Juvenile crime and recidivism continue to be significant, costly issues in American society. Employment contributes to successful reentry and lower recidivism. However, low self concept and problems with exploring careers and identifying options may interfere with juvenile offenders’ abilities to plan for employment and successfully carry out their plan. The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of the vocational assessment process on enhancing juvenile offender self concept by helping them learn more about themselves, career interests, and options.
Participants included 61 juvenile offenders in the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice who were predominantly male (98.4%), African-American (57.4%), and 17 years of age (52.5%); half of the participants (50.8%) had not received a prior vocational assessment. The research design was quasi-experimental, pretest-posttest with data gathered using the Multidimensional Self Concept Scale (MSCS; Bracken, 1992), Self-Directed Search Form R (SDS; Holland, Powell, & Fritzsche, 1997) and focus groups. A 2x1 within-subjects repeated measures ANOVA with pairwise comparisons for pre- and post-tests demonstrated that the process did not improve participants’ global self concept (t=.000, p>.05) but did enhance competence self concept (t=-2.35, p<.05). Although there were MSCS scales significantly correlated to race, it did not significantly affect the statistical outcomes as a covariate (p > .05). Focus group responses were audio recorded, transcribed, and analyzed for themes, categories, and connections using a five-step procedure. Participants demonstrated overall favorable perceptions with a major theme that the process was helpful and with feelings of enjoyment and fun. Participants liked acquiring self knowledge and career information and exploration and liked least the amount of work and duration of the process. Suggested changes were less writing, making it computer-based, and addressing specific topics concerning offenders (e.g., jobs for offenders).
Study limitations include generalizability, no comparison group, testing effects, length of the process, and environmental factors. The results contribute to developing vocational assessment process interventions for youth who have been adjudicated and committed to correctional facilities. Future research will focus on following-up to determine employment status, exploring demographic differences post-intervention, and replicating the study with similar juvenile offender populations.