Exploring Purpose as a Resource for Promoting Youth Program Engagement


  • Anthony L. Burrow Department of Human Development, Cornell University
  • Jennifer P. Agans Department of Recreation, Park, and Tourism Management; The Pennsylvania State University http://orcid.org/0000-0002-0108-8898
  • Nicolette Rainone Baruch College and The Graduate Center, City University of New York




purpose, 4-H, positive youth development, program engagement, intervention


Recent evidence that reflecting on one’s purpose in life increases engagement with academic tasks inspires questions about whether purpose interventions might enhance learning engagement more broadly. This potential may be particularly fruitful for programs serving youth from a wide range of ages wherein sustaining engagement may be challenging. Here, we explored whether a brief purpose writing intervention would increase adolescents’ engagement in 4-H programs. Participants (N = 130) were randomly assigned to write about either their sense of purpose or a control topic prior to the first day of a program, and they reported their level of program engagement at the end of that day. Regression analysis showed participant age was negatively associated with program engagement. However, writing about purpose halted this age-related decline in engagement. These preliminary findings situate purpose as a resource that can be leveraged to sustain older youths’ interest and engagement in youth programming.


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