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Parental Influence and Career Choice

Parents play major roles in child’s decision to pursue science-related careers

Parental influence is still a major factor when it comes to whether their children will choose careers in science, technology, engineering, mathematics or medicine, known as STEMM careers, according to research from Michigan State University.

The scientists used data from the Longitudinal Study of American Youth, which kept track of nearly 6,000 students from middle school through college, attempting to determine what led them to choose careers in these STEMM fields, or conversely, what turned them away.

The researchers found that the pathway to these careers begins at home, especially in families in which children are strongly encouraged to attend college. Roughly 41 percent of students whose parents strongly encouraged college attendance planned to major in STEMM field, compared to just four percent of students who experienced low parent encouragement to attend college.

The research also revealed that sons were encouraged slightly more than daughters to do well in science and math.

Also influential, although not on the same level as parental encouragement, is the parents’ level of education. The Michigan State University researchers found that nearly 27 percent of the children of college graduates planned to major in a STEMM field, compared to around 18 percent of parents with a high school diploma.

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