Date of Award

Spring 2001

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Psychology and Behavioral Sciences

First Advisor

Walter Buboltz


The present study was designed to examine, from the perspective of Bowen family systems theory (Papero, 1990) and Williamson's theory of personal authority in the family system (Williamson, 1981, 1982a, 1982b), the impact of family dynamics on the career development of college students and to overcome methodological weaknesses of prior research in this area. Methodologically, the present study overcomes weaknesses of prior research by providing a unifying theory from which measures of family dynamics are derived and by measuring career outcomes which are logically tied to family dynamics. Career outcome measures selected for the study include vocational identity, career decision-making self-efficacy, and dysfunctional career thoughts. The final sample obtained for this study was 243 college students who completed demographic questions, the Personal Authority in the Family System Questionnaire, college version (PAFS-QVC; Bray & Harvey, 1992), My Vocational Situation (MVS; Holland, Daiger, & Powell, 1980), the Career Decision-Making Self-Efficacy Scale, short form (CDMSE-SF; Betz, Klein, & Taylor, 1996), the Career Thoughts Inventory (CTI; Sampson, Peterson, Lenz, Reardon, & Saunders, 1994), and the Family Environment Scale (FES: Moos & Moos, 1994). The research hypotheses were tested using multiple regression. The results of the present study support the extension of Bowen family systems theory and Williamson's theory of personal authority in the family system into the realm of career development. Personal authority was found to be associated with vocational identity and career decision-making self-efficacy. Conflict in the family of origin was associated with lower career decision-making self-efficacy, lower individuation from the family of origin, and greater levels of dysfunctional career thoughts. Along with adding to the research base in the area of the impact of the family of origin on the career development of young adults, the findings of the present study also have implications for counselors working with college-aged and younger populations. For example, family systems therapy designed to minimize conflict in the family of origin would be expected to have a positive impact on the career development of children and young adults. The results may also be useful in providing suggestions for future research.