Department or Program


Second Department or Program

German and Russian Studies


The purpose of this study was to investigate the sources of meaning and purpose in life for adolescents, and to examine if and how cultural factors and the adolescent period of development might influence the sources from which meaning and purpose is derived. The presence of meaning in life has been shown to have physical and psychological health benefits (Steger, 2017); however, most research has only been conducted with adults. Due to this, the surveys that have traditionally been used to assess meaning in life seem to be more relevant to adults than youth. This study sought to discover sources of meaning and purpose in the lives of adolescents through semi-structured interviews with 6th through 8th grade students in Germany and Maine to learn what they found personally meaningful. This approach allowed the adolescents to share their own ideas and show their interpretation of those terms. The data was analyzed using Grounded Theory Methodology (Glaser & Strauss, 1967) to let themes emerge. The main aspects of culture investigated for this project were the school systems and the cultural ideas of meaning and purpose transmitted through popular culture media, such as magazines. This research is important to the field of psychology due to the lack of qualitative research and research done on meaning in life with non-adult participants. The study’s results indicated that there were similarities in the developmental stage of the adolescents in both cultures, indicating that there may be some aspects of development that are present across these cultural contexts; however, some cultural differences, particularly pertaining to views on purpose, and the experience of life were found. These differences demonstrate that meaning and purpose are thought of in different ways in these two cultures, demonstrating that meaning in life may be culturally variable.

Level of Access

Open Access

First Advisor

Fraser-Thill, Rebecca

Second Advisor

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Date of Graduation


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Number of Pages


Components of Thesis

1 pdf file

Open Access

Available to all.