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Donald Edwin Super (born in 1910 and died in 1994) was an important American psychologist and professor at several Universities across the nation. He was affiliated with a number of major organisations and companies across the span of his life, made significant contributions and additions to several psychological journals and works, and was rewarded for his hard work in his field through a number of awards, most notably an achievement as rewarded to him by the American Pscyhological Association. His death was lamented by many around the world, as he was respected for a range of important theories of Vocational Development, such as the (rather adequately named) Theory of Vocational Choice and also the Life-Career Rainbow, both of which made significant progress towards development in the understanding of the interlinking of career and life in the general person's existence.

Though some of these theories were criticised by others, he was widely respected and revered as a psychologist and as a teacher at a range of colleges and universities, and in both England and America he made a major impact on the minds of students and psychological professionals alike.

As stated above, the main theories that Donald E. Super made in his lifetime were the Theory of Vocational Choice and the Life-Career Rainbow.

Where the Lines Overlap

In the case of Super's two major theories, that of the theory of Vocational Choice and the Life-Career Rainbow Theory, there are a number of similarities that could lead to them even being described as categories of each other in a larger theory (though, as yet, this has not been the case). However, before we go into detail about how closely related the two are, we must see the two as the separate entities they are.

Theory of Vocational Choice:

The theory of Vocational Choice was envisioned by Super in 1963, and was his first, among a number of other theories put forward by him at the time, attempt at a theory of Careers and how they may affect a person and their life as a whole. The theory based itself around five main stages of life itself, and they are as follows:
Stage Description
Growth The first stage of life, whereby a person, in their earlier years (some saying around about birth to mid-adolescence), begins to develop their ideas and views on life and the careers they may take within it. Little finality is shown in their decisions at this time (for obvious reasons) and little or no focus is placed upon this stage, as far as careers are concerned, by society itself.
Exploration In the next stage of the theory, from the midpoint of adolescence to the age of about 24 or 25, the person in question is at a stage in life deemed arguably the most important by society itself (at least, in Western Society, where Super developed this theory from). This is the stage where the person actually makes the decisions about potential careers, and heads towards them, learning necessary skills in high school and university and eventually beginning to test them. This can also be applied to other major ideas in a person, such as their political viewpoint, sexuality, religious belief and much more beyond these, showcasing the theories wide-ranging application being more than just for careers.
Establishment The next stage of the theory covers most of the middle of the average person's life, from about 25 to 45, and is about the person's building up of links and ability in the workplace as they finally begin to, and eventually become an integral part of, a business or system. This stage is mainly about developing the skills already learnt, and can be stretched to outside the world of careers as well, with many people in this age range choosing to begin families and a more stable and functional personal life when compared to the exploration stage.
Maintenance From the age of about 45 to the age of about 65, the Maintenance stage of a person's life and career is about the person using his well learnt abilities to maintain and continue his life in the workforce and hold his established ground from challenges anew, such as younger workers and even the changing nature of work (a more apparent issue in recent years). This is also a time where the person begins to limit his personal life's goals and challenges, owing to a range of factors such as age and stereotypes in society about one's ability to perform in different situations.
Decline From about 65 years of age and over, the person in question begins to reduce his activities and actions, but this time in both the workplace and the personal life, as he prepares to settle down and retire. The role in the workforce the person takes will diminish, sometimes at his leisure and sometimes at the will of his body over his own will, and at home preparation is generally made to move or reduce in the way of household and other things in some way. Eventually, this stage of decline will lead to the death of the person, but after many years where his career has been at a halt, finally complete.

The Life-Career Rainbow Theory:

Conceived by Super in 1980, and developed over the years that followed, the Life-Career Rainbow Theory was another way of explaining exactly what the relation between a person's career and their work was, and how this affected their life. It has a focus more on the individual roles a person will take over their lifetime rather than the grouping terms, if described in such a way, within the Theory of Vocational Choice. The elements within the Life-Career Rainbow are as follows:

Stage Description
Child The earliest and most obvious stage of a person's life, the stereotypical role of a child is one of growth, simply being allowed to explore and learn in a safer environment but with little pressure and no schooling as yet. This is probably the lowest level of respect for a person to have in their lives, as though they are often popular among others, they have no say in their affairs and are simply expected to grow and explore.
Student In this stage of the theory, the person in question is now up to a stage in their life where they are expected to begin learning, especially in Western Society, where schooling is the most important part of their lives there. Also in this case, the person's status in society is given a raise, with decisions now being handed to them more often, though still less so than in a higher position on the rainbow.
Leisurite The Leisuirite could often be stereotyped to be the one, fresh out of the bounds of years of learning, who prefers to socialise and "party" over the generally preferred methods of work and day to day life. The term could be used to describe a university student's gap year, or even one who focuses their life around a social calendar rather than around the events of work and careers, or schooling, even. It should be noted that, in the general viewpoint of society, a leisurite is not as highly regarded as a range of others, and may even be one of the few roles within this theory that actually loses respect from the role it advances from (student).
Citizen The citizen is a person whom, in the viewpoint of society, is one who has finally accepted their role within it, and is beginning to make their own way in the world, but a more serious and less leisurely way, at that. The citizen is often seen as one who takes action within society, not by working in the usual day-to-day stereotype of society, but in ways such as political activism and public work, helping out the community as a whole rather than assisting a business. The respect for such a person ranges from admiration and the like to a level of detestation for their efforts against the grain of the social norm.
Worker This level of the Life-Career Rainbow is easily one of the most respected, as it is seen as a stereotypical person and thus is easily related to by others. This person is one whom has gained wilful employment, and through this has also gained a livelihood which can lead, in both the career and in personal life attributes, to better things in the future. The worker is also expected by society to be one who has little time for sociality, though may have some sense of a personal life - but, of course, nowhere near as strong a sense as a Leisurite.
Spouse The spouse is an important figure in society's views, and once again one of the most respected. At this level of the Rainbow, the person in question has probably been a worker for a number of years, but at last his or her personal life comes to the forefront as they find happiness (or expected happiness) in another person to whom they may call their own. This term does not necessarily describe married couples, with a range of other relationship types also able to be included in this, such as partners, very close friends or many more beyond.
Homemaker The term "homemaker" refers to the person in question actually managing, in their role in society, to keep their house, family and life in general afloat through a career or working lifestyle outside such a thing. For instance, the person could have a reasonably well paying job, while their partner is at home and currently unemployed, thus requiring that person to make the money to keep them both going. The level of respect around such a role is fairly high, but does have negatively connotations for the person (if there is one) who is being supported, unless they are injured or recently unemployed.
Parent This could almost certainly be described as the person in this list with the greatest level of respect, as those in this position are now responsible for a life (or lives) other than their own. Parents are generally revered, and often remove themselves from the status of "Worker" for either a short or extended period of time because of this change in their role, as well as the removal of almost any other status (usually, the only exception is spouse). Parents will keep such a title and status until the end of their lives from the moment they become parents, but the level of societal expectation upon them in such a role will diminish gradually over time.
Pensioner The final level of status on the Life-Career Rainbow, and also one of the most respected, the pensioner is simply described as the person who has progressed through the other levels of status, and is now settling down, preparing for a fairly peaceful and relaxing life in retirement, often at a senior age, and finally having the bounds and expectations of society lifted from them, allowing them to rest at last. Respect for this type of person is very high, as those who would be respecting them are those who have not lived as long, nor as fully, as these people have (usually) and can often find out something new from them all the time.

Where the Lines Overlap - The Theories Combined:

The Life-Career Rainbow and the Vocational Choice Theory both have a number of similarities and ways in which the two can work together to create a better theory overall. The best way to describe the way these theories come together is to simply see one as a grouping method of the other, and then combine the two from there, noting that there are a number of alternative ways to the one showcased above. For example, if we were to go with the social stereotypes of what a "Student", "Child" and many others are, we could gain a picture with a range of groupings and overlaps that could showcase just how important each of thse is to the others in order to finalise the idea of the Personal Life and Career of a person coming together. Another example is the "Decline" section of the Vocational Development Theory grouping all of the "Pensioner" section of the Life-Career rainbow and a part of the "Parent" and Homemaker" section. Overall, however, it can clearly be seen that the two have a very close interrelation, and both combined stand to make a very powerful theory.

Accuracy of Donald E. Super's Theories

Donald E. Super created a number of key theories that have helped develop an understanding of several elements of modern psychology involving careers and the way they relate to a person's life and being in general. The two main theories developed here by Super are the Theory of Vocational Choice and the Life-Career Rainbow Theory, with both theories having several elements that could be deemed to be closely related. Both of these theories, along with several of his other ones, have earned him acclaim and respect across the world and in countless colleges and universities.

However, while this may be true in certain cases, no theory is without its flaws, and Super's efforts are no different. On the case of the Vocational Choice theory, Super is fairly accurate, but his time-frame for the Establishment and Maintenance sections of such a scheme are highly questionable, with many people staying in roles for a longer period of time these days, and also not necessarily ceasing their rise up a company ladder (or a social one, for that matter) in their mid-forties, and they do not necessarily begin doing so at the age of twenty five, with some people, especially after a tougher period coming out of high school, choosing to try and stay in the single position for as long a time as possible rather than rushing, even in years, to try and find a higher calling. Another point that could be had is that the Growth period and Exploration period could really be combined into one, as the two have a range of similarities (mainly focusing on youth, times of physical and emotional change, both covered by parental guidance (usually)), and it can be seen that the key trait of the Exploration period - exploring and becoming one's self - can just as easily be seen within the growth period through the ever changing and moulding ideas of younger children through newfound peers and their parents, not to mention social groups. Therefore, it can be comfortably said that the Theory of Vocational Choice is not perfect, and there are several areas where modifications could or should be made as per necessary.

The Life-Career Rainbow is another major theory of Super's, but even this is held back by a range of issues, such as overlapping elements and questionable relevance to certain lives and styles within life. The first of these problems is much the same as the Vocational Choice theory, with multiple sections looking as though they could overlap, mainly because of the massive difference between each of them in their forms. For example, a person who is a Student in some ways (such as, in one example, a university student who lives with his parents, allowing them to make quite a few decisions for him) can also be a leisurite (this person goes to parties every other night) and even a Worker (having gained acceptance in a university through the apprenticeship of a business) – therefore showcasing that there are some issues with the theory. The other major issue is that of the relevance of some of these “stages of life” to individuals, with some people able to question whether they were ever at a certain stage. For example, even though everyone in Western Society would go through the Child and Student stages, they may never actually be in the context of leisurite, instead jumping straight to a Citizen or Worker after they have finally begun making more important decisions (those beyond a student). Also, the order of this “rainbow” could be questioned, simply because a person does not necessarily have to go through the stages of life in order to come to a certain point – a person may become a Parent before they are finished being a Student, and the Student itself could even be pushed backwards, with some, in non-Western Societies or at the bottom of the social status quo in Western Society, forced to become a worker and even parent, and then potentially being given a chance to learn at open university courses and the like later on, as well as finally make decisions for themselves in some cases. Overall, once again, it can be said that Super’s Life-Career Rainbow Theory is a fairly accurate theory even today, but can be seen to lack credibility outside of the Western Society of Super’s world when he created it.

Bibliography - Donald E. Super The following sources were used:

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