Though there is a deep literature on factors that predict college attendance and on the effects of college attendance on students’ development, there has been little research on what education actually means to students themselves. This study was conducted to examine whether materialism, intrinsic aspirations, and the search for meaning in life predicted a set of ten meanings that students are known to associate with their education. Multiple regression analyses indicated that students who were high on materialism viewed their education as an opportunity to gain independence, a chance to establish relationships, and a source of stress. Individuals high on intrinsic aspirations were more likely to see education as a time for career preparation, gaining independence, exploring future life directions, learning, engaging in personal growth, establishing social relationships, and learning skills to make a difference in the world, but they were less likely to view education as an escape from future responsibilities. As expected, the findings also revealed that individuals who sought meaning in life viewed education as a way to gain independence, explore life directions, engage in personal growth, establish relationships, learn skills that will help change the world, and escape future responsibilities.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
Amabile T. M., Hill K. G., Hennessey B. A., Tighe E. M. (1986) Social influences on creativity: The effects of contracted-for reward. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 50: 14–23
Amabile T. M., Hill K. G., Hennessey B. A., Tighe E. M. (1994) The work preference inventory: Assessing intrinsic and extrinsic motivational orientations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 66: 950–967
Antikainen A., Houtsonen J., Huotelin H., Kauppila J. (1995) In search of the meaning of education: The case of Finland. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research 39: 295–309
Astin A. W. (1993) An empirical typology of college students. Journal of College Student Development 34: 36–46
Belk R. W. (1985) Materialism: Trait aspects of living in the material world. Journal of Consumer Research 12: 265–280
Bui K. V. T. (2002) First-generation college students at a four-year university: Background characteristics, reasons for pursuing higher education, and first-year experiences. College Student Journal 36: 3–11
Cohen P., Cohen J. (1996) Life values and adolescent mental health. Erlbaum, Mahwah, NJ
Erikson E. H. (1968) Identity: Youth and crisis. Norton, New York
Frankl V. E. (1963) Man’s search for meaning: An introduction to logotherapy. Washington Square Press, New York
Fryberg S. A., Markus H. R. (2007) Cultural models of education in American Indian, Asian American and European American contexts. Social Psychology of Education 10: 213–246
Henderson-King D., Smith M. N. (2006) Meanings of education for university students: Academic motivation and personal values as predictors. Social Psychology of Education 9: 195–221
Kasser T. (2002) The high price of materialism. The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA
Kasser, T. (2007). Aspiration index. Retrieved May 1, 2007, from http://faculty.knox.edu/tkasser/aspirations.html.
Kasser T., Ryan R. M. (1993) A dark side of the American dream: Correlates of financial success as a central life aspiration. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 65: 410–422
Kasser T., Ryan R. M. (1996) Further examining the American dream: Differential correlates of intrinsic and extrinsic goals. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 22: 280–287
Krypel, M. N., & Henderson-King, D. (in press). Stress, coping styles, and optimism: Are they related to meaning of education in students’ lives. Social Psychology of Education, doi:10.1007/s11218-010-9132-0.
Maddi, S. R. (1970). The search for meaning. In Nebraska symposium on motivation (pp. 134–183).
Marcia J. L. (1966) Development and validation of ego-identity status. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 3: 351–358
McGregor I., Little B. R. (1998) Personal projects, happiness, and meaning: On doing well and being yourself. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 74: 494–512
Pascarella E. T., Terenzini P. T. (1991) How college affects students. Jossey-Bass, San Francisco
Reker G. T., Peacock E. J., Wong P. T. P. (1987) Meaning and purpose in life and well-being: A life-span perspective. Journal of Gerontology 42: 44–49
Steger M. F., Frazier P., Oishi S., Kaler M. (2006) The Meaning in Life Questionnaire: Assessing the presence of and search for meaning in life. Journal of Counseling Psychology 53: 80–93
Stewart A. (1982) The course of individual adaptation to life changes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 42: 1100–1113
Tatzel M. (2002) Money worlds and well-being: An integration of money dispositions, materialism and price-related behavior. Journal of Economic Psychology 23: 103–126
Tatzel M. (2003) The art of buying: Coming to terms with money and materialism. Journal of Happiness Studies 4: 405–435
Taylor S. E. (1983) Adjustment to threatening events: A theory of cognitive adaptation. American Psychologist 38: 1161–1173
Weiner E. (1999) The meaning of education for university students with a psychiatric disability: A grounded theory analysis. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal 22: 403–409
Wong P. T. P., Fry P. S. (1998) The human quest for meaning: A handbook of psychological research and clinical application. Erlbaum, Mahwah, NJ
Zika S., Chamberlain K. (1987) Relation of hassles and personality to subjective well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 53: 155–162
About this article
Cite this article
Henderson-King, D., Mitchell, A.M. Do materialism, intrinsic aspirations, and meaning in life predict students’ meanings of education?. Soc Psychol Educ 14, 119–134 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11218-010-9133-z
- Intrinsic aspirations
- Undergraduate students