Date of Award

Summer 8-2014

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

Committee Chair

Dr. Emily Yowell

Committee Chair Department

Psychology

Committee Member 2

Dr. Bonnie Nicholson

Committee Member 2 Department

Psychology

Committee Member 3

Dr. Melanie Leuty

Committee Member 3 Department

Psychology

Committee Member 4

Dr. Richard Mohn

Committee Member 4 Department

Educational Studies and Research

Abstract

The choosing of a college major or occupation is an important decision with which many individuals struggle. Prior research has suggested that difficulty choosing a major or occupation affects a majority of students entering college and stems from multiple sources including lack of information, insufficient learning experiences, and ineffective decision-making processes. Cognitive-behavioral theory has shown utility in working with a diverse set of difficulties and with diverse populations through the examination of the influence of thoughts and emotions on resulting behavior. Research in the career literature has begun to emphasize connections between one’s thoughts and emotions in regards to career development, including relationships found between negative career thoughts, feelings, and proponents of career decision status (e.g., Kelly & Shin, 2009; Saunders, Peterson, Sampson, & Reardon, 2000). The cognitive-behavioral model includes the domains of dysfunctional thoughts, mood, and behavior which will be measured by the presence of career-related thinking, emotional distress, and career decision status respectively. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to examine difficulties in choosing a major or career within the context of a cognitive-behavioral model in a sample of 200 undergraduate students. Through the use of structural equation modeling, it was found that the presence of negative career thoughts were highly instrumental in predicting difficulties in identifying a career choice. While emotional components were highly correlated with both thoughts and career decision status, no direct relationship existed between affect and outcome. Therefore, it is suggested that interventions addressing career-related thinking may be beneficial in reducing difficulties in making a career choice, while focusing on emotional components may be helpful as well. Further, results of this study indicated that no differences existed between these relationships among diverse demographic groups based on gender, race, or college class standing. Implications for important future research and study limitations also are discussed.