Multilevel analysis of school context impact on career maturity of South Korean adolescents
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The importance of school context in adolescent career maturity was assessed by analyzing data from the Korean Youth Panel Survey (KYPS). Participants were 3,449 middle school juniors (boys = 1,725, girls = 1,724) from 104 schools located throughout Korea. Several forms of multilevel models were tested to examine the influence of school differences to explain student career maturity, school contextual factors that created school differences, and the moderating role of school environments on the effects of individual determinants on career maturity. Although significant school differences (τ00 = .19, p = .004) in student career maturity existed, the school-level variation (ICC = .013) was not large, most likely reflecting the strongly homogeneous school characteristics due to the effects of school equalization policies in Korea. School-level SES, teacher-student relationships, and the proportion of students not living with two parents significantly affected individual student career maturity as well as school average career maturity, explaining 34.3% of school-level variance. At the individual level, academic achievement and parent-adolescent relationships significantly influenced adolescents’ career maturity, while SES indirectly affected career maturity through academic achievement. Students in schools with better teacher-student relationships were likely to experience steeper increases in career maturity with increases in academic achievement, while the individual teacher-student relationship affected student career maturity more positively as school-level SES increased. The negative influences of low-level school SES by direct and moderation effects suggest that policy makers need to prepare differentiated career education programs for schools in disadvantaged areas given the widening income gap between regions and classes in Korea. The positive effects of single-parent student concentration imply that schools are mitigating the negative influences of the concentration of disadvantaged students and suggest that strengthening pre-service and in-service teacher training for career education may enhance the positive school roles further. The significant influences of academic achievement and parent-adolescent relationships raise the need for parental education to help parents guide their children to realistic and effective career choices. Future research is required to investigate school variations in career maturity at the high school level, since high school students are more stratified in terms of academic achievement, SES, and school programs.