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Linda Gottfredson attended the University of California at Berkley where she received her BA degree in Psychology in 1969. After graduation, she joined the Peace Corp and volunteered her services in Malaysia from 19691972. Ms. Gottfredson accepted a position in 1976 as a Research Scientist at the Johns Hopkins University. A year later, she graduated with her PhD in Sociology from the Johns Hopkins University. She was offered a faculty position in 1986 At the University of Delaware and accepted the offer (Smith, 1992).

Dr. Gottfredson received the George A. Miller award for outstanding journal articles across specialty areas in 2008. She also received a Division 1 award from the Society for General Psychology and an award from the American Psychological Association in 2008 (Gottfredson, n.d.) Other awards she received were: the Mensa Press Award and Mensa Award for Excellence in Research in 2005, just to name a few (Gottfredson, n.d.)


Why do people of both sexes and of different races and social classes tend to differ, even in childhood, in the kind and quality of jobs they wish for? Why do children seem to recreate the social inequalities among their elders long before they themselves experience any barriers to pursuing their dreams?

The theory is concerned with both the content of career aspirations and how they develop. Gottfredson acknowledges the influence of the theories of both John Holland and Donald Super. It is similar to these earlier theories in that it proposes that career choice reflects the process of attempting to implement an individual's preferred self concept and because it argues that career satisfaction depends on the match or fit with the self-concept (Gottfredson and Lapan, 1997).


Lapan and Jingeleski (1992)

confirmed the concept of social space

Sastre and Mullet (1992)

confirmed variables related to occupational aspirations

Conoley and Scheel (1994)

found social space increased up through age 17


The career development process begins in childhood; Career aspirations are attempts to implement ones self-concept (social components of selfconcept include self-perceptions of intelligence, social status, and gender, psychological components of self-concept include values and personality); Career satisfaction is dependent on the degree to which the career is congruent with selfperceptions; People develop occupational stereotypes that guide them in the selection process.


Self concept - the view we hold of ourselves both publicly and privately Images of Occupations - occupational stereotypes we hold Cognitive maps - organized images of occupations Dimensions of cognitive maps Masculinity-femininity Occupational prestige Field work

When choosing an occupation, is selected and organized by first the masculinity or femininity of the occupation. This means that even if a manly man really wanted to teach kindergarten, he likely would choose older grades or school administration. Similarly, most housecleaners, daycare workers, and secretaries are women, and construction workers, truck drivers, and plumbers are men.

The second area of consideration for a person choosing a job is the prestige of the occupation, including brainpower or ability necessary to complete job. Jobs that have a traditional male or female component can change as the prestige changes. For example, nurses used to be almost exclusively female. As nursing has become better paying, required more school, and involved more decision making power, more men have been attracted to the profession. Similarly, women are more and more attracted to formerly maledominated fields, such as medicine and law.

The third and least important area is fields of work, which includes a persons interest and personality. A person interested in geology or office work, finance or physical movement, can find a job in that field. However, their actual profession is often circumscribed by their genderrelated choices. People choose a job based on their compatibility with the occupation that are also accessible, or that the work is available, educational opportunities exist, and there is a lack of discrimination. As children develop and grow, they narrow their career options to choices compatible with their self-concept, unless an intervention takes place to adjust a childs selfconcept or concept of the career.

The final choice is usually a compromise between effort required, prestige level, and sex-type. When compromising, they give first consideration to sex roles, then prestige, then their interests and the effort required. When choosing a career or directing others in the direction of their lifes work, the wise person will give help to those who show interest and aptitude in nontraditional careers to go forward with these plans, including taking sex-stereotyped classes such as shop or sewing. They can encourage people, including themselves, who may have eliminated suitable careers because of narrow ideas of compatibility to reexamine their career goals.

Occupational aspirations - joint product of assessment of compatibility and accessibility Social space - the zone of acceptable alternatives in each persons cognitive major of occupations

Circumscription - the process of narrowing down territory when making a decision about social space or acceptable alternatives

5 Principles of Circumscription Increasing capacity for abstraction Interactive development of self and aspirations Overlapping differentiation and incorporation Progressive elimination Taken for granted and lost to sight

Stages of Circumscription) Orientation to size and power (ages 3-5) Orientation to sex roles (ages 6-8) Orientation to social valuation (ages 9-13) Orientation to the internal, unique self (age 14+)

Orientation to size and power (age 35). Children become aware that adults have roles in the world. They realise that they will eventually become adults and take on roles for themselves. Orientation to sex roles (age 68). Children begin to categorise the world around them with simple concrete distinctions. They become aware of the more recognisable job roles and begin to assign them to particular sexes. They will start to see jobs which do not match their gender identity as unacceptable.

Orientation to social values (age 913). By now children have encountered a wider range of job roles and are capable of more abstract distinctions. They begin to classify jobs in terms of social status (income, education level, lifestyle, etc.) as well as sex-type. Based on the social environment in which they develop they will begin to designate some jobs as unacceptable because they fall below a minimum status level (tolerable level boundary) and some higher status jobs as unacceptable because they represent too much effort or risk of failure (tolerable effort boundary).

Orientation to internal, unique self (age 14+). Until this point circumscription has been mainly an unconscious process. As entry into the adult world approaches young people engage in a conscious search of the roles still remaining in their social space. In this process they use increasingly complex concepts such as interests, abilities values, work-life balance and personality to exclude options which do not fit with their self image and identify an appropriate field of work. [Here more sophisticated matching theories such as Holland-RIASEC become relevant.]

Compromise - the process by which youngsters begin to relinquish their most preferred alternatives for less compatible ones they perceive as obtainable


Individual career counselling should encourage both exploration and realism. In particular: why certain options seem to be out of the question or why some compromises are more acceptable or accessible than others; by encouraging clients to re-examine the full range of occupations in the economy (challenging circumscription); helping clients develop strategies for enhancing the individual's competitiveness in obtaining the preferred option and succeeding at it.

Careers education programmes should span stages 2 (ages 6-8) through to 4 (ages 14+) and should: be sensitive to the mental capabilities of the age group; introduce students to the full breadth of options in a manageable way; display for youngsters their circumscription of alternatives so that its rationale can be explored; be sensitive to the dimensions of self and occupations along which circumscription and compromise take place (sex type, social class, ability, and vocational interests) so that their role, positive or not, can be explored where appropriate.

Exploration and constructive realism can do much to free individuals from unnecessary circumscription and compromise. Caution should be exercised in assuming the role of change agent on behalf of the client.

USING CIRCUMSCRIPTION & COMPROMISE Questions (for use with individuals or as group discussion stimulators)

To explore circumscription
Describe to me how you ended up with this range of choices. What options have you ruled out and why? Tell me how you decided that this option wasnt appropriate for you? When did you decide to rule this out as a possibility? What would make a job unacceptable to you? What influence do you think your family background has had on the range of options you are considering? What options have you labelled as beyond your reach and why? What have you done to expand the range of options you are considering?

To explore compromise
Are there more ideal options you have ruled out because you think they are too difficult to achieve? how do you know that its too difficult? What could you do to increase your chances of getting into the more satisfying role? What have you done to explore how realistic this option would be for you? If you are giving away potential job satisfaction, what are you getting in return? Is it of equal value?


Occupational categorising
Present a list of job titles (could be as a card sort) Get clients to classify each job on the list as acceptable, unacceptable, dont know Get them to explain their reasons for categorising the jobs in this way

Occupational mapping
Position different occupations in relation to each other on a map Decide on two axes for the map (you could use Gottfredsons original of sex-type and social level or decide your own or let the clients decide based on their values or interests: creativity, worthwhile, challenging, etc.) Get the clients to draw boundaries enclosing an acceptable range of occupations (i.e. what is too creative and what is not creative enough?)


Optimise learning. Help to develop critical thinking and decision making skills to aid career choice. Optimise experience. Encourage people to get involved in experiences that help them to learn more about themselves. Optimise self-insight. Help people to gain a clearer understanding of themselves Optimise self-investment. Enabling people to realistically assess their chances and know how to

(5 developmental criteria to examine) The client can name 1 or more career alternatives The clients interests and abilities are sufficient The client is satisfied with choices The client has not restricted alternatives unnecessarily The client is aware of opportunities and the necessary requirements to obtain those opportunities


Gottfredson, L.S. (2002). Gottfredsons theory of circumscription, compromise, and self creation. In D. Brown (Ed.), Career Choice and Development (4th ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, pp. 85148.

Gottfredson, L. S. (1996). Gottfredson's theory of circumscription and compromise. In D. Brown, & L. Brooks, (Eds.), Career choice and development (3rd ed.), pp. 179-232. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Blanchard, C.A. & Lichtenberg, J.W. (2003) Compromise in career decision making: a test of Gottfredsons theory. Journal of Vocational Behavior 62(2), 250271. Hesketh, B., Elmslie, S. & Kaldor, W. (1990) Career compromise: an alternative account to Gottfredsons theory. Journal of Counseling Psychology 37(1) 49 56. s