© 2014

Purpose in Life

A Critical Component of Optimal Youth Development


  • The only book that synthesizes, the growing body of research on the topic of purpose in life in a comprehensive manner

  • Positions the concept of purpose in life in the broader field of positive psychology

  • Highlights the critical role of purpose in optimal human functioning


Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-x
  2. Kendall Cotton Bronk
    Pages 1-19
  3. Kendall Cotton Bronk
    Pages 21-46
  4. Kendall Cotton Bronk
    Pages 47-68
  5. Kendall Cotton Bronk
    Pages 69-89
  6. Kendall Cotton Bronk
    Pages 91-107
  7. Kendall Cotton Bronk
    Pages 109-128
  8. Kendall Cotton Bronk
    Pages 129-143
  9. Kendall Cotton Bronk
    Pages 145-162
  10. Kendall Cotton Bronk
    Pages 163-175

About this book


This volume integrates and makes sense of the growing body of theoretical and empirical research conducted on purpose across the lifespan.  It opens with a comprehensive yet detailed discussion of the definitions of purpose most commonly used in studies on the topic.  In addition to defining the construct, the author also discusses its philosophical roots and distinguishes it from related concepts, including meaning, goals, and ultimate concerns.  This volume discusses the disparate perspectives on the construct and addresses the tendency to position purpose in the broader frame of positive psychology.  It synthesizes distinct strands of research on purpose across the lifespan, it explores studies on the daily and longer-term experience of a purposeful existence, and it delves deeply into the wide range of measurement tools that have been used to assess the purpose construct.  Further, it examines the prevalence and forms of purpose among diverse groups of youth and discusses the developmental trajectory of the construct. Other topics discussed include the central role of purpose in supporting optimal well-being and positive youth development.  The book closes with empirically-supported steps adults, educators, and mentors can take to effectively and intentionally foster purpose among young people and makes recommendations for future research on the topic.


Adulthood and Life Purpose Definition of Meaning in Life Developmental Psychology Emotional Development Flourishing and Human Development Measuring Purpose in Life Optimal Development Optimal Human Functioning Positive Psychology Positive youth development Purpose across the Lifespan Purpose in Life Quality of Life Thriving and Purposes in Life Types of Purposes in Life

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.Ball State UniversityMuncieUSA

About the authors

Dr. Kendall Cotton Bronk is an educational psychologist interested in positive youth development and the moral growth of young people. For the past 12 years she has investigated these topics through the lens of young people’s life purposes. Her research has explored the relationship between life purposes and healthy growth, ways young people discover life purposes, and the developmental trajectory of youth with strong commitments to various life purposes. A surprising finding emerged from her longitudinal research on the topic; many of the young people with life purposes ended up becoming entrepreneurs. In order to fill a personally meaningful social need, they launched their own businesses. Consequently, Dr. Bronk’s research has more recently focused on how young business leaders develop and on the important role of humility among effective entrepreneurs.  In addition to her substantive interests, Dr. Bronk has also helped define and outline the parameters of the exemplar methodology, an approach that allows researchers to gain a view not only of typical and deficient growth, but also of exemplary development, which is critical for a full understanding of human development. Dr. Bronk teaches undergraduate, masters, and doctoral classes on adolescent development, lifespan development, and research methods. After graduating with a B.S. from Northwestern University, Dr. Bronk earned her doctorate from Stanford University.

Bibliographic information


From the reviews:

“In her book Purpose in Life: A Critical Component of Optimal Youth Development, Kendall Cotton Bronk presents a review of research on the topic of purpose and highlights her own and others’ research from the Youth Purpose Project as well as many other studies on the topic. … This book will be of interest and value to graduate students and faculty who are conducting studies on the topic.” (Patricia T. Ashton and Shanee Toledano, PsycCRITIQUES, Vol. 59 (15), April, 2014)