The dimensionality and construct valid measurement of life meaning
Edwards, Melanie J.
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This research sought to clarify the construct of life meaning by creating a new, multidimensional measure of life meaning. In an initial study, 392 university undergraduates (317 women, 75 men) completed several existing life meaning measures. Exploratory factor analytic procedures undertaken on the item responses supported the extraction of 10 factors: Achievement, Framework/Purpose, Religion, Death Acceptance, Interpersonal Satisfaction, Fulfillment/Excitement, Giving to the World, Existential Vacuum, Intimacy, and Control. Of the original 170 items, the 64 items with the highest factor loadings were retained, and together comprise the Multidimensional Life Meaning Scale (MLMS). Higher-order exploratory factor analyses yielded three factors: Personal Efficacy, Self-Transcendence, and Fulfillment. A second study, conducted with an independent sample of undergraduate students (N = 262; 200 women, 62 men), provided mixed support for the factor structure of the MLMS at the item level, but replicated the higher-order factor structure revealed in the initial study. The criterion-related (concurrent and discriminant) validity was also examined in the second study, by factor analyzing the MLMS factors along with criterion subscales thought to be related to life meaning, and support was found for 7 of the 10 first-order factors. In a final study, support was found for the existence of group differences that were hypothesized on the basis of rational links to interpreted higher-order dimensions of life meaning. In accordance with predictions, Theology students (n = 28) reported higher levels of Self-Transcendence and depressed students (n = 31) indicated lower levels of Fulfillment compared to a baseline group of undergraduate students (n = 262). Contrary to expectations, Law/Business students (n =35) were not significantly different from the baseline group on Personal Efficacy. Based on the results of these three studies, it is concluded that the life meaning construct is multidimensional. The Multidimensional Life Meaning Scale is a promising measure of the construct, and the inclusion of both lower-order and higher-order factors is a new way of conceptualizing life meaning.