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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Purpose and Meaning, Ethnic Identity, and


Purpose and meaning are primary facets of eudaimonic well-being, yet are understudied in adolescent development. Using data from 579 adolescents from Latin American, Asian, and European backgrounds, demographic differences in purpose and meaning, links with psychological and academic adjustment, links with ethnic identity, and the mediating role of purpose and meaning in associations between ethnic identity and adjustment were examined. Although no generational or gender differences in purpose and meaning were found, Asians reported higher search for meaning than did Latin Americans and Europeans. Presence of meaning was positively associated with self-esteem, academic attitudes and motivation, daily well-being, and ethnic affirmation and exploration, whereas search for meaning was related to lower self-esteem and less stability in daily well-being. Presence of meaning mediated associations between ethnic identity and adjustment, explaining 28-52% of the initial effect of ethnic identity and providing one mechanism to account for ethnic identity’s protective effect on development. Key Words: purpose and meaning in life, ethnic identity, adolescent adjustment

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