The Development of Purpose in Life Among Adolescents Who Experience Marginalization: Potential Opportunities and Obstacles

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Abstract

In recent decades there has been a dramatic increase in the amount of research focused on purpose in life, demonstrating a host of benefits that emerge for individuals committed to a purpose. As with other constructs in the positive youth development framework, there is a paucity of work investigating how experiences of marginalization impact the development of this psychological asset among adolescents. To catalyze research on this front, we draw attention to potential opportunities and obstacles associated with experiences of marginalization and how they might affect an adolescent developing a purpose in life. Like García Coll and colleagues’ (1996) integrative model, our perspective includes sociocultural factors (e.g., social position, adaptive culture), an emphasis on intragroup variability, and discussion of potentially promoting and inhibiting aspects of marginalization. Following a description of existing research on purpose development during adolescence, we discuss how experiences of marginalization could contour the development of self-integrative, strong, and articulated purpose among adolescents. To conclude, specific considerations for future research are outlined, including how existing definitions of and tools for measuring purpose can be adapted to produce a scientific literature that values and includes the normative purpose development of adolescents who experience marginalization.

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