The influence of Contextual Barriers and coping efficacy on the Career interest/ choice goal relationship



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Due to the significant role that careers play in the lives of many individuals,

understanding the career developmental process is of particular importance. Interests and

goals are key components in the process of career choice and implementation. Social

Cognitive Career Theory (SCCT; Lent, Brown, & Hackett, 1994) proposes that under

optimal conditions, career interests give rise to congruent career choice goals; goals, in

turn lead to actions directed at implementing the chosen goals. Among college students,

having established goals that correspond to their interests has been associated with

desired career and academic outcomes, such as college achievement in terms of GPA

(Tracey & Robbins, 2006) and college major persistence (Allen & Robbins, 2008;

Schaefers, Epperson, & Nauta, 1997).

Original hypotheses of SCCT state that contextual barriers have a direct relation 

to goals. However, studies have shown that contextual barriers are more likely to relate to

goals indirectly through self-efficacy (Lent, Brown, Nota, et al., 2003; Lent, Brown,

Schmidt, et al., 2003; Lent et al., 2001; Smith, 2001) suggesting that SCCT may need

some modification (Lent, Brown, Nota, et al., 2003; Lent et al., 2001). It has also been

proposed that self-efficacy related to coping with barriers, or coping efficacy, may

moderate the barrier-goal relation (Lent, Brown, and Hackett, 2000). In other words,

there may be a direct correlation between barriers and goals only when coping efficacy is

low. It has also been suggested that contextual barriers may moderate the relation of

interests to goals; that is, the relation of interest to goals will be stronger when

perceived barriers are low.

The purpose of this study was to examine these moderation and mediated effects.

Specifically this study examined (1) if barriers moderate the relation of career interests

to career goals, (2) if coping efficacy moderates the relation of barriers to career goals,

and (3) to what extent coping efficacy mediates the relation of barriers to career goals.

Hierarchical regression analyses were used to examine these effects in the relation of

interests, perceived barriers, and coping efficacy to academic and career goals.

Participants in the study were community college students. The following instruments

were used to assess the constructs of interest: (1) Perception of Barriers scale (Luzzo and

McWhirter, 2001), (2) Coping with Barriers (CWB) scale (Luzzo and McWhirter, 2001),

(3) a measure of career interest developed by Lent, Brown, Nota, et al. (2003), (4) and a

measure of career consideration (goals) developed by Lent et al. (2003).

For the overall sample, coping efficacy was not found to moderate or mediate the 

relation of educational barriers to choice goals. Also, educational barriers did not

moderate the interest/goal relation. However, there was a direct positive correlation

between educational barriers and academic goals for Holland’s Artistic, Social, and

Conventional themes. Because the primary analyses offered very few findings as

expected, exploratory analyses were conducted with career barriers and coping efficacy

that are specifically relevant for females and African Americans. Analyses with only the

African American females and with both African American and Caucasian females

revealed that coping efficacy did not have a moderating or mediating effect on the career

barrier/ goal relation nor was there evidence for a moderating effect of career barriers on

the interest/ goal relation. For the African American participants (both male and female)

no evidence was found for a mediating effect of coping efficacy on the career ethnic

discrimination barrier/ goal relation. However, coping efficacy moderated the relation of

career ethnic discrimination barriers to choice goals only for the Social theme. Also,

career ethnic discrimination barriers moderated the relation of interests to goals only for

the Enterprising theme.