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Promoting youth purpose: Toward a theory and practice of social supports

Publication Authors: 
Jenni Menon Mariano

A growing body of research suggests that having a positive purpose in life positions young people to thrive. Purpose refers to intentions to accomplish things that are important to the self and are also directed at making a positive impact in the world beyond self. However, little is known about how communities can support the emergence of youth purpose. Two studies examined relations among youth purpose and social supports. In study one, measures of purpose and social supports were correlated in a sample of 59 adolescent girls A large effect was found for finding purpose and parental support, and moderate effects were found for finding purpose and teacher, close friend, and school support. A moderate effect was found for seeking a purpose and parental support. In study two, stratified purposeful sampling identified seventeen intense cases of combined low and high purpose and social support. A grounded theory method found emergent themes in semi-structured interview data pertaining to the question: What are the sources and nature of support experienced by these adolescents both in general, and specifically in relation to their chosen purposes in life? Implications for practice relating to these and the author’s other purpose research findings are discussed.