Tiedeman’s Theory

David Valentine Tiedeman received his B.A. in psychology at Union College in 1941. Tiedeman would receive a master’s from the University of Rochester in 1943 and go on to Harvard to complete degrees in educational measurement both his Ed.M. in 1948 and an Ed.D. in 1949. While at Harvard, Tiedeman was mentored by the renowned statistician Philip Justin Rulon. Upon graduation, Tiedeman stayed on as a faculty member at Harvard where he remained for over 20 years. Tiedeman’s theory was introduced with the publication of Career Development: Choice and Adjustment by Tiedeman and O’Hara in 1963. Tiedeman broke new ground in emphasizing the significance of ego development on career development, particularly career decision making. Healthy ego development resulted from maintaining mastery of crises outlined by Erikson’s psychosocial theory and allowing the individual to achieve a favorable view of the self in situational contexts as well as in the larger world around the individual and eventually the world of work. Career development and career decision-making skills also developed, as the individual sought identification and acceptance of his or her evolving self through differentiation and integration. Tiedeman’s theory separates the differentiation and integration of decision making into two distinct processes: anticipation or preoccupation and implementation or accommodation. Exploration, crystallization, choice, and clarification comprise the stages of anticipation, while induction, reformation, and integration comprise the stages of implementation.

Among the revisions and adaptations of Tiedeman’s original theory are the works of Anna Miller and Tiedeman, Gordon Dudley and Tiedeman, John Peatling and Tiedeman, and Tiedeman and Anna Miller-Tiedeman. Tiedeman’s influence can be found in the professional journal literature, text books, and career guidance curriculums. Tiedeman’s theory was one of the early entries into computer-based career guidance programs with the development of the Information System for Vocational Decisions (ISVD). As a result of its own achieved identity, Tiedeman’s theory would come to be recognized as one of the first constructivist based theories associated with career development. Three of the most enduring contributions of his theory are the emphasis on the role of ego identity development in career development, the role of purposeful action in dealing with discontinuities, and the significance of differentiation and integration in the evolution of career decision making.

Tiedeman’s theory has been criticized for being rather complex with ill-defined terminology. There are questions as to how effectively the ISVD actually relates to Tiedeman’s theory. Assessment instruments derived from the theory, such as the Assessment of Career Decision Making by Harren, and research related to the theory itself remain limited at best. The theory also fails to adequately outline the influence of the environment outside of the individual. Finally, Tiedeman’s initial sample for the conceptualization of his theory was rather small and homogeneous, thus concerns for its multicultural relevance generally follow.

Tiedeman’s theory has recently enjoyed renewed recognition for its early work on meaning making and its relevance as one of the earliest contributions to the constructivist perspective. Tiedeman’s spouse Anna Miller-Tiedeman remains active in her work through the New Careering Institute.


  1. Dudley, G. A., & Tiedeman, D. V. (1977). Career development: Exploration and commitment. Muncie, IN: Accelerated Development.
  2. Harren, V. A. (1980). Assessment of Career Decision Making (ACDM: Preliminary manual). Carbondale: Southern Illinois University.
  3. Miller, A. L., & Tiedeman, D. V. (1972). Decision making for the 70s: The cubing of the Tiedeman paradigm and its application in career education. Focus on Guidance, 5(1), 1-15.
  4. Peatling, J. H., & Tiedeman, D. V. (1977). Career development: Designing self. Muncie, IN: Accelerated Development.
  5. Tiedeman, D. V. (1961). Decision and vocational development: A paradigm and its implications. Personnel and Guidance Journal, 40, 15-20.
  6. Tiedeman, D. V. (1965). Career development through liberal arts and work. Vocational Guidance Quarterly, 14(1), 1-7.
  7. Tiedeman, D. V. (1979). Career development: Designing our career machines. Schenectady, NY: Character Research Press.
  8. Tiedeman, D. V., & O’Hara, R. P. (1963). Career development: Choice and adjustment. Princeton, NJ: College Entrance Examination Board.
  9. Tiedeman, D. V., & Miller-Tiedeman, A. L. (1984). Career decision making: An individualistic perspective. In D. Brown, L. Brooks, & Associates (Eds.), Career choice and development: Applying contemporary theories to practice (pp. 281-310). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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