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Differential Effects of Adolescents’ Expectancy and Value Beliefs about Math and English on Math/Science-Related and Human Services-Related Career Plans

Fani Lauermann, Angela Chow, Jacquelynne Sue Eccles


Informed by Eccles’s expectancy-value theory and Möller and Marsh’s dimensional comparison theory, this study examined the effects of adolescents’ motivational beliefs across two academic domains, English and Math, on adolescents’ math/science-related and human services-related career plans at the end of high school (N = 425). Consistent with prior evidence, male adolescents were more likely to aspire to math/science-related careers, whereas female adolescents favored human services occupations. The effects of gender on these career plans were mediated by adolescents’ valuing of English. Compared to males, females were less likely to consider math/science-related careers and more likely to consider human services occupations partially because they valued English more than did males.  In addition, a negative interaction effect suggested that adolescents’ math-related self-concept of ability was a weaker predictor of math/science-related career plans at higher levels of perceived ability in English. Accordingly, the combination of high perceived ability in both math and English implied a somewhat lower probability of pursuing math/science-related careers, relative to individuals with high math, but lower English self-concept of ability.  These findings underscore the importance of considering cross-domain influences in the career choice process, and especially with regard to gendered choices in the domains of math and science.  


Expectancy-Value Theory; Adolescent Development; Career Choice; Gender and STEM

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