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Journal of Vocational Behavior 71 (2007) 340358


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Emotional and personality-related aspects


of persistent career decision-making diculties
Noa Saka a, Itamar Gati
a
b

b,*

Department of Education, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem 91905, Israel


Department of Psychology, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem 91905, Israel
Received 22 May 2007
Available online 22 August 2007

Abstract
This study focused on examining the persistent aspects of career decision-making diculties,
using the Emotional and Personality-related Career decision-making Diculties scale (EPCD; [Saka,
N., Gati, I., & Kelly, K.R. (in press). Emotional and personality-related aspects of career decisionmaking diculties. Journal of Career Assessment]). The contribution of four personality measures
general indecisiveness, self-esteem, trait anxiety, and identity statusto the prediction of persistent
career decision-making diculties was tested on 747 students, using a longitudinal design. Results
indicated that individuals with high EPCD scores at the beginning of the academic school year
had less condence in their choice and were less close to making a decision about the major into
which they wanted to be admitted at the end of the year. The moderate correlations between the
EPCD score and the four personality measures supported the validity of the EPCD. Implications
for counseling and future research are discussed.
2007 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Career decision making; Career decision-making diculties; Career indecision; Career indecisiveness;
Emotional and personality-related career diculties scale; EPCD

Career indecision is often manifested as diculties encountered while making careerrelated decisions (Chartrand, Rose, Elliot, Marmarosh, & Caldwell, 1993; Gati, Krausz,
q
This research was supported by the Israel Science Foundation. We thank Ruth Butler, Chani Etengo, Reuma
Gadassi, Naomi Goldblum, Valentina Izrailevitch, Kevin R. Kelly, Tali Kleiman, Lilach Sagiv, Shiri Tal, and
Moshe Tatar for their comments on an earlier version of this article.
*
Corresponding author. Fax: +972 2 5882045.
E-mail address: itamar.gati@huji.ac.il (I. Gati).

0001-8791/$ - see front matter 2007 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/j.jvb.2007.08.003

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& Osipow, 1996; Leong & Chervinko, 1996; Osipow, Carney, & Barak, 1976). It usually
refers to problems that need to be addressed prior to or during the decision-making process. The signicance of career indecision in vocational psychology has been highlighted
by theoreticians, researchers, and career counselors (e.g., Betz, 1992; Campbell & Cellini,
1981; Gati et al., 1996; Jepsen & Dilley, 1974; Leong & Chervinko, 1996; Osipow, 1999;
Rounds & Tinsley, 1984; Santos, 2001; Slaney, 1988; Tinsley, 1992).
In addition, the distinction between temporary, developmental indecision and more
chronic, pervasive indecisiveness continues to be a signicant focus of vocational and educational-decision research (Callahan & Greenhaus, 1992; Germeijs and De-Boeck, 2002;
Cohen, Chartrand, & Jowdy, 1995; Kelly & Lee, 2002; Santos, 2001). The term developmental indecision has generally been used to refer to the normative vocational development
phase that is resolved fairly easily for most young adults (Betz & Serling, 1993; Slaney,
1988; Meldahl & Muchinsky, 1997). In contrast to developmental indecision, career indecisiveness involves more pervasive, severe, and chronic diculties in making career decisions (Meldahl & Muchinsky, 1997; Osipow, 1999). Career indecisiveness is apparently
present in a smaller group of individuals, characterized by high levels of anxiety, negative
thinking about the self and the choice process, and a diused sense of personal identity
(Cohen et al., 1995; Chartrand et al., 1993; Meldahl & Muchinsky, 1997).
Career decision-making diculties that stem from emotional and personality-related
sources are among the more signicant diculties college students face (Amir & Gati,
2006; Amir, Gati, & Kleiman, in press; Gati & Amir, submitted for publication; Gati
et al., 1996; Saka et al., in press; Santos, 2001). These diculties are considered by career
counselors to be more severe than information-related diculties (Gati, Amir, & Tal,
2007), and are perceived as having important consequences for the clients career decision-making and the counseling process. In addition, some diculties prevent conclusive
decisions and require long-term interventions that frequently exceed the scope of career
counselors and career-counseling centers services (Gati et al., 2007). The goal of the present research was to enhance our understanding of emotional and personality-related decision diculties by investigating their relation with three personality measures and focusing
on their persistent, chronic aspects.
Numerous studies have examined the relations between these various personality and
behavioral characteristics, on the one hand, and career indecision and indecisiveness, on
the other (e.g., Kelly & Lee, 2005; Leong & Chervinko, 1996; Santos, 2001; Slaney,
1988). The variables studied include self-esteem and self-condence (Kishor, 1981; Santos,
2001), self-ecacy (Taylor & Betz, 1983), locus of control (Taylor, 1982), anxiety (Fuqua,
Seaworth, & Newman, 1987), personal and vocational identity (Cohen et al., 1995; Santos,
2001), and diculties with psychological separation from ones family and signicant others (Blustein, Walbridge, Friedlander, & Palladino, 1991; Guerra & Braungart-Rieker,
1999; Tokar, Withrow, Hall, & Moradi, 2003). However, only a few studies (e.g., Santos,
2001) have focused upon the components of indecisiveness and placed them in a multivariate context.
Relying on the research reviewed above, Saka et al. (in press) proposed an integrative
theoretical framework for describing the personality and emotional aspects of career decision-making diculties, which have been assumed to underlie the more chronic and pervasive diculties, and the relations among them. This taxonomy served as a framework
for the construction of a reliable and valid instrument for measuring such diculties in
a career contextthe Emotional and Personality Career Diculties (EPCD) Scale. The

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main goal of the present study was to investigate the validity of the proposed theoretical
model for emotional and personality-related career decision-making diculties, and the
EPCD scale developed to measure them, focusing on the prolonged aspects of the diculties represented in it. In the next section, we briey review the taxonomy proposed by Saka
et al. (in press).
1. Emotional and personality factors associated with career decision-making diculties
The taxonomy developed by Saka et al. (in press) focuses on the emotional and personality-related career decision-making diculties. Relying on previous research, variables
that were consistently found to be correlated with indecision and indecisiveness were
located and analyzed for their source, common characteristics, and the similarity in the
type of intervention needed. The taxonomy was developed through the interplay between
theoretical considerations and empirical testing, and proposed a distinction among three
major clusters of diculties: Pessimistic Views, Anxiety, and Self-Concept and Identity.
The Pessimistic Views cluster consists of diculties related to dysfunctional perceptions
and negative cognitive biases about the self and the world. The Anxiety cluster includes
diculties involving the anxiety provoked by the decision-making process and its potential
outcomes, which may prevent or inhibit the decision-making process. Finally, the SelfConcept and Identity cluster consists of decision-making diculties involving deeper and
more pervasive personality aspects of the individual. Thus, the taxonomy is hierarchical,
with the three major clusters of diculties divided into 11 categories based on ner distinctions. The taxonomy that emerged from the theoretical analysis was empirically supported
in both Israeli and American samples: specically, cluster and conrmatory factor analyses supported the adequacy of the hypothesized theoretical model of eleven diculty categories grouped into three major clusters (Saka et al., in press).
2. The eleven diculty categories
Pessimistic views. The rst major cluster of the model, Pessimistic Views, consists of
three categories. The rstpessimistic views about the processrefers to a low degree of
career decision-making self-ecacy, which is the individuals perception that he or she
is incapable of carrying out a thorough and eective career decision-making process.
The second categorypessimistic views about the world of workrefers to overly negative
perceptions regarding occupations (e.g., few careers are really interesting). Finally, the
third categorypessimistic views about the individuals controlrefers to the individuals
sense of an external locus of control over the process, the nal choice, and/or the
outcomes.
Anxiety. The second major cluster of the model, labeled Anxiety, consists of four categories. The rstanxiety about the processrefers to feelings of stress and anxiety arising
just prior to actually beginning the decision-making process, or anxiety evoked by excessive perfectionism about the process. This category is similar in content but dierent in
nature from pessimistic views about the process. The latter is more focused on the cognitive
perception of ones inability to engage in the process, while the former focuses on the feelings of helplessness and stress that emerge during the actual process. The second categoryanxiety due to the uncertainty involved in choosingincludes three dimensions of
uncertainty: (a) uncertainty about the future, (b) anxiety about being in an undecided

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state, and (c) anxiety due to a low tolerance for ambiguity. The third categoryanxiety
about choosingconsists of four characteristics, following Betz and Serling (1993): (a) perfectionism about choosing (i.e., having to nd the perfect occupation), (b) fear of losing
other potentially suitable options, (c) fear of choosing an unsuitable (wrong) occupation, and (d) anxiety about ones responsibility for the choice (especially a wrong one).
Finally, the fourth categoryanxiety about the resultsrefers to a situation in which
the individual already has some alternatives in mind, but is unable to actualize them
due to a fear of failure or of not fullling ones expectations and preferences in the chosen
occupation.
Self-concept and identity. The third major cluster, labeled Self-Concept and Identity,
refers to developmental personality aspects and consists of four categories. The rst categoryself-esteemrefers to low general and task-specic occupational self-esteem,
dened as a sense of low self-worth in both general and career-related aspects of life.
The second categorygeneral anxietyrefers to the general trait of anxiety. The third categoryuncrystallized identityrefers to diculties in forming a stable sense of personal
identity, which may be manifested in diculties in expressing consolidated beliefs, values,
preferences, and life goals. It also refers to an uncrystallized and unstable vocational selfconcept, which prevents the individual from expressing clear vocational preferences, interests, aspirations, and career goals. Finally, the fourth categoryconictual attachment and
separationrefers to diculties concerning signicant others which may stem from two
interrelated sources. The rst source involves excessive criticism, lack of satisfaction,
and lack of support from signicant others (typically ones immediate family) regarding
the individuals preferences and decisions in general, and the career decision-making process or choice in particular. The second source of the diculties involves the excessive need
for others approval of any decision, excessive need to please signicant others at the
expense of ones own preferences and goals, feelings of guilt and anxiety, and overt or covert conict with signicant others, in ways that aect the career decision-making process
or choice.
The proposed taxonomy, with its three major clusters and eleven specic categories, is
summarized in Fig. 1. On the basis of this theoretical model Saka et al. (in press) devel-

Emotional and Personality Related


Aspects of Career Indecision

Pessimistic
Views

about
the
process

about
the
world
of work

about the
one's control

Anxiety

about
the
process

about
uncertainty

about
the
choice

Self and
Identity

about the
outcomes

general
anxiety

selfesteem

uncrystallized
identity

conflictual
attachment and
separation

Fig. 1. The taxonomy of emotional and personality-related aspects of career decision-making diculties.

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N. Saka, I. Gati / Journal of Vocational Behavior 71 (2007) 340358

oped the Emotional and Personality-related Career Diculties scale, and reported supporting evidence for its reliability and validity.
3. The goal of the present research
The main goal of the present study was to examine the validity of the theoretical model
proposed by Saka et al. (in press) in two ways. First, we examined the models validity by
demonstrating the persistent aspects of the diculties as measured by the EPCD. Second,
we investigated the correlations between the EPCD (representing the proposed model) and
measures of general indecisiveness, self-esteem, anxiety, and identity status. These measures were chosen as theoretically relevant correlates that were expected to support the
construct validity of the proposed model. In addition to a general measure of indecisiveness, in this study we focused on three measures that were hypothesized to be associated
with the categories included in the cluster of Self-Concept and Identity. Future studies
should focus on investigating how these measures are associated with the other two major
clusters. It was not feasible to validate all three major clusters with several measures for
each, in a single study. For the measures used, we explicate below the theorized relations
among the EPCD scales and the validity measures used.
Self-esteem. A career choice is often viewed as an expression of an individuals self-concept in vocational terms (Super, 1953). Self-esteem plays a central role in actualizing ones
self-concept (Chartrand, Robbins, Morrill, & Boggs, 1990), as people tend to choose
careers that will allow them to actualize their perceived potential and enhance their feelings of self-worth. Furthermore, many studies have found a negative correlation between
self-esteem and indecision: the lower ones self-esteem, the higher ones indecision (Kishor,
1981; Santos, 2001; Wul & Steitz, 1999). We therefore expected negative correlations
between the three clusters and the total EPCD scores, on the one hand, and self-esteem,
on the other. We also hypothesized that the major cluster of Self-Concept and Identity
would show the highest correlation with self-esteem.
Trait anxiety. General trait anxiety and the commitment to a career choice have consistently been found to be negatively correlated, whereas anxiety and career indecision have
been found to be positively correlated (Hartman, Fuqua, & Blum, 1985; Leong & Chervinko, 1996; Meyer & Winer, 1993; Wanberg & Muchinsky, 1992). Moreover, Santos
(2001) found trait anxiety and general indecisiveness to be highly positively correlated,
and trait anxiety and vocational identity to be negatively correlated. We therefore
expected positive correlations between the total EPCD scores and the three cluster scores,
on the one hand, and trait anxiety, on the other. Again, we hypothesized that the
major cluster of Self-Concept and Identity would show the highest correlation with trait
anxiety.
Identity status. General self and identity-related variables, such as personal and vocational identity variables (Blustein, Devenis, & Kidney, 1989), were found to be correlated
with career indecision. One approach to studying the relations between identity status and
career choice diculties is the paradigm suggested by Marcia (1980), who classied individuals into one of four identity statuses on the basis of how they made major decisions in
their lives and their degree of commitment to those decisions: (a) achieved identity, (b)
identity foreclosure, (c) moratorium, and (d) diused identity. Both moratorium and diffused identity were found to be correlated with career indecision (e.g., Blustein et al. 1991;
Brisbin & Savickas, 1994). We therefore expected positive correlations between the total

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EPCD total and three cluster scores, on the one hand, and the measures of moratorium
and diused identity status, on the other. We also hypothesized that the major cluster
of Self-Concept and Identity would show the highest correlation with the identity status
measures.
General indecisiveness. General indecisiveness is manifested as a diculty in making
decisions in a variety of situations (Frost & Shows, 1993; Gati et al., 1996; Crites
(1969)). describes indecisive persons as individuals who seem to have diculty in making
all sorts of life decisions, whether they are of great or little signicance (pp. 305306).
Furthermore, prior research has established an association between indecisiveness and
personality characteristics. Salomone (1982) found that indecisive individuals typically
have personality characteristics such as low self-condence and low self-esteem, an unclear
sense of separate identity, helplessness, high levels of ambivalence and frustration, and an
external locus of control. Recent studies have supported the association between indecisiveness and tasks involved in career decision-making (e.g., Gati et al., 1996; Germeijs
and De-Boeck, 2002). We hypothesized that moderate positive correlations would be
found between the total EPCD scores and its three major cluster scores, on the one hand,
and a measure of general indecisiveness, on the other.
The prolong aspects of career indecision. To test our hypothesis that the EPCD measures more stable and persistent diculties, we carried out a follow-up longitudinal analysis. In Israel, individuals apply to universities for specic majors, thus having to choose
a major before submitting their application form. In most Israeli universities there are
pre-academic programs which oer a second chance for individuals who wish to apply
to the university but have not taken their high-school matriculation exams, or want
to increase their chance of being admitted (in particular for highly competitive majors
like computer science or psychology) by taking courses whose grades can substitute
for their high-school exam grades that did not qualify for the program of their choice.
Participating in this program involves investing time (a year) and money, as well as signicant academic eort. By the end of the program, the students are expected to reach a
well-dened decision about what major(s) to apply for. Therefore, students who do not
have a preferred major that they are willing to commit to by the end of this year, despite
the great eort and investment required during this year, may be in a more persistent
state of indecisiveness.
Thus, we asked students to ll out the EPCD at the beginning of their pre-freshmanyear preparatory program and at 24 weeks after the rst administration, along with a
follow-up report. We expected that individuals with a high degree of diculty, as measured by the EPCD at the beginning of the school year, would show less progress in the
career decision-making process, and would be less close to making a decision and less
condent about their choice towards the end of the preparatory program. In addition,
we expected to nd moderate to high correlations between the EPCD scores of individuals at the beginning and towards the end of the year, thus supporting the EPCDs test
retest stability.
4. Hypotheses
(i) The correlation between the total scores of the EPCD and a measure of general indecisiveness will be relatively high, and correlations between the EPCD and measures
of self-esteem, anxiety, and ego-identity status will be moderate.

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N. Saka, I. Gati / Journal of Vocational Behavior 71 (2007) 340358

(ii) Individuals with high EPCD scores at the beginning of the year: (a) will show less
progress in the decision-making process, (b) will be further away from making a
choice, and (c) if they made a choice, will be less condent about it than individuals
with low EPCD scores.

5. Methods
5.1. Participants
Seven hundred and forty-seven students in the pre-academic preparatory programs of
the two largest universities in Israel participated in this study. Three hundred and fortythree students (47.2%) were males and 384 (52.8%) were females; 20 did not report their
sex; their mean age was 22.4 (SD = 1.70). Five hundred and fty-nine (76%) of the students were born in Israel; 659 (90%) had graduated from high school and received a
matriculation certicate, while 72 (10%) had not nish high school, or had nished but
did not do well enough to receive a diploma.
Longitudinal analysis sample. Of the 747 participants who lled out the EPCD at the
beginning of the school year, we were able to match the responses of 395 (53%) students
who lled out the EPCD for a second time and then answered the follow-up questionnaire.
The attrition was attributable to technical problems (e.g., missing information to match
the rst and the second-time questionnaire), missing data, and non-attendance in class
in the second round of data collection, due to various factors (e.g., reserve army service,
illness, or personal reasons). To verify that the attrition was random, we compared the
EPCD scores on the rst round of data collection for the 395 participants who lled
out the questionnaire at both rounds of data collection and the participants who were
absent during the second round of data collection. No dierences were found between
the scores of these two groups, neither in the total EPCD score nor in any of its three
major clusters (t(745) = 0.09, t(745) = 0.12, t(745) = 0.46, and t(745) = 0.60, respectively). Furthermore, there were no dierences in the demographic variables between the
groups (age: t(733) = 1.16; years of education: t(711) = 0.72; sex: v2 (1,
N = 727) = 0.66).
5.2. Instruments
The emotional and personality career diculties scale (EPCD). The development of the
EPCD is described in details in Saka et al. (in press). The EPCD consists of 53 items. The
rst page of the questionnaire includes general background information: sex, age, and
years of education. The following pages include 53 statements, each representing one of
the 11 diculty categories. For each statement, the participants were asked to rate the
degree to which the statement described them on a 9-point scale (1does not describe
me to 9describes me well; a higher rating indicates a higher level of diculty). Two validity items were included in the scale to ensure that individuals replied only after properly
reading the items and considering their responses (I am satised when something good happens to me, and I dont mind whether my expectations are realized or not). The practical utility of these validity items were reported in Saka et al. (in press); the rationale and tests of
this kind of validity items is described in Amir et al. (in press).

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Psychometric properties were found to be adequate: Cronbach-alpha internal-consistency reliabilities in the present sample were .85, .95, .88, and .95 for the three major clusters and the total scale, respectively. The reliabilities of the 11 scales ranged from .61 (for
Pessimistic Views about the World of Work) to .92 (for Anxiety about the Process and Anxiety about the Choice). A previous study (Saka et al., in press) supported the construct
validity of the EPCD and the proposed internal structure of the clusters and scales. Specically, conrmatory factor analysis supported the adequacy of the hypothesized theoretical model of eleven diculty categories grouped into three major clusters
(RMSEA = .057, NFI = .98, CFI = .98, and GFI = .97; Saka et al., in press; the intercorrelations among the 11 scale scores in the present sample are presented in Appendix A).
Frost indecisiveness scale. (FIS; Frost & Shows, 1993). The FIS is a 15-item self-report
scale in which individuals rate the extent to which they agree with statements regarding
their tendency to be indecisive. Each item is rated on a ve-point scale ranging from
1strongly disagree to 5strongly agree. The scoring is based on two subscales labeled
Fears about Decision-Making and Positive Decision-Making. The internal consistency
(Cronbach-alpha) of the FIS total score was .90 in a student sample (Frost & Shows,
1993); it was .89 for the Fears subscale and .83 for the Positive subscale in a community
sample (Steketee, Frost, Wincze, Green, & Douglass, 2000). Further information about
the validity of the FIS was reported by Frost and Gross (1993) and Frost and Shows
(1993). The scale was translated into Hebrew (and then back-translated to ensure translation equivalence), and satisfactory reliabilities were found in an Internet version based on
a sample of 196 participants (.81, .75, and .82, for the Fears and Positive subscales, and the
total FIS, respectively). In the present sample (N = 747) the Cronbach alpha internal-consistency reliability estimates were .80, .68, and .85 for the Fears, Positive, and total FIS,
respectively.
Rosenberg self-esteem scale (RSES; Rosenberg, 1965). The RSES, one of the most-used
scales in the assessment of self-esteem (Santos, 2001), consists of 10 items expressing ve
positive and ve negative views of the self. Individuals are asked to rate the degree to
which they agree with each item on a 4-point Likert scale (1strongly disagree to 4
strongly agree). The negatively oriented items are then reversed, so that a higher score indicates a higher level of self-esteem. The total score is computed as the mean of all ten items.
Satisfactory psychometric properties of the RSES have been reported: its Cronbach-alpha
internal-consistency reliability was above .80, and its testretest reliability was .82 (Fleming & Courtney, 1984). Many studies have supported the construct validity of the RSES
(e.g., Deiner and Deiner, 1995; Fleming & Courtney, 1984; McCurdy & Kelly, 1997).
We used the Hebrew version of the RSES, whose reliability and construct validity were
supported in previous studies; specically, the reliability estimates ranged between .73
and .79, and a positive correlation was found between the abilities for mental and emotional coping (Ziv, 1996). In the present research, the Cronbach-alpha internal-consistency
reliability was .81.
Trait anxiety scale (TAS, from the State trait anxiety inventory (STAI) Spielberger,
Gorsuch, & Lushene, 1970). We used the Hebrew version of the TAS, which is part of
the STAI. This scale assesses relatively stable individual dierences in anxiety-proneness.
The scale consists of 20 statements, and the individual is asked to rate the degree to which
he or she generally experiences these emotions, on a 4-point Likert scale (1almost never
to 4almost all the time). Nine anxiety-absent items are reversed, and the total score is
computed as the mean of all items, so that a higher score represents a higher degree of trait

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anxiety. Cronbach-alpha internal-consistency reliability was found to be .90, and testretest reliabilities ranged from .73 to .86 for college students; evidence supporting the scales
validity was also reported by Spielberger, Gorsuch, Lushene, Vagg, and Jacobs (1983).
The reliability and validity of the Hebrew version were found satisfactory; specically, signicant positive correlations were found with other anxiety measures, its Cronbach-alpha
reliability was .90, and its testretest reliability ranged from .72 to .84 (Teichman &
Melink, 1984). In the present study, the Cronbach-alpha internal-consistency reliability
estimate was .89.
Extended objective measure of ego identity status (EOMEIS-2, Bennion & Adams,
1986). This scale evaluates individuals identity status based on the model proposed by
Marcia (1980). Its goal is to estimate the degree of identity consolidation for four statuses
(achieved identity, identity foreclosure, moratorium, and diused identity). We used the
Hebrew version of the moratorium and diused identity parts, so that the scale consisted
of 32 items (16 for each identity status). Individuals were asked to rate the degree to which
they agreed with each statement on a 6-point Likert scale (1strongly disagree to 6
strongly agree). The total score for each status is dened as the mean of all items pertaining
to that status The internal consistency reliability was.73 for the moratorium and .68 for the
diusion scales, and the testretest reliabilities across a two week interval ranged from .82
to .90 (Blustein et al., 1989. Construct validity was found satisfactory in various age
groups and cultures (Adams, Bennion, & Huh, 1989). In the present study, the Cronbach-alpha internal-consistency reliabilities were .77 and .72 for the moratorium and diffused identity scales, respectively.
Decision status (DS). This measure, which is a variation of the Occupational Alternatives Question (OAQ, Slaney, 1980; Zener & Schnuelle, 1972), asks individuals about their
career plans directly, to determine their current stage of the career decision-making process, and can be used to assess their progress (Amir & Gati, 2006; Gati, Saka, & Krausz,
2001; Gati, Kleiman, Saka, & Zakai, 2003). Levels range from I do not have even a general
direction to I am sure about what I would like to major in. Following Monahan (1987), we
regarded individuals self-reported stage as a measure of decidednessthe degree to
which they have narrowed down their occupational choices. Therefore, we used this measure as an additional criterion for validation.
Participants were asked to indicate their stage in the career decision-making process
using the DS; in the present sample the responses were as follows: 162 (22.4%) reported
that I am sure about what I would like to major in, 163 (22.5%) reported that I know what
I am interested in, but would like to conrm my choice, 199 (27.5%) reported that I am considering a specic occupation, but would like to explore other options before making a decision, 125 (17.3%) reported that I am deliberating among a small number of specic
occupations, 59 (8.2%) reported that I only have a general direction, and 15 (2.1%) reported
that I do not have even a general direction.
5.3. Procedure
About 4 weeks after the beginning of the school year, students were informed by the
programs counselors about a study on career decision-making, and the questionnaires
were distributed by the researchers and three graduate students to the students (in groups
of about 2035) during one of the classes. Participation was optional; 16 students refused
to participate and either left the research booklet blank or left the classroom (about 2%).

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The participants were given a booklet with the questionnaires, which consisted of the
EPCD and the FIS, and either the RSES, the TAS or the EOMEIS-2. Finally, they lled
out a demographic questionnaire that included the DS. All participants lled out the
EPCD rst, and the order of the other scales was counterbalanced among participants.
Of the 747 participants, 246 lled out the RSES, 262 the TAS, and 236 the EOMEIS-2.
Identication by name (on the last page) was optional; 700 (94%) participants reported
their names, which allowed us to match the booklets with the questionnaires in the rst
and second rounds of data collection.
The second administration of the questionnaire took place 24 weeks later. The followup booklet, which included the EPCD and the DS, was distributed to the students (in
groups of about 2035) during one of the classes, as in the rst round of data collection.
We were able to match the rst and second booklets for 395 students.
5.4. Preliminary analyses
For each participant we computed the total scores of the EPCD and the FIS, and the
scores of RSES, TAS and the two scales of the EOMEIS-2 (whichever they lled out). We
also computed the scores for the EPCDs three major clusters and 11 scales. Next we computed the correlations among the EPCD (its total score, three major clusters, and the
scales), FIS, RSES, TAS and two EOMEIS-2 scales. No order eect was found for the
FIS, TAS, or the two EOMEIS-2 scales (all Fs < 1). Therefore, the results are reported
across the various administration orders.
The decision status measure originally included six levels (Gati et al., 2003). However,
we combined the six levels into four to reect the individuals stage in the career decisionmaking process according to the PIC model (Gati & Asher, 2001): Prescreening, In-depth
exploration, and Choice. Specically, the rst level, which corresponded to being before
the Prescreening of alternatives stage, was represented by the statements (1) I do not even
have a general direction and (2) I only have a general direction. The second level, corresponding to the transition between the Prescreening stage and the In-Depth Exploration
stage, was represented by the statements (3) I am deliberating among a small number of
specic occupations and (4) I am considering a specic occupation, but would like to
explore other options before I make my decision. The third level, corresponding to the
Choice stage, was represented by the statement I know what I am interested in, but would
like to conrm my choice. Finally, the fourth level indicated that the individual had nished the process, represented by the statement I am sure about what I would like to major
in. The rationale for using the PIC stages to transform the six original response options
into the four categories is outlined in Gati and Tal (in press); this categorization was found
useful in empirically dierentiating among individuals in dierent stages of their career
decision-making process (Amir & Gati, 2006; Gati et al., 2003).
6. Results
6.1. Construct and divergent validity
Table 1 presents the means, standard deviations, and the correlations of the total EPCD
and its three major clusters with the FIS, RSES, TAS and the Diused Identity and Moratorium scales of the EOMEIS-2. The two leftmost columns of Table 1 present the means

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N. Saka, I. Gati / Journal of Vocational Behavior 71 (2007) 340358

Table 1
Means, standard deviations, and the correlations between EPCD and the validity questionnairesa
Scales

SD

EPCD
Pessimistic
views

Anxiety

Self and
identity

Total

Frost Indecisiveness Scale


Rosenberg self-esteem scaleb
Trait-anxiety scale
Ego identity scaleDiused identity
Ego identity scaleMoratorium

2.65
3.40
1.94
2.64
2.48

0.63
0.49
0.52
0.69
0.72

739
246
262
236
236

.36
.20
.26
.19
.36

.47
.30
.36
.23
.42

.60
.61
.70
.28
.48

.56
.44
.51
.28
.50

M
SD

4.78
1.38

4.73
2.02

3.56
1.44

4.32
1.34

a
b

All correlations are statistically signicant (p < .01).


The correlations with EPCD are negative as expected.

and standard deviations of these measures. As can be seen, all correlations are positive,
except for self-esteem, which, as hypothesized, is negatively correlated with the EPCD.
The correlations of the total EPCD score with the validity measures range from .28 for
the Diused Identity scale to .56 for the Frost Indecisiveness Scale. Fairly high correlations
were found between the Self-Concept and Identity cluster and the FIS, RSES, and TAS
(.60, .61, and .70, respectively). As hypothesized these correlations were higher than
the respective correlations found with the Anxiety cluster (t(736) = 4.86, t(243) = 6.34,
t(259) = 8.18, for the FIS, RSE, and TAS, respectively). Furthermore, the correlations
of these variables with the Self-Concept and Identity cluster were, as hypothesized, higher
than those with the Pessimistic Views cluster (t(736) = 7.95, t(243) = 7.89, t(259) = 9.68,
for the FIS, RSE, and TAS, respectively).
We carried out multiple (stepwise) regression analyses to examine the contribution of
each of the variables in predicting the initial and nal EPCD scores (i.e., the EPCD score
at the beginning and at the end of the school year). Due to the studys design, in which
each participant was given only one of the measures of self-esteem, trait anxiety, and identity status, a direct, simultaneous comparison among these variables was not possible.
Therefore, the regressions were carried out with the FIS scores and each of the three personality variables separately as predictors.
When self-esteem and general indecisiveness were used as predictors, the FIS emerged
as the main predictor of the initial EPCD score (R = .52, R2 = .27, F(1, 243) = 87.36,
p < .001), and the RSE score contributed signicantly to the variance explained by the
model over and above the FIS (t(241) = 4.17, p < .001, R2 = .32). We repeated this analysis with the second EPCD score, obtained after 24 weeks. In this regression analysis FIS
emerged again as the best predictor of the EPCD score (R = .45, R2 = .20,
F(1, 132) = 33.05, p < .001), and the RSE score contributed signicantly to the variance
explained over and above the FIS (t(131) = 3.46, p < .05, R2 = .27).
When trait anxiety and general indecisiveness were used as predictors, the FIS emerged
again as the main predictor of the initial EPCD score (R = .56, R2 = .31,
F(1, 261) = 117.45, p < .001), and the TAS score contributed signicantly to the variance
explained by the model over and above the FIS (t(259) = 3.30, p < .001, R2 = .34). We
repeated this analysis with the score of the second EPCD, obtained after 24 weeks. In this

N. Saka, I. Gati / Journal of Vocational Behavior 71 (2007) 340358

351

regression analysis, the TAS emerged as the best predictor of the EPCD score (R = .46,
R2 = .21, F(1, 131) = 34.78, p < .001), and the FIS score contributed signicantly to the
variance explained over and above the TAS (t(130) = 2.27, p < .05, R2 = .24).
Finally, when the two identity statuses and general indecisiveness were used as predictors, the FIS emerged as the main predictor of EPCD score (R = .62, R2 = .31,
F(1, 232) = 146.30, p < .001), and the moratorium scale score contributed signicantly to
the variance explained by the model over and above the FIS (t(230) = 5.96, p < .001,
R2 = .47). However, the identity-diusion scale did not have a statistically signicant contribution to the explained variance of EPCD (t(230) = 0.34). Again, we repeated this analysis with the second EPCD score. In this regression analysis FIS emerged as the only
predictor of the EPCD score (R = .39, R2 = .15, F(1, 121) = 21.48, p < .001).

6.2. Assessing whether the diculties measured by the EPCD are persistent
We carried out longitudinal analyses to investigate whether the diculties represented
by the EPCD scores are indeed persistent, and to test the hypothesis that these diculties
may predict individuals decision status and progress several months later. To study the
long-term eects of diculties measured by the EPCD, we divided the participants into
three groups according to their initial EPCD score. High and low groups consisted of individuals whose total EPCD score was higher than the 75th or lower than the 25th percentile, respectively; the remaining 50% of the participants were regarded as the mediumdiculty group.
The Pearson correlation between the initial EPCD score and the students condence in
their choice at the end of the preparatory program was .30 (p < .001). Fig. 2 presents the
students condence in their choice as a function of their initial degree of diculties. Fig. 2
shows that those with high initial EPCD scores were less condent in their choice than
those with low initial EPCD scores. Two planned contrasts were carried out to directly test
the hypothesis that individuals with higher initial EPCD diculties would show less condence in their choice towards the end of the preparatory program than those with lower

Choice confidence

4.5
4

3.5

3
2.5
low

medium

high

Initial degree of EPCD


Fig. 2. Choice condence at time 2 as a function of initial degree of EPCD (Time 1, N = 395).

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N. Saka, I. Gati / Journal of Vocational Behavior 71 (2007) 340358

initial diculties. The rst contrast, which compared the choice condence of the groups
of high and medium initial diculties with that of the low initial-diculties group, yielded
statistically signicant results (t(392) = 4.23, p < .01, Cohens d = 0.43), indicating that
individuals with high and medium initial diculties show less condence in their choice
even after a signicant period of time. The second planned contrast revealed, as hypothesized, that the high initial-diculty group reported less condence than the medium initial-diculty group (t(392) = 2.34, p < .01, d = 0.27).
To specically examine the progress of individuals who were undecided at the beginning
of the year, we focused only on those individuals whose initial decision status was low (i.e.,
they reported that they had either no direction or only a general direction), and as such
they were expected to move towards being more decided at the end of the pre-academic
program. We hypothesized that, of the individuals (n = 214) whose career plans were
clearly uncrystallized at the beginning of the year, those with a higher degree of EPCD difculties would progress less in the career decision-making process than those with a low
initial degree of diculty.
To test this hypothesis, we computed a measure of progress for each participant,
dened as the dierence between the decision status at the beginning and end of the program. The Pearson correlation between the initial EPCD score and the advance in the
decision status was .29 (p < .001). Fig. 3 presents the students progress in the career decision-making process (as reected in the change in their decision status) as a function of
their initial degree of diculties. It can be seen in Fig. 3 that those with initially high
EPCD scores were less likely to advance in the decision-making process than those with
initially low EPCD scores. Two planned contrasts were carried out to test the hypothesis
that the EPCD score is related to ones progress in the decision-making process. The rst
contrast revealed that, as hypothesized, individuals with high or medium initial EPCD difculties progressed less in their decision status over this 24-week time period than those
with low initial diculties (t(212) = 2.18, p < .05, d = 0.30). The second contrast, comparing the medium and high EPCD groups, also yielded statistically signicant results
(t(212) = 2.13, p < .05, d = 0.29), indicating that the high-diculty group made even less
progress than the medium-diculty group.
Finally, to further test the hypothesis that individuals with initially high EPCD scores
would progress less in the career decision-making process, we carried out an analysis of

Progress in the process

1.5
1.4
1.3
1.2
1.1
1
0.9
0.8
0.7
0.6
0.5
low

medium

high

Initial degree of EPCD


Fig. 3. Progess in the career decision-making process as a function of initial degree of EPCD (N = 214).

N. Saka, I. Gati / Journal of Vocational Behavior 71 (2007) 340358

353

covariance, in which the decision status towards the end of the year was the dependent
variable, the initial EPCD diculty group was the independent variable, and the initial
decision status was the covariate. This analysis revealed that the dierence in the nal decision status among the three groups was statistically signicant (F(2, 238) = 8.34, p < .001),
beyond the initial dierences among them (F(1, 238) = 9.43, p < .001).
In summary, these ndings provide further support for our claim that the EPCD indeed
taps into the more stable, enduring components of career decision-making diculties. Specically, the ndings indicate that a high EPCD score predicts less progress in the decisionmaking process and lower choice condence, after a signicant period of time in which
natural crystallization of career plans should take place.
7. Discussion
The goals of the present study were to investigate the characteristics of emotional and
personality-related career decision-making diculties and to further examine the validity
of the taxonomy proposed by Saka et al. (in press) for emotional and personality-related
career decision-making diculties, and the EPCD scale developed to measure them. Using
measures for general indecisiveness, self-esteem, general anxiety, identity diusion and
moratorium, and conducting a longitudinal analysis, we obtained results supporting the
validity of the taxonomy and the EPCD. Moderate to high correlations were found
between the total EPCD score and the three cluster scores, on the one hand, and the measures of general indecisiveness, ego-identity, general anxiety, and self-esteem, on the other.
Furthermore, students with a high EPCD score advanced less towards making a career
decision than those with a low EPCD score.
General indecisiveness. The correlation between the Frost Indecisiveness Scale (FIS),
which is a general measure of indecisiveness, and the total EPCD, which focuses on
career-related diculties in decision making, was .56 (.62 after correction for attenuation);
this correlation shows that the emotional and personality-related diculties are correlated,
as hypothesized, with the general trait of indecisiveness. The lowest correlation between
the FIS and the EPCD was found for the Pessimistic Views cluster (r = .36). One possible
explanation for this nding is that the categories in this cluster and the statements representing them in the EPCD were highly specic and embedded within the career context,
whereas all the FIS statements were general. The nding that the highest correlation of
the FIS was with the Self-Concept and Identity cluster of the EPCD (r = .60) may show
that this cluster represents the more general aspects of emotional and personality-related
career diculties, whereas the Pessimistic Views cluster represents more career-specic
aspects of the diculties, and hence its correlation with the FIS was the lowest.
Self-esteem. As hypothesized, all correlations between this measure and the three major
clusters, as well as all correlations between this measure and the total EPCD score, were
negative. This shows that the emotional and personality-related aspects of career decisionmaking diculties are higher when self-esteem is lower. Furthermore, as could be
expected, the highest correlation of the RSE Scale was with the cluster of Self-Concept
and Identity scale of the EPCD.
Trait anxiety. As hypothesized, all correlations between this measure and the total
EPCD score and the three cluster scores were positive and statistically signicant. The
highest correlation was again found with the cluster of Self-Concept and Identity, and
may be explained by the fact that this cluster includes a sub-scale of general anxiety. Still,

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N. Saka, I. Gati / Journal of Vocational Behavior 71 (2007) 340358

a correlation of .51 between this measure and the total EPCD score may indicate that anxiety is one of the components of persistent career decision-making diculties (Germeijs,
Verschueren, & Soenens, 2006).
Ego identity scale. The correlations between the diused identity subscale of the Ego
Identity Scale and the three clusters of the EPCD were positive and statistically signicant.
However, they were consistently lower than those of the moratorium subscale of the Ego
Identity status. The highest correlation of the diused identity subscale of the Ego Identity
Scale was with the cluster of Self-Concept and Identity; this may be attributed to the fact
that this cluster includes a sub-scale of uncrystallized identity.
The multiple regression analyses revealed that general indecisiveness, as measured by
the FIS, was the best predictor of emotional and personality-related aspects of career difculties, as measured by the EPCD. In addition, all three personality variablesself
esteem, trait anxiety and identity status (moratorium)contributed signicantly, beyond
general indecisiveness, to the prediction of the EPCD score (5%, 3%, and 16% increase in
accounted-for variance, for the three variables, respectively). The nding that these variables also predicted the results of the second administration of the EPCD (almost 6
months later) support the chronic, persistent character of emotional and personalityrelated diculties and the validity of the EPCD as a measure of such diculties in career
decision-making.
The three major diculty clusters of the EPCD. The cluster of Self-Concept and Identity
of the EPCD emerged as a fairly context-free personality characteristics cluster that may
predispose individuals to persistent career decision-making diculties, as its correlations
with the external measures were the highest. Therefore, it may be hypothesized that there
may be a temporal order within the clusters, and that diculties involving a non-cohesive
self and an uncrystallized identity status may exist in parallel (or even lead to) diculties
involving lack of readiness for decision-making (Gati et al., 1996). These diculties may
be indicative of a predisposition not only to prolong career decisions but also to be generally indecisive.
General dysfunctional personality characteristics may lead to pessimistic views and dysfunctional thoughts and beliefs. These pessimistic views may involve the self (e.g., low
career decision-making self-ecacy, external locus of control) or the world. Finally, anxiety may arise as the individual gets closer to actual involvement in the career decisionmaking process. Thus, anxiety may arise when individuals feel they have to engage in
the decision-making process while still unprepared (perhaps because they are being pressured by signicant others, or forced by circumstances or social norms). Indeed, the scales
included in the Anxiety cluster represent both aspects of preparing for the decision-making
process (i.e., anxiety about getting involved in the process and the uncertainty involved in
it) and aspects of actually being engaged in it (i.e., choice anxiety and anxiety about the
potential outcomes of the choice).
The persistent aspects of career decision-making diculties. In addition, the longitudinal
analysis supported the hypothesis that individuals who scored higher on the EPCD at the
beginning of the school year would progress less in their career decision-making process
than those with lower EPCD scores. This nding is especially important considering the
studys sampleindividuals who spent time, money, and emotional and mental eort to
graduate successfully from the pre-academic preparatory program in order to make their
career decision and be accepted to university. We believe that the slow rate of career-decision progress found among those individuals with a high EPCD score are indicative of a

N. Saka, I. Gati / Journal of Vocational Behavior 71 (2007) 340358

355

more profound and persistent diculty in making their career decision, and thus may
reect indecisiveness and the need for more intensive career counseling.
Limitations. Before discussing the studys implications, its limitations should be
acknowledged. First, because each participant received either the RSES, the TAS, or
the EOMEIS-2, we could not compare each variables unique contribution to the prediction of the EPCD score over and above the others. In addition, the participants were a
special group of Israeli young adults participating in the unique pre-academic program,
and hence further longitudinal validation of the EPCD needs to be carried out with other
groups.
7.1. Implications
Assessing emotional and personality-related aspects of career decision-making diculties has both theoretical and practical implications. Better understanding of the relations
between emotional and personality-related factors and persistent career diculties may be
the basis for a comprehensive theory of career indecisiveness, delineating relations among
various components and explicating their eect on various stages of the career decisionmaking process. The proposed taxonomy may serve as the rst step for constructing such
a theory. Specically, a more thorough understanding of indecisiveness could be achieved
through longitudinal studies comparing undecided and indecisive individuals, who dier in
behavioral characteristics such as postponing their choice for long periods, changing
majors many times, and returning to personal counseling several times.
Counseling implications. The assessment of clients career-decision diculties is among
the rst steps in assisting them. Therefore, locating the sources of the diculties associated
with career indecision and indecisiveness is one of the central issues of career counseling.
Accurate and comprehensive assessments of decision-making diculties has a major
importance in career counseling, as it permits the development of dierential interventions
for clients with dierent types of diculties (Gati et al., 1996; Santos, 2001).
The proposed taxonomy and the EPCD could assist counselors in the process of locating the emotional or personality-related sources of clients diculties by assessing pessimistic views, anxiety, and personal identity diusion. We believe that it is unlikely that
emotional diculties could be resolved without counseling interventions focusing on the
more chronic and dysfunctional personality antecedents of the decision problems (Germeijs and De-Boeck, 2002). Locating the sources of the clients emotional diculties
can help tailor the counselors eorts to address them. These should be distinct from
the typical approach to career information-related diculties, which is centered on retrieval and processing of career information. Counselors can help clients with low self-esteem
develop aspirations appropriate for their skills and interests. For example, counselors may
have to arrange a series of experiences to encourage clients identity development and condence building before engaging in the career decision-making process. Dealing with the
anxiety aroused by the process and the need to make a choice should also be a major focus
of the counseling process. Specically, counselors may focus on assisting such clients with
managing their anxiety as they carry out seemingly routine tasks such as conducting interviews aimed at collecting information and reviewing personality and interest inventory
results. As the results showed, actively monitoring clients self-esteem and anxiety
throughout the career decision-making process should be an integral component of the
career-counseling process.

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N. Saka, I. Gati / Journal of Vocational Behavior 71 (2007) 340358

Appendix A. Intercorrelations among the 11 EPCD scales (N = 747, PVPesimistic Views,


AxAnxiety, SISelf-concept and Identity)
EPCD Scale

1. PVabout the process


2. PVabout the world of work
3. PVabout the individuals
control
4. Axabout the process
5. Axabout uncertainty
6. Axabout the choice
7. Axabout the outcomes
8. SIgeneral anxiety
9. SIself-esteem
10. SIidentity status
11. SIsignicant others

.29
.36 .47
.50
.52
.54
.42
.21
.23
.42
.18

.28
.35
.33
.35
.17
.19
.22
.13

.38
.46
.40
.37
.22
.29
.38
.21

10

11

.70
.69
.48
.39
.32
.43
.27

.75
.55
.42
.41
.55
.30

.68
.35
.36
.52
.26

.24
.30
.47
.24

.53
.36 .51
.33 .40 .43

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