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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Perceptions of occupational rewards and prestige and the relationship between them : a study of children and adolescents Baxter, Eunice Helen


Research has shown that there is an occupational prestige hierarchy, stable over time and from subpopulation to subpopulation. Occupations in the central part of the hierarchy, the so-called "middle range" occupations, are, however, subject to relatively high variability. The explanation commonly advanced for prestige ratings is the "rewards hypothesis". That is, perceptions (not necessarily accurate) of occupational rewards, operationally defined as occupational characteristics, determine prestige. If this explanation is viable, it ought to be possible to trace the learning of prestige judgments and of the rewards which determine them. Since age differences between older and younger adults and usually between older adolescents and adults do not seem significant, it was hypothesized that the learning of rewards and hence the hierarchy begins in early childhood. Inhelder and Piaget's theory of the development of logical thinking was advanced as a rationale for the increased similarity between adults' and maturing children's perceptions of the hierarchy. The child learns to appreciate the rewards appreciated by adults, and what rewards are thought to be gained from participation in various occupations. As his reasoning abilities improve, he is increasingly able to weigh these rewards "accurately", and so increasingly comes to view prestige as adults do. Previous research, concerned with "reasons" given by subjects for assigning high prestige ratings, with task learning, and with a number of other behaviours, has shown that different social class members have preferences for different rewards. On the basis of these findings, it was hypothesized that higher status individuals appreciate psychic and deferred rewards more than, .immediate rewards less than, and material rewards to the same degree as lower status individuals. The subjects were boys of 9-10, 12-13, 15-l6, and 17-18, chosen equally from "blue" and "white collar" backgrounds. Boys were chosen because more study of males than females has been carried out. The occupations studied were from the "middle range", since it was assumed that variability is a function of social class reward preference differences. The characteristics chosen, operationally defined as deferred-psychic, deferred-material, deferred, immediate-psychic, immediate-material, and material, were "power", "security", "education", "good working conditions", "income during training", and "average income". The study was modelled on that of the N.O.R.C. and Duncan's analysis of those data. Spearman's r was used to test the hypothesis that the older the subject group, the greater the similarity between their perceptions and those of an adult, group. This hypothesis was supported. Variance explained was used as a test of the hypothesis that this phenomenon would he paralleled by-increasing power of rewards perceptions to predict prestige. This hypothesis was not supported; although prestige perceptions were significantly correlated with most reward perceptions, the correlations were low and much the same at all age levels. Step-regression analysis was used to test the hypothesis that subjects from different social class backgrounds would show preferences for different rewards. Differences in the predicted directions were found for four out of the six operational hypotheses and for two of the four theoretical hypotheses. These differences were not marked. It was concluded that the data were reliable, but that reward perception measurements are not a valid predictor of the prestige of the middle range occupations. Methodological influences on the data were considered, special attention being given to "halo effects" and to familiarity of the subjects with the occupations being rated. A possible explanation for the findings in previous research of a high relationship between prestige and rewards perceptions is that verbal behaviour rather than rewards perception biases were being tapped. Several suggestions for further research were made. A study similar in design to this one, but including the occupations at the extreme ends of the hierarchy, would show if the results of this study can be generalized to all occupational prestige ratings. Further study should be made of children's perceptions of prestige; more knowledge of these would be useful in the modification of the rewards hypothesis or in the development of an alternative to it.

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