AT LAUREL SCHOOL
A SERIES OF RESEARCH AND INFORMATIONAL PUBLICATIONS BY CRG CRG | PUTTING THE WORLD’S BEST RESEARCH TO WORK FOR GIRLS
by Tori S. Cordiano, Ph.D.
PURPOSE AND RESILIENCE
Purpose is “a stable and generalized intention to accomplish something that is at once meaningful to the self and of consequence to the world beyond the self.”1 Although purpose involves setting and striving toward long-term goals, these goals extend beyond the self and include a desire to make a difference in the world. The construct of purpose operates independently from intellectual ability2, race/ethnicity, and socioeconomic status.3 Sense of purpose evolves as children age; although younger children are less able to identify long-term purpose, they are still able to set short-term goals related to purpose, such as participating in a classroom service project or practicing their role in a grade-wide performance.4 Beginning in adolescence, children are better able to conceptualize long-term goals and to develop a sense of self within the bigger picture of the world.
[ PURPOSE AND RESILIENCE ]
...research on children and adolescents links the development of purpose to a host of psychological, emotional, and social benefits.
MEASURING PURPOSE One way that purpose has been conceptualized in the research is through engagement in volunteering and other forms of service to society. Another way of measuring purpose is through the use of questionnaires and rating forms. Measures of purpose ask questions related to a person’s sense of fulfillment, goal-setting and achievement, and areas of interest and passion.5
BENEFITS OF PURPOSE FOR CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS Although purpose has been studied less in children than in adults, the available research on children and adolescents links the development of purpose to a host of psychological, emotional, and social benefits. Purpose can help adolescents with developing a sense of identity.6 Having a strong sense of purpose has been found to increase coping by motivating children to manage stressors that threaten to interfere with their commitment to purpose-related goals.7 Purpose can strengthen students’ commitment to their academic work8, improve academic achievement9, and contribute to a stronger sense of intrinsic work value and community involvement.10 Many adolescents engage in service, with estimates as high as half of all high school students completing some volunteer work.11 Researchers have linked volunteering with positive identity development during adolescence. Specifically, volunteering can challenge and stretch students’ perceptions of what they can do and broaden their sense of connection to others in society.12 Compared to other extracurricular activities, those that involve service toward others are associated with positive educational paths and less risky behavior in adolescents.13
Service learning projects provide an opportunity for students to act on purpose-related goals through service to the broader community. Research on service learning indicates that the most beneficial programs challenge students, give them real responsibilities, and involve them in decision-making and planning.16, 17 It is also important for programs to designate time for reflection on purpose and the experience of volunteering.18
THE POWER OF “SPARKS” interesting area of research looks * Aatparticularly the relationship between children’s “sparks” — their areas of deep passion and interest — and their overall well-being.19 These sparks are another way of conceptualizing a sense of purpose. When children discover sparks, feel empowered to pursue them, and are encouraged by adults to do so, there are lasting benefits for academic achievement and social-emotional development. Importantly, there are also lasting benefits for the broader society. When children feel that their passions and interests are valued and important, they in turn want to use those interests to contribute to society through higher rates of volunteering and civic engagement.
FOSTERING PURPOSE IN CHILDREN Opportunities for helping children and adolescents develop a strong sense of purpose exist at home, at school, and through extracurricular activities. At home, parents can influence their children’s volunteering by modeling personal involvement in the community and providing warm reinforcement of children’s involvement in extracurricular activities.14 Teachers can foster the development of purpose across subjects by providing opportunities for students to: • take moral action • discuss current events • become involved in student government, and • apply their knowledge of the broader world to service learning projects.15
GENDER AND PURPOSE Most of the research on purpose and gender focuses on volunteering and service. While some studies indicate that young females are more likely to volunteer than young males20, others have not found significant gender differences in rates of volunteering.21 Interestingly, some research suggests that an ethical emphasis on caring for others plays a role in who decides to volunteer. Females and those who identify with a female gender role orientation appear more likely to embody this “ethic of care”22 which translates into higher rates of volunteering among these groups.23 Research on volunteering within families has found that girls are more likely to begin volunteer work when their mothers are involved in volunteering.24
PURPOSE AND RESILIENCE [ ENDNOTES ] 1
Damon, W., Menon, J., & Bronk, K.C. (2003). The development of purpose during adolescence. Applied Developmental Science, 7, 119-128, p.121.
Bronk, K.C., Finch, W.H., & Talib, T.L., (2010). Purpose in life among high ability adolescents. High Ability Studies, 21, 133-145.
Scales, P.C., Benson, P.L., & Roehlkepartain, E.C. (2011). Adolescent Thriving: The Role of Sparks, Relationships, and Empowerment. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 40, 263-277.
Van Dyke, C.J., & Elias, M.J. (2007). How forgiveness, purpose, and religiosity are related to the mental health and well-being of youth: A review of the literature. Mental Health, Religion, and Culture, 10, 395-415.
Bundick, M., Andrews, M., Jones, A., Mariano, J.M., Bronk, K.C., & Damon, W. (2006). Revised youth purpose survey. Unpublished instrument, Stanford Center on Adolescence, Stanford CA.
Bronk, K.C. (2011). The role of purpose in life in healthy identity formation: A grounded model. New Directions for Youth Development, 132, 31-44.
Van Dyke & Elias. (2007).
Bronk, Finch, & Talib. (2010).
Koshy, S.I., & Mariano, J.M. (2011). Promoting youth purpose: A review of the literature. New Directions for Youth Development, 132, 13-29.
Van Dyke & Elias. (2007).
Schmidt, J.A., Shumow, L., & Kackar, H. (2007). Adolescents’ participation in service activities and its impact on academic, behavioral, and civic outcomes. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 36, 127-140.
Yates, M., & Youniss, J. (1996). A developmental perspective on community service in adolescence. Social Development, 5, 85-111.
Eccles, J.S., & Barber, B.L. (1999). Student council, volunteering, basketball, or marching band: What kind of extracurricular involvement matters? Journal of Adolescent Research, 14, 10-43.
Fletcher, A.C., Elder, G.H., & Mekos, D. (2000). Parental influences on adolescent involvement in community activities. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 10, 29-48.
Koshy & Mariano. (2011).
Morgan, W., & Streb, M. (2001). Building citizenship: How student voice in service-learning develops civic values. Social Science Quarterly, 82, 154-169.
Stukas, A.A., Clary, E.G., & Snyder, M. (1999). Service learning: Who benefits and why. Social Policy Report: Society for Research on Child Development, 13, 1-19.
Leming, J.S. (2001). Integrating a structured ethical reflection program curriculum into high school community service experiences: Impact on students’ sociomoral development. Adolescence, 36, 33-45.
Scales, Benson, & Roehlkepartain. (2011).
Keith, A., Nelson, B., Schlabach, C., & Thompson, D. (1990). The relationship between parental employment and three measures of early adolescent responsibility: Family-related, personal, and social. Journal of Early Adolescence, 10, 399-415.
van Goethem, A.A.J., van Hoof, A., van Hoof, M.A.G., Raaijmakers, A.W., Boom, J., & de Castro, B.O. (2012). The role of adolescents’ morality and identity in volunteering. Age ] and gender differences in a process model. Journal of Adolescence, 35, 509-520.
Gilligan, C. (1982). In a different voice: Psychological theory and women’s development. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Karniol, R., Grosz, E., & Schorr, I. (2003). Caring, gender role orientation, and volunteering. Sex roles, 49, 11-19.
Mustillo, S., Wilson, J., & Lynch, S.M. (2004). Legacy volunteering: A test of two theories of intergenerational transmission. Journal of Marriage and Family, 66, 530-541.
Benson, P.L., Galbraith, J.A., & Espeland, P. (2012). What kids need to succeed: Proven, practical ways to raise good kids. Minneapolis: Free Spirit Press.
Damon, W. (2008). The path to purpose. New York: Free Press.
Weissbourd, R. (2009). The parents we mean to be: How well-intentioned adults undermine children’s moral and emotional development. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Muth, J.J. (2002). The three questions. New York: Scholastic Press.
Lundsten, A., Anton, C., & Wilber, L. (2011). Lend a hand: Girl-sized ways of helping others. Middleton, WI: American Girl Publishing.
Lewis, B. (2009). The kid’s guide to service projects. Minneapolis: Free Spirit Press.
RESOURCES FOR TEACHERS BOOK WHAT KIDS NEED TO SUCCEED25 A guide for teachers, parents, and other adults to help children find their passions and achieve their goals, by psychologist Peter Benson.
RESOURCES FOR PARENTS BOOKS THE PATH TO PURPOSE26 A guide for parents and teachers to help children and teens find purpose and fulfill their potential, based on the empirical work of Stanford psychologist William Damon. THE PARENTS WE MEAN TO BE27 A resource for parents on guiding children’s moral development, based on the empirical work of Harvard psychologist Richard Weissbourd.
RESOURCES FOR KIDS ONLINE http://www.habitat.org/youthprograms/28 Provides developmentally-appropriate opportunities for children, as well as teachers and parents, to become involved with Habitat for Humanity.
BOOKS THE THREE QUESTIONS29 A retelling of a short story by Tolstoy that ponders questions related to purpose and compassion. LEND A HAND: GIRL-SIZED WAYS OF HELPING OTHERS30 A guide for girls ages 9 and up on how to make large and small differences in the world around them, from the American Girl library. THE KID’S GUIDE TO SERVICE PROJECTS31 The most recent edition of a best-selling guide for children and teens to begin their own small or large service projects.
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