Adolescent purpose development: Exploring empathy, discovering roles, shifting priorities, and creating pathways

Heather Malin, Timothy S. Reilly, Brandy Quinn, and Seana Moran
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Journal of Research on Adolescence, 24(1), 186–199. DOI: 10.1111/jora.12051

The development of youth purpose was explored in a qualitative, cross-sequential study. Interviews about life goals and reasons for pursuing them were conducted with 146 adolescents from four age groups (sixth grade, ninth grade, 12th grade and college sophomores or juniors). Participants completed the interview twice in two years. Each cohort focused on different aspects of purpose: middle school youth desired to be empathic; high school youth focused on finding a role to engage their purpose; high school graduates on re-evaluating their priorities through transitions; and college students on developing a pathway to support their purpose. These phases were impacted by several factors, including transitions, identity formation processes, and external supports and influences.

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