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Self-reported career interests among adjudicated male adolescents: a pilot study.

Using J. L. Holland's (1985) Self-Directed Search, this study compared the career interests of 28 adjudicated male adolescents with a normative high school male sample. The mean Artistic score of the adjudicated adolescents was significantly higher, and the authors found that this group endorsed fewer Investigative items and more Artistic items than the normative sample. The adjudicated sample showed poor differentiation and significantly higher intercorrelations among the Holland codes.


Research on career counseling with at-risk individuals such as urban youth, school dropouts, substance abusers, and individuals with criminal records is an important and often neglected area of study. Previous research indicates that offenders could benefit from career guidance because 87% of juveniles nationally were not in school and 40% of incarcerated adults were unemployed at the time of their arrest (Platt, 1986). Research also shows that gaining employment is a key factor in preventing recidivism, yet few studies have examined the usefulness of career counseling for adjudicated adolescents (Chartrand & Rose, 1996).

Career exploration is an important developmental task of adolescence, especially in relation to identity development (Zunker, 1998). Although the employment decisions made during adolescence are considered explorative in the work world, adults are more often faced with "terminal" decisions about their careers (Phillips, 1982). Therefore, career exploration, assessment of interests, and job coaching are important issues to address when counseling adolescents. In contrast to traditional high school students, adjudicated adolescents may face more barriers to employment and have greater difficulties assessing their interests and exploring their career options because of limited access to educational and occupational opportunities (Chartrand & Rose, 1996; Young, 1994).

More than one third of incarcerated adolescents have been shown to be learning disabled, mentally retarded, or behaviorally disturbed (Munson, 1994). Incarcerated adolescents also score lower on measures of an internalized locus of control, self-esteem, self-knowledge, and interpersonal skills compared with normative adolescent samples (Munson, 1994). These traits, however, are integral to career maturity and readiness and are essential to successful career selection. For example, individuals with high self-esteem have clearer and more confident self-perceptions and normally make more appropriate career choices (Munson, 1994; Munson & Strauss, 1993).

Many juvenile offenders also feel a general sense of hopelessness about their future, which can hinder their educational and career planning (Smith, 1983). Career counselors can help adjudicated adolescents see a future, explore options, and formulate and implement an employment plan (Robitschek, 1996). Some intervention programs for adjudicated adolescents include vocational as well as personal counseling; these programs have been shown to effectively increase employment and decrease recidivism rates (e.g., Platt, 1986).

Career counseling, alone, can serve to empower and motivate adjudicated adolescents to develop personal career goals and to make positive social choices in their personal lives. This type of counseling may also renew their interest in school or other educational venues (e.g., general equivalency diploma programs or technical training). Career counseling has been effective at enhancing at-risk college students' commitment to education and academic retention (Polansky, Horan, & Hanish, 1993). Adding a study skills component to career counseling yielded the most significant gains for these students at risk for failing out of college. Although there are obvious differences between at-risk college students and juvenile offenders, incorporating both career counseling and study skills into an intervention for adjudicated adolescents may yield similar scholastic benefits. Successful job placement can promote myriad personal benefits for adjudicated adolescents. Employment brings with it the obvious financial benefits, but it can also deter participation in criminal activities. In addition, maintaining a job and earning money may promote maturity, responsibility, and autonomy for juvenile offenders.

An important first step in providing career counseling for adjudicated adolescents is an accurate assessment of their career interests and abilities. This can be done informally and efficiently using a career interest inventory. The counselor and the adolescent should work collaboratively to (a) identify these interests, (b) review job requirements, (c) explore the adolescent's adaptability to diverse work environments, and (d) settle on a few appropriate career matches. Unfortunately, there is little research to aid counselors in the assessment of juvenile offenders' interests and guidance toward employment opportunities. There is a strong need for a better understanding of the usefulness of interest inventories and career counseling with special populations, especially adjudicated adolescents (Hansen, 1992).

The present study identified response patterns of career interests and Holland codes of 28 adjudicated male adolescents. Through an analysis of Holland's (1985) Self-Directed Search (SDS), Holland codes of the adjudicated male adolescents were compared with a nonclinical, nonadjudicated comparison group of high school male adolescents reported by Holland, Fritzsche, and Powell (1997). A clearer understanding of the career interests and abilities of adjudicated adolescents will help counselors and court service workers guide these youths toward appropriate educational programs and employment opportunities. It is important to highlight these differences for mental health providers and to encourage the development of norms and other interpretative criteria specifically for adjudicated adolescents.

Several factors contribute to the hypothesized disparity between the career interests and abilities of the adjudicated and normative samples. Many adjudicated adolescents lack self-knowledge and have limited exposure to diverse career options; therefore, they perceive they are limited to a narrow range of career options. Also, many juvenile offenders are from low socioeconomic backgrounds (Lorch, 1990), and research has shown that poverty alone may influence children's perceptions of career choice and opportunity (Weinger, 1998). Adjudicated adolescents are also likely to face obstacles related to educational difficulties and prejudice (Weinger, 1998). Consequently, it was predicted that these youths would produce either inflated or low scores on career interest and ability subscales. Developmental delays (e.g., behavioral, cognitive, and learning disabilities) may also limit the ability of adolescents to brainstorm, hypothesize, and evaluate options of future careers (Chartrand & Rose, 1996). We hypothesized that the combination of these factors would have a limiting effect on the career interests of incarcerated juveniles, resulting in flat SDS profiles compared with nonclinical high school male adolescents. In addition, we hypothesized that the adjudicated adolescents would prefer more careers falling into the Realistic and Artistic categories than any other career types, because several of these jobs can be obtained with little formal education and many adjudicated adolescents have had difficulties with traditional education.

In summary, we hypothesized that (a) the adjudicated youths would report significantly different Holland code preferences compared with a normative sample of high school male adolescents; (b) the Holland profiles of the adjudicated youths will be either flat (consistently low scores on all scales) or inflated (consistently high scores on all scales) indicating that the youths had either strong interest in all six areas or weak interest in all areas represented by Holland codes; (c) the intercorrelations for the adjudicated youths would be higher, thus indicating a lower level of differentiation between code types than those reported by Holland, Fritzsche, et al. (1997) for the normative high school male sample; and (d) the adjudicated youths would report higher scores in the Realistic and Artistic categories than the normative sample.



Twenty-eight male adolescents ranging in age from 12 to 17 years (M = 15.57, SD = 1.23) participated in the present study, 22 who were detained at a southeastern regional youth detention center during the period of testing and 6 who were on probation through the juvenile court. Charges ranged from status offenses (e.g., truancy, unruliness) to crimes against property and/or persons (e.g., assault, burglary). All participants (22 African Americans and 6 Caucasians) were referred for counseling services by court service workers as a condition of their probation with the state Department of Juvenile Justice. Reading levels varied within the sample, yet most participants completed the SDS with minimal help from the counselor. When necessary, counselors aided the participants by providing reading assistance. The 28 youths, who participated in the study voluntarily, received concurrent career counseling services during the study. An analysis of variance (ANOVA) across all six Holland code types indicated that there were no significant differences between the self-reported interests of the detained and probationary youth; therefore, both groups were combined for all analyses of the data.

As stated earlier, the comparison data used for this study was taken from the normative sample provided in the Self-Directed Search Technical Manual (Holland, Fritzsche, et al., 1997). Specifically, these data were taken from the Summary means of male high school students provided in the technical manual (p. 18), with norms collected from 344 male adolescents of varied ethnic backgrounds representing 10 different high schools.


SDS. The SDS (Holland, 1985) was designed by John Holland to help individuals identify occupations appropriate to their skills and interests. The SDS is based on the assumption that most people will fall into one of Holland's six identified personality types. The personality types include Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, and Conventional. Each scale on the SDS indicates the degree to which a person's interests match those of others in that code type (Holland, Fritzsche, et al., 1997).

A basic premise of the SDS is that the individuals' life experiences will shape the activities they participate in and the experiences they enjoy. These personal experiences are later developed into competencies that will encourage the individuals to seek a vocation that will use their own unique skills. After completing the SDS questionnaire, the individuals and the counselor review a list of vocations, organized by code types, that most closely match their interests, skills, and abilities.

Holland, Fritzsche, et al. (1997) reported that the internal consistency alphas of the SDS scales range from .91 to .93 and that the test-retest reliability correlations range from .76 to .89. With regard to concurrent and predictive validity, the high point codes of the SDS have been found to correlate significantly with other measures of career aspiration (Holland, Fritzsche, et al., 1997).


The SDS was administered to each adjudicated adolescent. Career counseling services were subsequently provided to participants using the results of the SDS. Code types of the adjudicated sample were compared with the normative sample of high school male adolescents as provided in the SDS manual (Holland, Fritzsche, et al., 1997).


The scores for each of the six Holland code types for the adjudicated sample were compared with a nonclinical sample of normative high school male adolescents studied by Holland, Fritzsche, et al. (1997). Means and standard deviations of the court-referred male adolescents and the normative high school sample are reported in Table 1. The percentages of dominant code types were calculated for both the adjudicated sample and the normative sample. Table 2 illustrates the significant difference between the adjudicated adolescents and the normative sample on the percentage of dominant code types as indicated by a chi-square test of independence, [chi square] (5) = 35.549, p < .001, thus providing evidence in support of the first hypothesis that the career choices of adjudicated adolescents differ significantly from a normative population of high school male adolescents. It is likely that this difference between populations is attributable to the adjudicated adolescents' endorsing fewer items on the Investigative scale but more items on the Artistic scale compared with the normative sample (see Table 2).

In reference to the second and third hypotheses, the level of differentiation (i.e., amount of variation between the code scores on the six scales) was examined for the adjudicated adolescents compared with the normative sample. The differentiation scores indicate whether the overall profiles are flat, elevated, or whether there are clear peaks in scores on certain scales indicating a clear preference for certain code types over others. Two indicators of differentiation were used: (a) the Iachan Differentiation Index (Iachan, 1984), a formula for calculating a value that summarizes the level of distinctiveness of a personality or occupational profile (Holland, Powell, & Fritzsche, 1997), and (b) significance tests on the correlations between scales (cf. Ferguson, 1981).

The Iachan Differentiation Index ([L.sub.1]) median for the adjudicated sample was 3.50 (M = 4.03, SD = 2.78). The observed median and mean ranks were at the 27th and 35th percentiles, respectively, compared with the normative sample. There is a 7-point disparity between the percentile ranks of the Iachan Differentiation Index for the adjudicated and normative samples; this provides one indication of the difference in level of differentiation between the two populations.

The correlations among the Holland codes for the adjudicated adolescents were calculated and compared with the normative sample (see Figure 1). The correlations between the six Holland codes were converted to z scores, using Fisher's [z.sub.r] transformation, and tested for significant differences (Ferguson, 1981). Because intertype correlations were expected to be higher than those in a normative sample, one-tailed tests were conducted. The resulting z scores ranged from 1.77 to 4.67 (M = 2.98, SD = .93), and all correlations were significant at p < .05. These findings indicate that the correlations from the adjudicated adolescents were significantly higher than those of the normative sample and were therefore less differentiated, which supports the second and third hypotheses.


The means of the adjudicated and normative samples were compared using an independent sample t test. The normative information given in the SDS manual was used as sample mean and standard deviation information and used as comparison data for this analysis. The mean Artistic score for the adjudicated adolescent sample was significantly higher than that of the normative sample, t(375) = 2.45, p < .05. However, there were no significant differences between the adjudicated adolescents and the normative sample for any of the other code types, thus providing only partial support for the fourth hypothesis that there would be significant differences between the two populations on both the Realistic and Artistic code types.


The findings of the present study underscore the importance of researching the career interests of specific populations. The three main findings of this study involve (a) the significant disparity between adjudicated and nonclinical adolescent male samples, (b) the lack of differentiation among the six Holland codes types for the adjudicated adolescents, and (c) the elevated Realistic and Artistic codes for the adjudicated adolescents. The identification of Realistic and Artistic as the two codes most commonly favored by the adjudicated sample may be the result of social modeling by peers and others in their environment (Munson & Strauss, 1993). Previous studies have highlighted the importance of these social influences on individuals' scores on career interest inventories (Schneider, Ryan, Tracey, & Rounds, 1996). For example, many individuals in the adjudicated adolescents' environment are employed in fields such as the service industry; occupations requiring physical, "hands-on" labor; or similar occupations congruent with higher scores on the Realistic subscales. Clinical interactions with the adjudicated sample revealed that these youths place a high value on artistic expression (e.g., music and drawing). This interest may help explain the elevation in Artistic scores on the SDS, a finding that is widely reported for male adolescents, especially those of minority status (Hansen, Sarma, & Collins, 1999).

Although modeling may help explicate the elevations in some of the code types, the lower scores on certain scales (i.e., Investigative) may be the result of limited exposure to different types of occupations, the lack of competence in a certain field, or overall low self-efficacy (Munson & Strauss, 1993). Theoretical and empirical research suggests that "both efficacy and outcome expectations may have joint and independent effects on career behavior" (Brown, 1995, p. 17). It is possible that adjudicated adolescents do not perceive they have the skills, knowledge, or interests in certain areas. For example, the adjudicated adolescents endorsed fewer items on the Investigative and Conventional scales than the other four code scales. Holland, Fritzsche, et al. (1997) found that, significantly, these two scales are positively correlated with the highest academic grade completed (Investigative [r = .44] and Conventional [r = .34]). Conversely, the two scales most frequently endorsed by the adjudicated adolescents (i.e., Realistic [r = -.14] and Artistic [r = .08]) are either slightly negatively correlated or uncorrelated with the highest grade completed (Holland, Fritzsche, et al., 1997).

The high correlations between codes, as shown in the hexagonal model in Figure 1, combined with the relatively low Iachan Differentiation Index scores indicate that the adjudicated sample's scores were poorly differentiated. This low level of differentiation occurred because the youths in the present sample endorsed items at a consistently low, moderate, or high level rather than in a more disperse reporting pattern that was seen in the normative high school sample (Holland, Fritzsche, et al., 1997). In the adjudicated sample, the levels of endorsement varied between participants but did not vary within a participant's profile. For example, the adjudicated youths most commonly reported high scores on all scales or low scores on all scales; they did not typically have high scores on just one or two scales and low scores on all others. The scores were relatively consistent across code type, and thus the profiles were not different when reviewed individually.

Applications of Research and Future Studies

The present study is a preliminary investigation of the career interests and abilities of adjudicated adolescents. It is limited in scope because it only compares SDS scores for a small sample of adjudicated male adolescents with one nonclinical adolescent male population. More inclusive studies will examine the impact of career counseling on recidivism rates for detained and adjudicated adolescents. Future studies will focus on adjudicated adolescents' pursuit of careers discussed in counseling because some careers may sound like viable choices in the session but turn out to be dissatisfying or unattainable. Similarly, our future studies will include a longitudinal examination of the youths' transition into the work world and the effect of career counseling on recidivism. This issue is particularly important because most juveniles released from detention facilities do not return home (Munson, 1994). These youths are forced to become self-sufficient and financially independent at a young age. Without appropriate job and career placement options, these youths are unlikely to find fulfilling jobs or choose positive social means of achieving their goals. Lacking employment, these adolescents may re-offend.

The lack of differentiation among the code types of the adjudicated sample raises questions about possible reasons for this unique finding and thus warrants further exploration. This lack of differentiation between preferred code types also indicates a need for caution when using Holland code types to categorize the interests of adjudicated adolescents or when using the SDS for counseling purposes.

It is important for counselors to identify both the possible stigma and opportunity resulting from adolescents' involvement with the court system. These adolescents may have limited career options because of serious offenses on their criminal records; however, they may also have access to more education as a consequence of their incarceration (Chartrand & Rose, 1996). Therefore, career counselors need to be honest with the adjudicated youths about barriers to employment but also identify appropriate and attractive educational and career opportunities.

It is also imperative that counselors take into account the prevalence of learning disabilities and mental health problems affecting adjudicated populations. Therefore, researchers should bear these potential limitations in mind when using the SDS with adjudicated populations. It is likely that the possible prevalence of mental health and learning problems limits the findings of the present study; the collection of more mental health, educational, and socioeconomic data will help control for potential confounds related to these issues. Similarly, career counselors working with an adjudicated adolescent should incorporate career education, self-exploration, and encouragement, as well as address the issues associated with the youth's learning disabilities, emotional problems, or negative self-perceptions.

There is a strong inverse relationship between employment and delinquency. Munson and Strauss (1993) found that adolescents who are employed are less likely to be arrested or committed to the state's custody and are more likely to stay in school than unemployed youths. These findings suggest that commitment to an occupation can lead to a more productive, satisfying, and prosocial lifestyle for adults and adolescents.

The studies linking positive social behavior and employment are optimistic. Nevertheless, career counseling is not the only key to reducing high national juvenile recidivism rates of approximately 65% (Snyder & Sickmund, 1999). Career counseling, in conjunction with family interventions and aftercare programs, may result in fewer juveniles reentering the justice system (Greenwood, 1994; Munson & Strauss, 1993). Career counseling should be one component of a multidimensional approach to intervening with juvenile offenders. An important aspect of these interventions is the development of assessment instrumentation that is applicable for use with adjudicated adolescents.

The present study provides insight into the use of the SDS and the resulting Holland codes with a subpopulation; however, additional research is needed to further our understanding of the applicability of Holland's (1985) theoretical approach to a multicultural population. Elucidating the relationship between the aspirations, abilities, and competencies of adjudicated adolescents can better inform counselors as they help adolescents make connections between their career interests and the realities of the work world.
Means and Standard Deviations for Adjudicated Adolescents
(n = 28) Compared With Normative High School Male Sample (n = 344)

                 Adjudicated Adolescents  High School Male Norm

Composite Scale      M           SD          M           SD

Realistic          28.71       11.38       26.97       10.77
Investigative      22.75       11.87       21.93        9.98
Artistic           25.75 *     11.69       20.13       11.04
Social             24.18       11.81       21.55       10.44
Enterprising       26.71       11.45       24.53       11.36
Conventional       20.39       12.61       16.01        9.14

Note. Male high school norms as reported
by Holland, Fritzsche, and Powell (1997).

* p < .01.

Percentage of Dominant Code Type of Adjudicated Adolescents
(n = 28) and Normative Sample (n = 344)

Group            R     I     A     S     E     C

  adolescents   36     4    25    14    21     0
  sample        39    16    10    11    21     3

Note. R = Realistic; I = Investigative; A = Artistic; S = Social;
E = Enterprising; C = Conventional. Male high school norms as
reported by Holland, Fritzsche, and Powell (1997).

Chi-square, p < .001.


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Brian A. Glaser, Georgia B. Calhoun, and Jeffrey M. Bates, College of Education, The University of Georgia; Catherine P. Bradshaw, Department of Human Development, Cornell University. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Brian A. Glaser, The University of Georgia, 402 Aderhold Hall, Athens, GA 30602-7142 (e-mail:
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Author:Glaser, Brian A.; Calhoun, Georgia B.; Bates, Jeffrey M.; Bradshaw, Catherine P.
Publication:Journal of Addictions & Offender Counseling
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2003
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