Relationships of mathematics self-efficacy, gender, and ethnic identity to adolescents' math/science career interests

Virginia O'Brien, Fordham University


According to Bandura's (1977a, 1986) social cognitive theory, self-efficacy has been defined as an individual's belief about how well one can successfully execute a specific behavior required to accomplish a given task. Research in self-efficacy has been extended to the study of individuals' career interests, and academic achievement and persistence. Mathematics self-efficacy has been found to affect individuals' interests in math/science careers, especially in regard to college students. Gender differences favoring males have been found. Since social cognitive theory (Bandura, 1986) is based on cognitive, social, and behavioral choices, it can accommodate cultural and ethnic identity influences as determinants of minority clients' feelings, cognitions, and behaviors (Atkinson & Thompson, 1992). Given that there may be an estimated shortfall of 400,000 scientists and engineers in the United States and that 85% of these future scientists may need to be women and/or minorities (Gallagher, 1993), mathematics self-efficacy, gender, and ethnic identity were measured as factors that may influence adolescents' math/science careers. Using a regression analysis for each of the Black, Hispanic, and White racial/ethnic groups, gender, mathematics self-efficacy, and ethnic identity were entered as predictor variables on the criterion variable, math/science career interests. The results of the study indicated that for each of the three racial/ethnic groups, mathematics self-efficacy contributed significantly to the variance. In the Hispanic and the White groups, gender also contributed significantly to the variance. Ethnic identity did not contribute to the variance in any of the three racial/ethnic groups. In addition to studying mathematics self-efficacy, gender, and ethnic identity in relationship to math/science career interests, this study examined gender differences within and among the four racial/ethnic groups. Theoretical implications were discussed and recommendations for future research were made. The results of the current study support self-efficacy theory as it has been extended to high school students' mathematics self-efficacy and math/science career interests. Further, this study extended the research because the sample was drawn from a racially and ethnically diverse high school population.

Subject Area

Educational psychology|Academic guidance counseling|Mathematics education|Science education

Recommended Citation

O'Brien, Virginia, "Relationships of mathematics self-efficacy, gender, and ethnic identity to adolescents' math/science career interests" (1996). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9631046.