Maria Jose Gonzalez

Major and Classification


Faculty Mentor

Mary Helen Immordino-Yang


Rossier School of Education

Research Gateway Project

Examining Adolescent Wellbeing, Social Connectedness, and Purpose in Life Through Youth Programming that Promotes Narrative Meaning-Making

Project Abstract

Adolescence is a time of developmental challenges in which youth start making sense of past experiences, present context, and futures. This skill—called narrative meaning-making—is developed during adolescence and allows individuals to elaborate and learn from their experiences. Identifying measures to enhance healthy meaning-making and enhance psychosocial development during this challenging stage is necessary. However, prior research has not examined narrative meaning- making in the context of intergenerational youth programming for improving adolescents’ psychosocial development; nor does this research engage low-income populations. Ongoing research suggests that Sages & Seekers—an 8-week youth program promoting narrative meaning-making—may enhance psychosocial development and increase wellbeing among adolescents (ages 14-18). Through this program, adolescents (i.e. Seekers) are paired with an elder (i.e. Sage) to meet for weekly conversations. The program culminates with adolescents engaging in narrative meaning-making by writing and sharing their experience in the program (i.e.Tribute) to their sage. The present study examines whether the outcomes of Sages & Seekers can be related to the meaning-making adolescents (n = 57) from low- income backgrounds. To begin, we developed a coding scheme to measure meaning- making and explore whether abstract ways of thinking and abstract complex emotions can support learning. Preliminary findings showed that reflections of Learning in the form of Growth Over Time correlate with mentions of Abstract Emotions in the Tributes (r(55) = .266, p = .045), particularly Motivation (r(55) = .313, p = .018). Similarly, learning in the form of Extraction of Values correlate with Abstract Emotions (r(55)= .299, p = .024). Next, we will explore how pre-and post- intervention changes in self-reported well-being and social connectedness relate to adolescents’ meaning-making in their tributes. We hypothesize that the strategies of meaning-making used and their frequency will predict the extent to which adolescents benefit from Sages & Seekers. If this is the case, we will gain more knowledge on how to promote healthy meaning-making among low-income adolescents to enhance their psychosocial development.