only suitable or not suitable for solving career indecision. For example, campus culture can effectively promote the individual’s career decisionmaking motivation. Individual counseling can help clients to solve the career indecision because of personal difficulties.

3.1 Campus culture Culture is a very important power to influence people. Nowadays, because of effect of exam-oriented education, Chinese university students generally lack awareness of career decision-making. They think selecting a career is a task to complete, when hunting for job. We can pose them the urgency to make career decision through cultivating campus culture helpful for career development. The measures to cultivate campus culture include career planning 12

match, career development month and so on。


3.2 Information-Providing One of important sources of career indecsion is lack of career information. Information-providing is self-help service. Through this self-help service, students can improve their knowlegde about self, world of work, and skills of career decison. Information-providing includes establishing information center, internet test internet vedio and so on.

3.3 Career group Different from the information-providing, career group is an career development service under the guidance of career facilitators. Career group can effectively solve the similar issues because of cognition. Career group includes career course, workshop, and all kinds of career development programs.

3.4 Group counseling Group counseling is a powerful career intervetion to faciliate client’s growth and change. Not only do students receive tremendous understanding, support, and encouragement from others facing similar issues, but they also gain different perspectives, ideas, and viewpoints on those issues. Through group counseling, some tough difficulties in career decision-making such as pessimiss, anxiety and so on, can be effectively solved.

3.5 Individual counseling Athough individual counseling only can provide career intervention for one person at a time, tough difficulties such as personal and some emotional difficulties can be solved by it. Indidivual counseling includes short-term and long13

term counseling.

4 CONCLUSIONS The sources of career indecision are not only from cognition and motivation, but also from emotion and personality. Because the degree of their effects on career indecision is different, we can construct these antecedents into a hierarchical model. Personality difficulties represent the toughest and most persistent difficulties in career decision making. According to the hierarchical antecedent model, the career intervention of career indecision can be divided into six categories. According to the coverage of population and depth of difficulties, the six kinds of career intervention can be constructed into a funnel model.

ACKNOWLEDGMENT This paper is funded by Humanity and Social Science Youth foundation of Ministry of Education of China (Granted Number: 11YJC190029). The authors would like to acknowledge its financial aid.


Darrell F. Powell. Critical Career Decision Points and Their Effect on Career Maturity, Alabama: Auburn University, 2000


Emmanuelle, V. Inter-Relationships Among Attachment to Mother and Father, Self-Esteem, and Career Indecision, Journal of Vocational Behavior, Vol. 75, pp. 91-99, May 2009


Kleiman, T., et al., Dysfunctional Thinking and Difficulties in Career Decision Making, Journal of Career Assessment, Vol 12, pp. 312-331, August 2004


Meldahl, J. M., and Muchinsky, P. M. The Neurotic Dimension of Vocational Indecision: Gender Comparability? Journal of Career Assessment, Vol. 5, pp. 317-331, Jun 1997


Olsen, J.M., Breckler, S.J., and Wiggins, E.C. Social Psychology Alive (1st Ed.), Canada: Nelson, 2008


Peterson, G, W., Sampson, J. J., and Reardon, R. C. Career Development and Services: A Cognitive Approach, CA: Thomson Brooks/Cole Publishing Co, 1991


Saka, N., Gati, I., and Kelly, K. R. Emotional and Personality-Related Aspects of Career-Decision-Making Difficulties, Journal of Career Assessment, Vol.16, pp.403-424, November 2008


Santos, P. J. Predictors of Generalized Indecision Among Portuguese Secondary School Students, Journal of Career Assessment, Vol. 9, pp. 381-396, Fall 2001


Saunders, D. E., et al, “Relation of Depression and Dysfunctional Career Thinking to Career Indecision, Journal of Vocational Behavior, Vol. 56, pp. 288-289, April 2000

[10] Stărică, E. C., Predictors for Career Indecision in Adolescence, Procedia -Social and Behavioral Sciences, Vol. 33, pp. 168-172, May 2012 [11] Tokar, D. M., Withrow, J. R., Hall, R. J., and Moradi, B. Psychological Separation, Attachment Security, Vocational Self-Concept Crystallization, and Career Indecision: A Structural Equation Analysis, Journal of Counseling Psychology, Vol. 50, pp.3-19, January 2003



Technology, doctor candidate of RenMin University, was

Doctor Degree of psychology was conferred by Huazhong

conferred by Huazhong Normal University in 2005. Research

Normal University in 2009. Research field is counseling

field is career Master degree of psychology.

management and development.



Xie Baoguo (1979- ), Lecturer of Wuhan University of

Xia Mian (1980- ), Lecturer of Huazhong Normal University,


A Hierarchical Antecedent and Taxonomic Intervention Model of Career Indecision  

In academia, the term of career indecision is typically defined as the difficulties encountered by individuals while making career-related d...

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