Specific Subject Preference Development in Childhood / Independence of Pre- Adolescent Preference Conditioning


When you were a child did you dream of becoming a fireman, an astronaut, or doctor? Did your parents encourage you towards or away from specific jobs that you felt interested in? These questions have puzzled psychologist and behavioral scientists of decades. The idea is that we are influenced by parental, social and peer conditioning in our childhood years that prod our sensibilities toward or away from specific preferences in career choice. In this essay I will centrally explore how we are parentally conditioned and how we can entertain the idea of independence from said conditioning as we continue in growth and development past adolescence.

1. Specific Subject Preference Development in Childhood:
Few parents seem to recognize the impact they have on their children. From an early age children absorb everything around them little to know psychologic filter. The stimuli that occurs in their immediate surroundings is downloaded to their internal mental hard drive, wiring neurological transmitters together that will work in forming that child into an a person with a psychological identity. This identity is therein development over time to create what we see to be ourselves. The mental image of ourselves is a combination of the conditioning we experienced as we learned and witness events from birth to pre- teen. Psychologists have proven that our mental state is very fragile and delicate, requiring constant up-keep and fortification of identity centers. We are constantly internally referencing who we are based on who’ve we’ve continued ourselves to be. Any conditioning pre-adolescent is not of our doing more, of parental, environmental and social. For example, you will see pre-teens voice their loyalty to a specific college football team when having never attended the school in person, based on the religious- like loyalty to that collage their parents attended. This is due to the constant exposer to the college loyalty over a long period of time. Just like a runner conditions his muscles for long hours on the track, so to our psychology becomes conditioned to think a specific way about almost everything in our immediate experience. As children we rely greatly on parental advise and guidance for how to live. We presume that those that have came before use have greater insight into the workings of the world and how to navigate socially. We are born into this reliance on parental guidance based on the foundation of multiple millennia grounded i122311172037n parental based survival reliance. As early Homo Sapiens, nearly 200,000 years ago, we looked for non-vebal cues from parents to note when danger came in proximity. As we aged into strong hunters next to our fathers we developed our senses independently as the environment we grew up in changed due to climate, inhabitants, and geological alterations occurred over time. This introduces a very interesting shift in our psychology as we develop into adolescence that still occurs currently. Parents have a direct impact on specific preferences from birth to age (on average) 13.

“Parents have an early influence, but by middle school most students are starting to

develop independent tastes.” Art Markman, Professor of Psychology – University of Texas at Austin

Parents are sometimes unaware as to the gravity of impact they have on their children and still believe that they have little to do with the career choices of their children (Taylor, Harris, & Taylor, 2004). In a study from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (Taylor, Harris, & Taylor, 2004), almost half of freshman parents stated that they believed they should remain neutral in regard to their child’s career development. However, additional studies show that parents have a greater influence in career selection than teachers (Kniveton, 2004) and can even influence what major their children choose to pursue in college (Simpson, 2003). For example; a teen may be interested in majoring in science but instead is influenced by their parents to study law, due to past positive experience within the family. What has shifted now is the associate to what we believe will keep us alive, or not killed. As 200,000 year old Homo Sapiens, we perceived large animals as threats and watched for cues from our parents in times of stress. As 21st century up-right walking humans we now look for similar cues but in a modern context. Having money in today’s environment is considered being unstressed, taken care of, and/or “surviving”. Therefore, it is save to presume that many modern career choices are selected our fear of pain from lack of resources. It is clear that parents believe they have less influence over their children’s career decisions than the research supports. This perception seems to differ from the perception of children, who often report their parents to be of the highest influence (Ferry, 2006; Kniveton, 2004). Due to this perception gap, it is important to examine the result of parental influence in regard to their children’s career choices. While parents assume that their direct career advice may be influential, they may be unaware that they can also exert a strong career influence simply by serving as examples of workers (Kniveton, 2004). In fact, children as young as five years old begin to identify with the occupation oftheir mother or father (Havighurst, 1964). Parents start influencing career decisions as soon as their children can pronounce their job title. There is no coincidence in the fact that many children go into professions that mimic or mirror those of their parents. In fact, similar parental jobs may be perceived as more stable or “safe” the the child that witness success of the parent in that field; success mainly defined as financial stability. When interviewed, you’ll noticed that a person will ask whether a field is financially stable over a period of time when asking about career opportunities.

Parents may also be unaware of the impact their accepted standards and values have on their child’s career selection. According to Biddle, Bank, and Marlin (as cited in Simpson, 2003), “rather than responding directly to external pressures … students internalize parental norms and preferences and act, therefore, in accordance with those norms” (Transmission of Values section, ~ 1). Because parental norms and values are likely to affect career choice, it is important that parents understand the subtle ways that they communicate their norms and values on a regular basis. Furthermore, due to the value weight a child places on parental standards, the influence of the parent becomes very potent. Tracey (2001) identified a research gap in children’s career development and argued that the critical research question is about “the mechanisms by which children’s thinking about interests shifts from childhood structures to those of
adulthood” (p. 90). There is a body of research that has focuses and attempts to validate theories that describe the career development of children. Specifically, research

has examined the process of learning that various theories hypothesize underlies children’s career development. Wahl and Blackhurst (2000) have reviewed this research and concluded that the findings are mixed. Earlier theories such as that of Ginzberg, Ginsburg, Axelrad, and Herma (1951) have been challenged by research that has found children’s occupational aspirations are more stable over time than the theories proposes (Trice, Hughes, Odom, Woods, & McClellan, 1995; Wahl & Blackhurst, 2000). Therefore, we can presume that the longevity of consistent parental conditioning is a main contributor to the long-term development of childhood career interests.

2. Independence of Pre-Adolescent Preference Conditioning:
Conditioning on any psychological level is difficult to understand, regardless of attempts of removal or alterations. Art Markman, psychologist (Prof. of Psychology/UT at Austin) stated that preferences continue to evolve if we remain psychologically open them. However, the challenge in remaining open is in the ability for one to endure perceived psychological strain. Changes in environment, relationships and/or economic status showcase an instability to our environment. The instability is perceived as pain due to the possibility of collapse of living conditions. Even in areas of poverty you will find individuals that are reluctant to give up a dirty and torn blanket. This is because that individual perceives that item as a key part to their survival. The psychological shift that is required to occur if an individual intends to become independent of parental conditioning is two pronged: 1. The cultivation of endurance in psychological strain via life changes within multiple intensity levels. 2. Sustaining the consistent allowance of new ideas to remain valid in the shifting perception of our environment. Researchers call this psychological training. Just as in the example previous, the runner is conditioning himself to run longer. Psychological training is the conditioning of growth. In other words, we are conditioning ourselves to keep from becoming conditioned. Therefore, unless we intend on settling on a set of values and standards, we will need to train our mind continuously. Research has found that individuals that are continuously striving to grow, typically shift their reference point of conditioning from their parents to other individuals that exhibit values and standards they with to immolate. This suggests that as we continue to grow and change, we also continuously alter our reference point of value and standard validation. This is why many adolescents will take hold of role models such as sports stars, celebrities and historical figures. When the pre-teen finds common association with the public figure the bond is set and the immolation process will begin. Most children will still reference back to different and accepted components of their parental condition but, by age 13 most adolescents have started to develop their on sensibilities to the external world, allowing them to conglomerate many influences to who they will become as adults. As a pre-teen the act of exploring the ways of thinking seems natural and effortless. Experimentation, research and inquiry are all natural occurrence during these times of post-child psychological development. However, research has found that if not continued, by age 23 (on average amongst those studied) preferences are locked into comfort mechanisms that serve as points or reference when celebrating substantial career options. In contrast, when continuous development of mental faculties persist into adulthood individuals are more prone to career advancement and position alterations. This is done when the individual accepts new ideals and values as part of their psychological make-up. For example: A 30 year old graphic designer accepts that modern design is becoming more minimalistic, in

opposition to the past design structures of the 20th century; primarily influence by European architects. In this scenario, the graphic designer allows himself to be open to a shift in cultural identity in order to remain relevant and educated. The 21st century, with the Dotcom boom, allowed information to be shared instantly between individuals that differ in opinions and value structure. This has allowed and, in some cases, required more individuals to abandon select ideals of their parents in the attempt to stay current with fast-changing trends and world events. Therefore, the common structure is to find parental anchors that allow for acceptance of differing ideals then, allowing for a continuum of changing ideals that match the changes that are occurring around the world. As the spread of information and ideals become more easily accessible to more people, we hope to find individuals that are more accepting of the opinions of others. Individualism will win in the end, as only select parts of parental conditioning is kept by the psychology of the modern individual. If we take the initiative and momentary mental strain to expose ourselves to new ideas, we will realize we have many new things to learn from the world. Conclusively, our parents will also play a role in how we view the world and the choices we make. This gives us ground to stand on and a formulation around which to allow ideas to prosper. However, if we keep an open and progressive psychology over our lifetime, the world will open up to us a continuous feed of current ideals that best aid us towards the career we are best suited -and suitable- for.