Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

The Effectiveness of a Meaning-Centered Psychoeducational Group Intervention for Chinese College Students

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

The Effectiveness of a Meaning-Centered Psychoeducational Group Intervention for Chinese College Students

Article excerpt

Study of the meaning in life has enjoyed a renaissance of interest in recent years and is considered to be an important component of broader well-being (King, Hicks, Krull, & Del Gaiso, 2006; Ryff & Singer, 1998), and a positive psychological construct (Zika & Chamberlain, 1992). Meaning in life is defined as "the sense made of, and significance felt regarding, the nature of one's being and existence" (Steger, Frazier, Oishi, & Kaler, 2006, p. 81). Researchers have indicated that meaning in life is closely related to psychological outcomes (Bradburn, 1969). When individuals feel that their life is full of meaning, their positive affect will include greater happiness (Ho, Cheung, & Cheung, 2010), life satisfaction (Zika & Chamberlain, 1992), and a sense of hope (Mascaro & Rosen, 2005). The absence of meaning in life is closely related to issues in mental health, including chronic alcoholism, low self-esteem, depression, and self-identity crisis (Yalom, 1980).

College students today are asking their own existential questions about meaning. As Frankl (1962) suggested, they are in search of a "meaning to live for" (Nash & Murray, 2010, p. xv). The most meaningful aspect of their lives is their relationships, consisting of (a) an interpersonal orientation including family, friends, and romantic relationships; (b) service, that is, a help-giving orientation dealing with people in the abstract; (c) growth, that is, obtaining possessions, gaining respect, and assuming responsibility; (d) belief, that is, living according to one's beliefs; (e) an existential-hedonistic orientation, that is, general expressions that pleasure and daily life are the most meaningful; (f) self-expression, that is, concrete expressions of self through such activities as art, athletics, music, and writing; and (g) understanding, that is, for example, trying to gain more knowledge (DeVogler & Ebersole, 1980). These categories are all similar to those chosen by people in other age groups (Bar-Tur, Savaya, & Prager, 2001). However, compared to people in other age groups, the relationship category is the one most often prioritized by Chinese college students, and this prioritization most often refers to relationships with their friends, especially boyfriends or girlfriends, rather than to family relationships (Cheng, Fan, & Peng, 2011). In a study conducted with 1,171 Chinese college students, Xiao, Zhang, and Zhao (2010) found that meaning in life was a significant factor in the students' psychological well-being, and having meaning in life was negatively associated with depression, anxiety, obsessive disorder, and paranoid ideation.

Taliaferro, Rienzo, Pigg, Miller, and Dodd (2009) found that existential well-being was an important factor associated with lower levels of suicidal ideation among American college students, and it has been claimed that perceptions of meaninglessness and purposelessness are central to suicidal crises (Frankl, 1962; Yalom, 1980). In addition, Hong (2008) reported a moderating effect of self-transcendence meaning of life on the relationship between college students' stress and aspects of their psychological well-being, namely, depression, mental health problems, and self-esteem. Some researchers have also explored the notion that promoting positive affect, such as satisfaction with life, self-esteem, and a sense of hope, will improve college students' psychological well-being via group intervention (He & Fan, 2010; Koutra, Katsiadrami, & Diakogiannis, 2010).

Bradburn (1969) proposed a two-dimensional model of psychological well-being, comprising positive and negative affect. To increase positive affect and reduce negative affect, the meaning-centered approach (MCA) was developed by Wong and Fry (1998). The MCA is an integrative, positive, and existential approach to counseling and psychotherapy based on Frankl's (1962) logotherapy. The MCA, in which personal meaning is used as the central organizing construct, is a helpful approach focusing on the positive psychology of making life worth living in spite of suffering and limitations (Wong, 2010). …

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