Methods for Studying Purpose Development Across the Life-Span

Heather Malin (Organizer and Presenter), Kendall Bronk, Dustin Hunt & Anthony Burrow
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Purpose is a relatively recent entry into the study of developmental phenomena. It has characteristics that present methodological challenges and invite new and adapted methodologies. First, purpose is a construct at the high end of the developmental spectrum, and cannot be fully understood through methods that were created to study deficient and normative development. Second, it is an existential construct, perceived and experienced by the individual, and challenging to observe from the outside. This symposium examines methods that have been used recently to study how purpose develops and the role it plays in adaptive development. Each of the talks explores a different method—exemplar interviews, historical document analysis, cohort-sequential qualitative analysis, and field experiment study—to explain how the method works in studying life-span development of purpose, and demonstrate what we can learn about development of phenomena such as purpose through these methods.


  • Heather Malin (Stanford University)
    "Understanding how Purpose Develops through Adolescence Using a Cross-
    Sequential Qualitative Design"
  • Kendall Cotton Bronk & Dustin Hunt (Ball State University)
    "Using the Exemplar Methodology to Examine Developmental Constructs"
  • Anthony L. Burrow (Cornell University)
    "Derailed by Diversity?: Purpose Buffers the Relationship between Ethnic
    Composition on Trains and Passenger Negative Mood"