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Understanding processes of identity development and career transitions

A person-centered, micro-level approach
PhD ceremony:dr. M.A.E. (Mandy) van der Gaag
When:December 14, 2017
Supervisor:prof. dr. P.L.C. (Paul) van Geert
Co-supervisor:dr. E.S. (Saskia) Kunnen
Where:Academy building RUG
Faculty:Behavioural and Social Sciences
Understanding processes of identity development and career

This dissertation is about daily and weekly (‘micro-level’) identity-development processes and the role of these processes in two career transitions that are important to many young individuals: choosing a career path and dropping out of university. On a micro level, identity development encompasses at least two processes: how strongly individuals feel connected with a choice (‘commitment’), and how intensively they investigate alternative choices or the fit of a choice already made (‘exploration’). First year students run a greater risk of university dropout if they intensely explore regularly and their commitment fluctuates over time.

However, many individual differences exist: for some, an increase in exploration is accompanied by a weakening of commitment, for others the opposite is true. Moreover, exploration is not the only or even the most important factor in strengthening or weakening commitments: emotional experiences play a larger role in commitment changes than exploration does. This finding is important for theory on identity development because exploration is commonly seen as the main driving force of identity development, while emotional experiences may be a more important driving force.

This insight also forms the basis of our theoretical model of career choice: we assume that exploration is needed to generate experiences, but in the end the experiences determine how the fit of an option is evaluated. By translating this  model to a simulation of individual career choice processes we have generated novel predictions about who is likely to make good (or bad) choices, and how the choice process can be supported.