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The Development of Life Purpose in Pepperdine University Undergraduates Cindy Miller-Perrin Don Thompson Pepperdine University Faculty Conference October.

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Presentation on theme: "The Development of Life Purpose in Pepperdine University Undergraduates Cindy Miller-Perrin Don Thompson Pepperdine University Faculty Conference October."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Development of Life Purpose in Pepperdine University Undergraduates Cindy Miller-Perrin Don Thompson Pepperdine University Faculty Conference October 5, 2007

2 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

3 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

4 Survey Instruments Faith and Spirituality Identity Life Purpose Life Purpose Barriers

5 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

6 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.”

7 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.

8 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

9 Longitudinal Participants Response Rates from initial sample of 300  Baseline – 38%  First-Year – 68%  Sophomore – 64%  Junior – 83%  Senior – 70% Overall Demographics  60% female; 40% male  70% White; 7% Latino; 5% Asian; 3% Black; 15% Other

10 Strength of Belief, Faith Behavior, and Application of Faith

11 My faith/religion is NOT very important to me.

12 Identity Development

13 Life Purpose Barriers

14 Correlations Between Faith and Life Purpose Measures Service Belief Faith Application Faith Behavior Spirit Transcend Faith Maturity Discernment Belief Faith Application Spirit Transcend Faith Maturity

15 Correlations Between Identity and Life Purpose Measures Life Purpose: Discernment and Service Diffusion Moratorium Achievement

16 Additional Factors that Contribute to the Development of Life Purpose Gender International Experiences

17 Gender Differences Related to Faith, Identity, and Life Purpose

18 Senior Participants Sample of senior undergraduates  Sample size = 283  56% female, 44% male  64% White, 10% Asian, 7% Black, 10% Latino, 9% Multiracial/Other

19 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

20 Gender Differences in Perceptions of Personal and Sociocultural Barriers

21 Predictors of Life Purpose: Females Faith Maturity Achieved Identity Moratorium Identity Life Purpose Personal Barriers

22 Predictors of Life Purpose: Males Achieved Identity Life Purpose

23 International Program Experience at Seaver College Provide students a life changing international experience designed for intellectual, social, personal and spiritual transformation.

24 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

25 Senior Sample: Faith Attitudes and Behaviors

26 Senior Sample: Life Purpose Scores

27 Strength of Belief Scores for First- Year and Senior Time Periods

28 Faith Application Scores for First- Year and Senior Time Periods

29 Life Purpose Discernment Scores for First-Year and Senior Time Periods

30 Life Purpose Service Scores for First-Year and Senior Time Periods

31 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

32 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.


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