Promoting youth purpose: a review of the literature

New Dir Youth Dev. 2011 Winter;2011(132):13-29, 7. doi: 10.1002/yd.425.


This article reviews the research literature on teaching and supporting purpose in adolescence and young adulthood. An extensive search revealed that most studies on youth purpose examine psychological correlates and neglect instructional and social supports. School is an effective context for fostering purpose, yet reported approaches for explicitly instructing for purpose are rare after the early 1990s, reflecting a trend away from a language of purpose as a discrete endeavor in education since at least the 1960s. Furthermore, research on the outcomes of early purpose instruction curricula is not present in empirical journal articles. Nevertheless, a concern for fostering youth purpose has not disappeared from education; rather, it is subsumed under approaches that foster more comprehensive positive student outcomes, such as character, civic engagement, and positive youth development. Key curricular approaches to these outcomes are therefore also reviewed and examined for insights into how purpose can be fostered.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Development*
  • Character
  • Curriculum
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Goals
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Program Development*
  • Social Change*
  • Social Perception
  • Social Support*
  • Teaching / methods
  • Young Adult