Date of Award

5-1-2017

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Chwalisz, Kathleen

Abstract

Meaning in life is one of the most heavily researched constructs of positive psychology in the psychological literature. Despite its popularity, the positive psychology literature has been devoid of research that has explored the measurement of the construct with individuals who identify as African American. The present study was conducted to reexamine the cultural equivalence of the Meaning in Life Questionnaire (MLQ), a popular existing measure, with a predominantly African American sample. A sample of 155 African American and 179 White American college students were recruited from a southern metropolitan university and rural Midwestern university. Participants responded to the MLQ and a demographic questionnaire. The factor structure and the nature of the items were examined using a principal axis exploratory factor analysis with an oblique rotation (delta = 0). The results of the study were partially consistent with the existing literature on the MLQ, providing evidence to support the two factor structure of the measure. However, the nature of the items loading on each scale was called into question because the subsamples of participants responded significantly differently on the items of the Presence subscale. Furthermore, the reliability and communality value on one item (i.e., “My life has no clear purpose”), which was significantly lower, provided additional rationale for differences in MIL for these groups. The results suggested that there might be a noteworthy difference in: (a) how African American participants and White American participants interpreted the items and (b) how their subjective experience may influence responding to the items. In sum, the research has important implications for understanding the nature of African American meaning in life and its connection to the present day African American experience in the United States context.

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