Introduction: Whereas evidence has shown that a sense of purpose is linked to optimal adjustment, longitudinal work investigating the development of purpose identification as well as its effect on psychological functioning among non-Western samples during adolescence is needed. Methods: Three hundred and eighty-seven senior high school students (253 female, 65.37%; mean age = 15.76 years at the first investigation) from Taiwan completed surveys four times beginning in the fall of tenth grade and ending in the spring of eleventh grade with a six-month interval. Using self-ratings, purpose identification was evaluated in all four assessments and psychological functioning was examined through life satisfaction and depressive symptoms in the first and the last survey. Results: Growth curve analyses revealed an increased slope in purpose identification over the first two years of high school, and such a trajectory was similar across boys and girls. Additionally, increases in purpose identification predicted enhanced life satisfaction and reduced depressive symptoms among both boys and girls. There was only one gender difference: The negative association between purpose identification trajectory and depressive symptoms was stronger for girls than for boys. Conclusions: There is an increase in the development of identified purpose during middle adolescence among high school students in Taiwan. Such change not only promotes life satisfaction in adolescents but is also preventive of adolescent depression. As such, the current findings highlight the significance for adolescents to discover and commit to a purpose.
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