College of Science and Health Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

Fall 11-24-2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Kathryn E. Grant, PhD

Second Advisor

Verena P. Graupmann, PhD


This thesis investigates the function of meaning in life in adolescence to ascertain whether specific psychological resources may protect youths against threats to subjective well-being. Meaning in life and the search for the meaning in stressful occurrences were independently examined for their influence on stress impact and depression symptomatology. 201 American middle-school and high-school students between 12 and 19 years of age were recruited for this study. Participants reported on questionnaires targeting frequency of negative life events; depressive symptoms; sense of meaning; and tendency to reframe stressors in terms of their meaning, termed “stressor meaning seeking”. It was expected that having a higher sense of meaning and higher stressor meaning seeking would be positively related, and that each of these variables would be able to buffer the impact of stress and strengthen resilience to depression. Statistical analyses supported the hypotheses, suggesting that meaning can help adolescents manage stressor threats to well-being and be resistant to developing depression. In addition, the results provided evidence that framing stress in terms of its value can be an effective coping strategy for youth. This is among the first contributions that shed light on how meaning and its pursuit interact with threats to well-being in an adolescent sample. These findings have implications for both theoretical and practical applications, and interventions against adolescent stress and psychopathology may be informed by the relationships demonstrated in this investigation.

SLP Collection


Included in

Psychology Commons