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Personality, social relationships, and vocational indecision among college students: The mediating effects of identity construction

Thomas W.H. Ng (School of Business, University of Hong Kong, Pok Fu Lam, Hong Kong)
Daniel C. Feldman (Terry College of Business, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, USA)

Career Development International

ISSN: 1362-0436

Article publication date: 14 August 2009




The purpose of this paper is to examine the relationships of personality traits and interpersonal relationships with vocational indecision and the mediating role that identity construction plays in the development of those relationships.


Data are collected from 202 college students in Hong Kong at four points in time over a five‐month period.


Personality traits (e.g. locus of control and positive affectivity) and interpersonal relationships (e.g. with parents and peers) are related to the intensity of college students' search for their overall identity, positive anticipation of the work role, and level of identification with the student role. These role identification processes, in turn, are related to lower levels of vocational indecision. The results here support the idea that identity variables do serve as mediators of those relationships.

Research limitations/implications

A more complete identity approach to studying vocational indecision that focuses on both vocational and non‐vocational identities is warranted. Cultural differences in vocational indecision are in need of more research attention, too.

Practical implications

In addition to the common practice of assessing the development of students' vocational interests, another way to prepare individuals for the start of their careers is to assess the development of multiple role identities.


This paper extends the vocational indecision literature by examining how the search for identity, the degree of positive anticipation of the work role, and the development of identification with the student role may mediate the effects of personal dispositions and interpersonal relationships on vocational indecision.



Ng, T.W.H. and Feldman, D.C. (2009), "Personality, social relationships, and vocational indecision among college students: The mediating effects of identity construction", Career Development International, Vol. 14 No. 4, pp. 309-332.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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