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Executive Summary: Questions relating to identity and meaning are fundamental questions of life. As such, they have been the subject of study by scholars across a diverse range of disciplines, including psychology, theology, sociology and philosophy, throughout history. Despite this diversity, scholars agree that identity and meaning are inter-related issues which are central to the lives of human beings (Frankl, 1962; Kiang & Fuligni, 2010; Krause, 2005; McGregor & Little, 1998; McLean & Thorne, 2003).

It is widely accepted within the literature that adolescence is a critical period for the development of identity and meaning (Pasupathi & Hoyt, 2009), and that these concepts may become even more pertinent to young people when they are confronted with persistent challenges or periods of uncertainty (M. Crawford & Rossiter, 2006). However, our knowledge of how vulnerable young people perceive and experience ‘identity and meaning’ in their lives remains less clear.

This research study, funded by the Institute for Catholic Identity and Mission, Australian Catholic University (ACU), and conducted by the Institute of Child Protection Studies (ICPS) aimed to further our understanding of this area by exploring the following questions:

  • What is the role and potency of identity and meaning in the lives of vulnerable young people?
  • What are the implications of this for the way that we support vulnerable young people?

The study adopted a participatory and qualitative approach and was conducted throughout 2012. Twenty four young people participated in in-depth one-on-one interviews about their lives.


Institute of Child Protection Studies

Document Type

Open Access Report

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Open Access

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Psychology Commons