Shattering the glass ceiling through purpose development
Adolescent girls have reached unprecedented levels of success in today’s society. Simultaneously, many adolescent girls face adversities and their mental health remains a concern (Schramal et al., 2010; Spencer et al., 2018;). Positive Youth Development scholars continues to explore how society can best support adolescent girls as they navigate key developmental milestones (Lerner et al., 2005; Damon, 2004). Importantly, research has solidified a number of benefits of Youth Purpose (i.e., a long-term, committed, directed aspiration, with a prosocial desire). Youth Purpose is considered a key developmental asset, and contributes to thriving. Indeed, having a sense of purpose can serve as a protective factor for individuals and help bolster their overall well-being (Liang et al., 2018; Liang et al, 2017; Damon et al., 2003). Youth purpose along with Post Traumatic Growth can positively impact individuals facing adversities (Kashdan & McKnight, 2009; Tedeschi & Lawrence, 2004). Similarly, mentoring relationships are associated with numerous positive outcomes including the development of purpose (Dubois & Rhodes, 2006; Lerner, 2004; Liang et al., 2017). While youth purpose is well documented (Damon et al., 2003; Hill et al., 2010), there is limited research on purpose development for adolescent girls from marginalized backgrounds. Given the profound benefits of purpose, additional research is warranted on how purpose is cultivated in marginalized adolescent girls. This dissertation sought to expand the literature and better understand how adversity relates to purpose development, during the adolescent years and how mentoring relationships can contribute to this development. Additional research is needed to focus on one of the most vulnerable populations, adolescent girls from marginalized backgrounds, and to discover ways to help protect their mental health and well- being as they continue to thrive in society. This study included 13 interviews with adolescent girls from marginalized backgrounds. Thematic analysis was used to analyze the data and five major themes emerged. Analyses suggested that while these participants experiences endured adverse experiences, they maintained a positive outlook on life, and their future. With the help of their mentors, and through the development of critical consciousness, participants were able to utilize adverse experiences to help inform their sense of purpose. Data was collected during the COVID-19 pandemic. This crucial time period allowed for the collection of exemplary data, which revealed how adolescent girls utilized the pandemic as a time for self-growth, and how they conceptualized their purpose with respect to the pandemic.