The Development of Life Purpose in Pepperdine University Undergraduates Cindy Miller-Perrin Don Thompson Pepperdine University Faculty Conference October.
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The Development of Life Purpose in Pepperdine University Undergraduates Cindy Miller-Perrin Don Thompson Pepperdine University Faculty Conference October 5, 2007
Research Hypotheses The college years are a critical time for the development of faith, identity, and one’s sense of life purpose The development of life purpose is related to: Faith Identity Life Purpose Barriers Additional variables examined: Gender International Experience
Research Methodologies Longitudinal Design Undergraduates surveyed at baseline and every spring semester of college career Senior Sample Seniors who participated in longitudinal study plus random sample of seniors not previously surveyed
Survey Instruments Faith and Spirituality Identity Life Purpose Life Purpose Barriers
Faith and Spirituality SubscalesSample Items Strength of Belief (alpha =.81) I believe in God. Faith Behavior (alpha =.88) How often have you read a devotional, religious, or spiritual book in the last year? Application of Faith (alpha =.90) I depend on my faith in God for decision-making and direction. Faith Maturity (alpha =.91) My faith shapes how I think and act each and every day. Spiritual Transcendence (alpha =.89) I believe death is a doorway to another plane of existence
Ego-Identity Status Measures identity along four dimensions: Diffusion: no exploration or commitment “I haven’t really considered politics. It just doesn’t excite me much.” Foreclosure: no exploration, but commitment “My parents decided a long time ago what I should go into for employment and I’m following through with their plans.” Moratorium: exploration without commitment “Religion is confusing to me right now. I keep changing my views on what is right and wrong for me.” Achievement: exploration and commitment “It took me a while to figure it out, but now I really know what I want for a career.”
Life Purpose: Discernment and Action Through Service SubscalesSample Items Discernment (alpha =.83) I have a good sense of my purpose in life. I know of the many ways that I can use my gifts and talents within the context of my professional career. I have a good sense of God’s purpose for my life. Action Through Service (alpha =.70) I am motivated to choose a career that will enable me to provide some type of service to others. I feel a deep sense of responsibility for reducing pain and suffering in the world.
Life Purpose Barriers Subscales Barriers to Life Purpose Personal Barriers (alpha =.84) Fear Emotional Problems Self-doubt Lack of motivation Interpersonal Barriers (alpha =.86) A parent A friend A boy/girl friend A teacher or professor Social and Cultural Barriers (alpha =.90) Lack of financial resources Feeling pressure or a desire to get married Feeling that my opportunities are limited by the gender stereotypes of society
Females Score Significantly Higher on Nearly All Measures of Faith and Life Purpose Faith MaturitySpiritual Transcendence Strength of BeliefFaith Application Faith BehaviorLife Purpose as Service
Gender Differences in Perceptions of Personal and Sociocultural Barriers
Predictors of Life Purpose: Females Faith Maturity Achieved Identity Moratorium Identity Life Purpose Personal Barriers
Predictors of Life Purpose: Males Achieved Identity Life Purpose
International Program Experience at Seaver College Provide students a life changing international experience designed for intellectual, social, personal and spiritual transformation.
Senior and Longitudinal Samples Senior Sample IP Group = 133 seniors who participated in an International Program No IP Group = 150 seniors who did not participate in an International Program No significant differences between groups on demographic variables (e.g., age, ethnicity, faith tradition, gender, & socioeconomic status) Longitudinal Sample Analyzed sub sample matched on age and sex IP Group = 43 students who attended an international program during their sophomore year No IP Group = 43 students who did not attend an international program Examined first-year versus senior year
Strength of Belief Scores for First- Year and Senior Time Periods
Faith Application Scores for First- Year and Senior Time Periods
Life Purpose Discernment Scores for First-Year and Senior Time Periods
Life Purpose Service Scores for First-Year and Senior Time Periods
Conclusions Developmental Changes Strength of Faith, Faith Behaviors, and Identity Status vary over time Personal Barriers increase over time Sophomore year appears to be critical Faith and Identity are Related to Life Purpose Across the College Years Gender Differences Females demonstrate greater faith maturity and spirituality, sense of life purpose, and perceptions of personal and sociocultural barriers than males Best predictors of life purpose vary by gender International Living and Learning Experiences associated with increased faith, spirituality, and sense of life purpose
Recommendations Helping Students Discover Their Life Purpose Encourage Questioning of Life Assumptions Introduce students to experiences outside comfort zone – e.g. Service Learning Experiences; Fieldtrips Expect Identity and Faith Crises Tolerate discomfort; provide confidence and hope Consider Gender Perceptions and influences differ Provide support as students explore and make value/faith commitments Facilitate communities of mutual dependency and trust. Provide mentoring: opportunities for the mentor- protégé connection.