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Occupational Interests and Aptitudes of Juvenile Offenders: Influence of Special Education Experience and Gender

NCJ Number
Journal of Correctional Education Volume: 58 Issue: 4 Dated: December 2007 Pages: 337-356
Robert Zabel; Frank Nigro
Date Published
December 2007
20 pages
In order to identify the occupational preferences and aptitudes of juvenile offenders, 201 (157 boys and 44 girls) juvenile offenders, including 52 who had been in special education, completed an inventory of occupational interests and aptitudes.
Regarding aptitude measures, mean percentiles on the general, verbal, and numerical aptitudes were in the low-average to below-average range; scores of the special-education participants were lower than the rest of the sample. These findings are consistent with previous studies of juvenile offenders' abilities. Mean scores on the other aptitudes--spatial, form perception, and clerical perception--were higher than age norms, however, which was an unexpected finding. Occupational interests were restricted to a small number of occupational areas. Only three areas--physical performing, protective services, and artistic--were selected by at least 30 percent of the sample. Physical-performing occupations were by far the most popular. Less than 25 percent of the sample selected as their top choices occupations in the following areas: industrial, sales, leading/influencing, business detail, accommodating, scientific, plants/animals, or humanitarian. Generally, occupational interests of the special education and nonspecial education groups were similar; however, special-education participants were more than twice as likely to prefer work with plants and animals. Both boys and girls had high interests in protective services and artistic occupations; however, few girls selected either physical performing or mechanical occupations, which were popular among boys. Girls were more likely than boys to favor humanitarian, business detail, and leading/influencing occupations. Implications of these findings are discussed for middle school special education and alternative education programs for problem students. The sample consisted of juveniles in a regional juvenile detention facility in Kansas. Aptitudes and occupational interests were measured with "Careerscope," a self-administered, computer-based occupational interest and aptitude assessment system used for career guidance and counseling. 6 tables and 41 references