Date of Completion


Embargo Period



meaning, adjustment, purpose, stress, coping, resilience

Major Advisor

Crystal L. Park, Ph.D.

Associate Advisor

Dean G. Cruess, Ph.D.

Associate Advisor

Dev Dalal, Ph.D.

Field of Study



Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


Having a sense of meaning in life is often considered to be a positive resource that can facilitate better adjustment to major stressors. However, few studies have directly and adequately examined this idea. The present study addresses this question by examining 1) if meaning predicts trajectories and changes in key distress-exacerbating factors and distress 2) if meaning buffers negative effects of distress-exacerbating factors on distress, and 3) if the different dimensions of meaning are differentially important in adjustment. The sample consisted of 180 undergraduates prescreened to have had a recent stressor that they found stressful at prescreening. Participants were assessed at four time points over a 9-week period with three weeks in between each time point. At baseline, participants completed a measure of meaning; at all time points, participants completed measures of key distress-exacerbating factors and distress. Overall, results provided some evidence of meaning as a positive resource in adjustment. HLM analyses of adjustment trajectories showed that those with higher baseline meaning had better adjustment at baseline, although those with lower meaning seemed to catch up over time. Residual change regression models showed meaning to predict favorable changes in distress-exacerbating factors and distress. Moderation analyses showed meaning to buffer the negative effects of distress-exacerbating factors on distress. Finally, the meaning dimension of comprehension appeared to be relatively more important in adjustment than were purpose and mattering. These results have implications such as greater support for clinical interventions aimed at fostering meaning, and the need for more multidimensional examinations of meaning.