A role model is a person whose behavior, example, or success is or can be emulated by others, especially by younger people. The term "role model" is credited to sociologist Robert K. Merton, who coined the phrase during his career. Merton hypothesized that individuals compare themselves with reference groups of people who occupy the social role to which the individual aspires. An example being the way fans (oftentimes youth) will idolize and imitate professional athletes or entertainment artists. Although the term "role model" has been criticized as "outdated", the term and its associated responsibility remains prominent in the public consciousness as a commonly used phrase, and a "powerful presence" in the entertainment industry and media.
Effect on career choice
A person's chosen role models may have a considerable impact on their future choice of career. Role models show significant effects on female students' self-confidence in pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematical (STEM) fields. The gender difference between role models and female students has shown to have no significant effect on student attitudes, whereas perceived dissimilarity with stereotypical role models showed a negative effect on self-confidence in pursuing STEM careers. Perceived similarity with non-stereotypical role models (of either gender) shows a positive effect on self-confidence to succeed in STEM occupations.
Parent role models also significantly influence a person's "education and training aspirations, task self-efficacy, and expectancy for an entrepreneurial career".
Celebrity role models
The ever-widening reach of the media in popular culture has elevated certain celebrities to worldwide acclaim. This boom of media coverage and constant exposure to these individuals resulted in a change of mindset toward celebrities in both adults and youth alike. According to a survey of teachers in the United Kingdom conducted in 2008 by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, young people most frequently chose sports stars as role models, followed by pop stars. Many, however, simply aspired to be "famous for being famous", believing that fame and fortune could be easily accessed through reality television.
Athlete Role Models
There is a lot of speculation and argument on whether or not athletes should be considered role models, especially to today's youth. This seems to be a consistent topic of discussion with increasing popularity whenever there is anything negative in the media about an athlete. Many think that an athlete being a role model is perfectly acceptable and there should be no need for debate, while others think otherwise. Former NBA superstar, Charles Barkley stated that he believes athletes are not the figures that children should be emulating and that it is the parent's responsibility to be role models. While some may agree with this statement, there really is nothing preventing our youth from admiring athletes both on and off the court, whether that be positive or negative.
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- "The Beckhams are the celebrities most children aspire to be, as celebrity culture increases its influence, says ATL". Association of Teachers and Lecturers. 14 March 2008. Retrieved February 21, 2011.
- http://www.forbes.com/sites/leighsteinberg/2013/01/20/why-do-we-make-athletes-role-models/. Missing or empty