Prior studies have found that youth reporting a general sense that “I have a purpose” also describe having social supports that enhance thriving. This study links specific social supports to specific purposes described by youth. We examined whether developmental level, social-structural supports of gender and ethnicity, and close relationship supports of family and friends explained: (1) how likely youth were to describe three dimensions of a specific purpose content (intention, engagement, and beyond-the-self reasons), and (2) how youth with specified purposes used social supports to pursue those purposes. Youth in higher grade levels were more likely to describe their future plans, activities that pursued those plans, and reasons that considered consequences to others as well as themselves. Nonwhite ethnicity and higher friend support also increased the likelihood of youth expressing future plans. Youth with purposes sought or created—then integrated into a tailored support network—purpose-specific benefits from their families, opportunities to engage, and institutions.
Published online before print November 2, 2012.