How Stable is Purpose in Adolescence?

Authors: 
Seana Moran, Research Associate

In studies of purpose with adults, purpose is defined as a stable beacon or reference to which individuals calibrate their goals, identities, contributions, and meanings about life events. Yet, adolescence is a time of tremendous growth, exploration, and broadening of life horizons. If purpose is a developmental phenomenon—that is, if it changes over time in qualitative ways—is it helpful to define purpose as “stable”? Which aspects or dimensions of purpose are stable and which fluctuate or change from age 12-22? What are the conceptual opportunities and methodological challenges brought by a more dynamic perspective on purpose?

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