Purpose, self-other overlap, and subjective well-being: A cluster analysis of distinct features of purpose
A substantial body of research suggests possessing a purpose in life is beneficial for well-being. Yet, the diverse conceptual and methodological approaches that comprise this field vary widely in the mechanisms offered to explain these benefits. In this exploratory study, I consider three prominent approaches to the study of purpose in life that have emerged in recent decades: (1) the psychological well-being approach, (2) the beyond-the-self approach, and (3) the self-organizing life aim approach. Using measures designed to assess purpose uniquely within each approach, their combined association with indicators of subjective well-being are examined. A hierarchical cluster analysis conducted with a sample of adults (N = 935) indicated the presence of four distinct clusters: self-focused, meandering, high purpose, and high purpose & self-other overlap. Two clusters, high purpose and high purpose & self-other overlap, reported the highest levels of subject well-being overall, yet differed significantly on positive affect. Namely, high purpose & self-other overlap reported the highest levels of positive affect overall, suggesting that perceiving greater self-other overlap is important in optimizing the subjective well-being benefits of purpose. Overall, findings from this study motivate more person-centered analyses that integrate various approaches to purpose, and the discussion considers the promise of cross-cultural research into the various ways people feel connected to others.
Beyond-The-Self; cluster analysis; purpose; self; self-other overlap; subjective well-being
M.A., Human Development
Master of Arts
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International
dissertation or thesis
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