Children’s occupational knowledge: a conceptual framework and measure

Children’s occupational knowledge: a conceptual framework and measure

By Rachel Gali Cinamon · Michal Yeshayahu

April 2020

International Journal for Educational and Vocational Guidance


The paper presents a conceptualization of children’s knowledge about the world of work and offers a new measure developed to measure the concept. The basic assumption of the study is that, for children aged 3–8, passive and active occupational knowledge need to be differentiated. Children may know more about occupations but may be unable to express this knowledge without help.

The paper describes a conceptual framework for and introduce a measure to examine children’s knowledge about occupations and the world of work. The framework comprises three aspects of occupational knowledge:

  • Identifying occupations from pictures (occupational picture naming)
  • Naming and explaining occupations (occupational vocabulary)
  • Explaining the essence of work (occupational comprehension).

Participants were 101 Jewish Israeli children (53 girls, 48 boys) from middle-to-high Socio-Economic Status residential areas with an age range of 3–8 years. The children were surveyed to identify common occupations with which they were familiar. The study is the first to investigate occupational knowledge of children as young as age 3.

Super’s theory established the foundations of the concept that occupational values, needs, and preferences begin to develop in the early years of life.[1] [2] Gottfredson’s theory then continued this work, highlighting the role of gender and social class as critical variables that shape and affect occupation preferences and decisions from an early age.[3]

Scales that are appropriate for use with children are in short supply. Most of the available measures were designed for children aged 9 and above, who already possess reading skills. Measures intended for younger children who cannot read and that are congruent with their cognitive development are lacking. This gap impedes a full understanding of the developmental nature of career and the related variables that affect and shape it. Consequently, the task of developing evidenced-based career interventions for early life stages is particularly challenging, impairing the ability of career professionals to enhance and promote career development. This study works to suggest a conceptual framework of children’s knowledge (ages 3–8 years) about occupations and the world of work and to introduce a measure designed to examine this concept.

Since children under the age of 6 years are not always literate and do not all have the capacity to freely express their knowledge, it remains important to confront the challenge of distinguishing between their active and passive knowledge about the world of work and to develop appropriate empirical methods that are relevant to young children, such as identifying occupations from pictures and describing their knowledge through mediating questions.


The children, even at the younger ages, demonstrated familiarity with approximately 8 out of the 18 occupations presented to them. This familiarity was expressed in several alternate ways: naming the occupations, naming their occupational field, or describing actions characterizing the presented occupations.

Significant correlations emerged between children’s age and the three types of occupational knowledge, indicating that occupational knowledge increased with age. The current study’s findings showed that no significant change in relation to the occupational vocabulary aspect transpires between the 3–4 and 5–6 age groups. Indeed, the findings showed that the significant jump in occupational vocabulary transpired between the 5–6 and 7–8 age groups.

The findings refute the common claim that the young child’s world is detached from the world of work. Consequently, the role of parents and educators may be to seek opportunities to deliberately mediate the world of work to children in order to combat the creation of inaccurate (e.g., stereotypic) perceptions that may take time to rectify. Parents can speak with their young children and explain aspects of occupations they notice around them that are part of their life (e.g., the doctor they visit, the librarian, and actors in movies and performances). Parents can also tell them about occupations that are not visible, e.g., those who engineered the electronic devices that they use at home or those who designed their clothes or buildings in the neighbourhood. Such information may expand and increase children’s passive and active occupational knowledge.


[1] Super, D. E. (1980). A life-span, life-space approach to career development. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 16(3), 282–298. https :// -1.

[2] Super, D. E. (1990). A life-span, life-space approach to career development (pp. 197–261). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

[3] Gottfredson, L. S. (1981). Circumscription and compromise: A developmental theory of occupational aspirations. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 28(6), 545–579. https ://