Empirical Research

Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 39, Issue 11, pp 1253-1264

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Meaning in Life as a Mediator of Ethnic Identity and Adjustment Among Adolescents from Latin, Asian, and European American Backgrounds

  • Lisa KiangAffiliated withWake Forest University Email author 
  • , Andrew J. FuligniAffiliated withUniversity of California


Establishing a sense of life meaning is a primary facet of well-being, yet is understudied in adolescent development. Using data from 579 adolescents (53% female) from Latin American, Asian, and European backgrounds, demographic differences in meaning in life, links with psychological and academic adjustment, and the role of meaning in explaining associations between ethnic identity and adjustment were examined. Although no generational or gender differences were found, Asian Americans reported higher search for meaning than Latin and European Americans. Presence of meaning was positively associated with self-esteem, academic adjustment, daily well-being, and ethnic belonging and exploration, whereas search for meaning was related to lower self-esteem and less stability in daily well-being. Presence of meaning mediated associations between ethnic identity and adjustment, explaining 28–52% of ethnic identity’s protective effect on development. Ethnic identity thus appears to affect adjustment, in part, through its role in fostering a positive sense of meaning in adolescents’ lives.


Meaning in life Ethnic identity Adolescents Adjustment