Who cares? Effects of gendered self-perceptions on dropout intentions in communal degree programs

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Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology


Global population aging trends create an increased need for educated workers in the health domain. At the same time, communal degree programs (i.e., health care and early education [HEE]) show high dropout rates—particularly for men. Extending person-environment fit theory and the lack of fit model, we investigate whether students' (gendered) self-perceptions relate to perceived fit and whether fit is associated with their sense of belonging to the degree program and dropout intentions. We conducted an online experiment with 298 Norwegian students enrolled in HEE degree programs (66 men, 232 women; Mage = 25.32, SD = 6.08). We experimentally manipulated the importance of communal versus neutral traits in communal occupations. The manipulation showed no effects on students' perceived fit or sense of belonging. However, students' gender was significantly related to their communal self-perceptions. Male students perceived themselves as less communal, and this perception was associated with lower perceived fit. Lower perceived fit was associated with a lower sense of belonging and higher dropout intentions. Our findings indicate that gender differences in communal self-perceptions exist even among students in communal degree programs, and that this difference in perceived communality may contribute to the higher dropout rates of male students.