Parental Influences on the Career Choices & Decision-Making of Adolescents

The teen years can be an exciting time as a teen looks ahead to future career choices. The amount of time parents spend with a teen, the career choices of the parents, and family environment all have an influence on career choices. Parental impact can be both positive or negative in nature. You as parents have the ability to encourage your child towards a particular path, or send them running in a complete opposite direction.

Exposure to Desired Fields

A teenager should feel comfortable talking to her parents about anything, including her aspirations for the future. A child may want to follow in her parents' footsteps, or may want to go in a completely different direction. By having an open relationship with parents, a teen can be exposed to various career options, says KidsHealth. Parents can introduce a teen to friends, business colleagues or other associates that have followed the career path their teen wants to explore. Encourage your teen to communicate her desires to her parents so that they may help her start to develop a network for the future. If a teen wants to be a lawyer, introduce her to the neighbor three doors down who happens to be an attorney. Your teen can then ask pertinent questions and explore the field of law to determine which field she might enjoy most, or which law schools are best.

Family Dynamic Influence

Teenage girl with laptop doing homework

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The happiness of a teen within his family creates influences in his career choices, according to Bettina Lankard, career counselor, in the article "Family Role in Career Development." When a teen sees his family happy and flourishing due in part to the career choices of his parents, he will be inclined to follow in the footsteps of his parents. For example, a father that is a police officer who provides well for his family, and whose teen sees his father making a difference in the community, may want to become a police officer also. The same is also true in reverse, according to Lankard. A teen who grows up lonely because his parents are always working, and sees his family struggling financially, may choose a career path in the complete opposite direction of his parents. This choice exemplifies his desire to change his lifestyle, and not end up alienating his future family because of his career choice.


The teen years include:

  • self-identity formation
  • which is critical in ego development
  • according to Eric Middleton
  • Teri Loughead
  • in the article "Parental Influence on Career Development," appearing in a 1993 issue of "Journal of Career Development." Middleton and Loughead say a teen can experience insecurity while trying to figure out the answer to the question of who she is and what she wants to do in life

At this time in her life, parents are the biggest influences. A teen with a strong sense of self and a firm foundation will more readily be able to identify what her strengths are, and learn how to turn that into a career. A teen who is insecure and unstable may end up floundering for a bit. As parents, be open and honest about communicating with your teen concerning fields in which he excels. For instance, if your teen is a mediocre science student who expresses a desire to become a doctor, be realistic with him about what changes need to occur in order for that career path to open.

Interest in Teen Activities

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Parental interest in activities is among the top ways in which parents influence teen career choices, according to career counselor Briana K. Keller for the National Career Development Association. She says when parents show interest in particular activities chosen by their teen, it encourages the teen to further his involvement in that area. For instance, if your teen takes piano lessons, and you attend all recitals and show encouragement for the activity, he is more likely to move further into the area of music. The NCDA says a teen views parental involvement as love and acceptance, so he will be drawn to careers that he feels will draw love and acceptance from his parents.