5 Ways to Foster Purpose in Adolescents

by Greater Good Science Center

Dr. Kendall Cotton Bronk from the Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences at Claremont Graduate University shared her research on how purpose affects youth on Greater Good magazine. 

Two findings emerged from the research. First, young people who lead a life of purpose have better physical and psychological health, including better sleep, less chronic pain, and increased happiness and life satisfaction. Second, only one in five high-school-aged students report feeling that they are leading a life of purpose. 

Given these findings, Dr. Bronk outlined five approaches parents and mentors can use to help foster purpose in teens. 

  • Model purpose. Share with your teen what gives you purpose in life to help them begin to think about their own path. 
  • Help them identify their strengths and values. Purpose emerges when a person applies their strengths and values to make meaningful change in the world.
  • Foster gratitude. Invite your teen to reflect on the blessings they have in their life, which can give them ideas for how they want to give back. 
  • Encourage them to reach out to friends and family. Your teen can ask several adults who know them well to weigh in on questions such as, What do you think are my greatest strengths? What do you think I really enjoy doing? How do you think I could make a mark on the world?
  • Focus on the far horizon. Challenge your teen to imagine their life decades into the future. What will they be doing? What is important to them? Who is in their life? Having them imagine what they want out of life helps them to take steps toward achieving it. 


To find out more about purpose from the Greater Good Science Center, read the full article here: 5 Ways to Foster Purpose in Adolescents.