Age and Career Commitment: Meta-Analytic Tests of Competing Linear Versus Curvilinear Relationships


Career commitment refers to individuals’ dedication to their career, profession, or occupation, and has been studied for nearly four decades. Over time, multiple definitions and operationalizations of career commitment have emerged within the literature, making direct comparisons across primary studies difficult. Likewise, mixed findings with respect to the relationship between age and career commitment can be found across studies. To address these issues, we present the results of an updated meta-analysis of the relationship between age and career commitment. Drawing from life-span, life-space theory, we offer competing hypotheses about potential linear and curvilinear relationships between age and career commitment. Consistent with past meta-analytic work, we find evidence for a small positive relationship between age and career commitment ($r_mean$=0.079, 95% CI 0.050 to 0.108, $K$=112 independent samples, $N$ = 54,481 respondents). Qualifying this, however, we also find evidence that this relationship is non-linear, exhibiting a curvilinear relationship. This finding is explored using two different meta-analytic strategies, at both the between-person and between-study level of analysis, and through two primary empirical studies. Although the form of the curvilinear relationship observed differs based upon the level of analysis considered, the results of this work generally support propositions from life-span, life-space theory, and associated predictions from related theories of aging and career development, about the age-graded nature of career commitment.

Journal of Vocational Behavior