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  • Print publication year: 2012
  • Online publication date: September 2012

12 - Religion’s Role in the Development of Girls’ Occupational Aspirations

from Part Three - Impact of Values and Religion on Adolescent Adjustment in Times of Social Change



In this chapter we explore the influence of religion on female adolescents through the use of both nationally representative, longitudinal survey data and semi-structured, in-person interviews from the National Study of Youth and Religion. Our results suggest that growing up in a religious family, especially those involved in religious institutions, may result in an increased identification with femininity and a heightened emphasis on care, leading to preference for more female-dominated jobs like teaching, nursing, and other medical assistant type work. Adolescent girls (ages 16–21) express a preference for these careers over business, science, or other male-dominated (and more highly paid) professions while directly referring to a personal desire for an altruistic, rewarding, and “family friendly” career track. These gendered career aspirations sort girls into limited career tracks early in their educational lives and often well before family formation processes begin, likely contributing to continued gender inequality in educational and career attainment. Although occupational aspirations are thought to be primarily products of social class and ability, we argue that cultural forces such as religion provide a system of meaning and values that shape how girls imagine their futures.


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