Normative Changes in Meaning in Life and Links to Adjustment in Adolescents From Asian American Backgrounds

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Meaning in life is developmentally important, yet few studies have systematically tracked its normative changes over time. Using longitudinal data from 158 Asian American adolescents (60% female; 74% second-generation), yearly changes in search for and presence of meaning and their associations with each other were examined. Despite relatively stable search for meaning, presence of meaning incrementally increased with each high school year. Neither concurrent nor lagged associations between search for and presence of meaning were found. Although search for meaning was positively associated with school motivation and school utility, it was maladaptive in predicting higher depression, negative emotions, and lower self-esteem. In contrast, presence of meaning was consistently beneficial, being associated with lower depression and negative emotions, and higher self-esteem, positive emotions, and school adjustment. Interactive associations were also found whereby the effects of search for meaning were stronger for those with low presence of meaning. The discussion highlights implications regarding the formation of meaning among Asian American adolescents and its multifaceted role in adjustment.

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