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Profiles of a Developmental Asset: Youth Purpose as a Context for Hope and Well-Being

Abstract

While having a purpose in life has been theorized as a developmental asset, the extent to which adolescents cultivate a meaningful sense of direction is not well understood. In the present study, cluster analysis was used to classify adolescents by levels of purpose exploration and commitment. The sample (N = 318; 55% female) consisted of youth aged 14–18 and was predominantly White/non-Hispanic (76.3%). Results supported four meaningful yet distinguishable profiles of youth purpose that are largely consistent with theories on identity formation: Achieved, Foreclosed, Uncommitted, and Diffused. Hypothesized linkages with affect and hope were established across the profiles such that positive emotions and goal-directed thinking were most apparent among Achieved and Foreclosed youth and least apparent among Diffused and Uncommitted youth. Overall, findings demonstrate the inherent complexity in adolescents’ engagement with purpose and suggest a correspondence between stronger commitments to purpose and youths’ sense of personal agency and well-being.

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Acknowledgments

This work is funded by a Stanford Center on Adolescence Youth Purpose Research Award, which is supported by the John Templeton Foundation and the Thrive Foundation for Youth.

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Correspondence to Anthony L. Burrow.

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Burrow, A.L., O’Dell, A.C. & Hill, P.L. Profiles of a Developmental Asset: Youth Purpose as a Context for Hope and Well-Being. J Youth Adolescence 39, 1265–1273 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-009-9481-1

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-009-9481-1

Keywords

  • Purpose
  • Adolescents
  • Identity
  • Positive youth development