Operationalizing the Construct of Purpose in Life: Development of a Four Factor Measure of Purpose in Life




Stephens, Olivia Lucille

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The overall goal of this study was to help bridge the gap between theoretical and empirical literature on purpose in life. To do so, we developed a new measure of purpose in life with items intended to reflect three theoretically important aspects of the construct. These were: an overarching aim that is engaged through smaller goals or tasks, is connected to something personally meaningful, and is oriented at helping someone or something beyond oneself (Damon et al. 2003). Factor analysis revealed four significantly correlated factors instead of the hypothesized three. In addition, total scores and each subscale demonstrated high internal reliability and convergent validity was sound. Finally, results showed that our measure, the Purpose in Life – External Aim scale, holds incremental validity in predicting positive indices of well-being, identity commitment, and belongingness, over a popular existing measure of purpose in life. These findings help to bridge the gap between theoretical definitions of life and how the construct is measured in empirical studies. Furthermore, it has implications for how researchers design intervention programs centered around fostering purpose in life for at-risk youth.


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Emerging Adulthood, Meaning in Life, Positive Psychology, Positive Youth Develpment, Purpose in Life, Well-being