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The language of agency in parent-adolescent conversations about career Turkel, Hayley

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to explore how the language of agency was reflected in parent-adolescent conversations about career. Through the lens of action theory, I sought to gain better understanding of how agency was co-constructed in these conversations. The language of agency was analyzed by a collective case study method, in which the conversational data of three parent adolescent dyads were explored. Agentic language, as operationalized by O'Connor's (2000) writings, was evident in the parent-adolescent conversations, evinced by thematic categories. Agency emerged as a complex and multifaceted construct, expressed by parents and adolescents in a myriad of ways. Their choices in self-expression, their self-awareness and ability to think reflexively, the reciprocal energy of their interactions, their diverging opinions, their sense of engagement and connection within their relationships, their arguments, and their seeking and providing support were some of the many ways that these dyads communicated agency through language and joint-action. The themes are presented separately in each family case study, as well as jointly in the instrumental findings that link the three cases together. This inquiry's findings about agency are generally consistent with the existing literature. However, the socio-contextual nature of this study provides new insight to the construct of agency. Limitations of the study, as well as its implications for future research and counselling are also discussed.

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