mattering matters?

mattering matters?

The relationship between one’s life purpose and sense of mattering to others has yet to be established in the current literature. While the background is limited, it is expected that feeling one mattered would influence the intention to contribute to the well-being of others.

Purpose is a life aim that is present, meaningful, long-lasting, and beneficial to others (Damon, Menon, & Bronk, 2003). This construct varies in adolescence and early adulthood as one’s purpose takes form, such as their sense of purpose, engagement, and ability to impact others (Malin, Reilly, Quinn, & Moran, 2014; McKnight & Kashdan, 2009). Familial and peer support is essential to the development and refinement of a prosocial purpose (Moran, Bundick, Malin, & Reilly, 2012).

Mattering to others is a self-evaluation in which one feels that they are impactful, considered, and needed by their loved ones (Rosenberg & McCullough, 1981). It is vital to the development of one’s self-concept and sense of belonging (Elliott, Kao, & Grant, 2004). We feel that we matter if our loved ones keep in touch with us, celebrate our successes, and support us in difficult times. One can have a sense that they matter even if they have a small family, few friends, or are not well-known in their community; quality is more valuable than quantity when feeling one matters.

A formal examination of the relationship between life purpose and mattering may be beneficial, with potential impacts in higher education and clinical treatment. For example, professors of high-impact service opportunities should share with their students that they matter in order to encourage youth that their effort can make a difference on less fortunate individuals. Clinicians may help reinforce attendance and participation in sessions if their patients knew that they cared about their success in treatment.

By Cori A. Palermo, Clark University, USA



Damon, W., Menon, J., & Bronk, K. (2003). The development of purpose during adolescence. Applied Developmental Science, 7(3), 119-128.

Elliott, G. C., Kao, S., & Grant, A. (2004). Mattering: Empirical validation of a social-psychological concept. Self and Identity, 3(4), 339-354. doi:10.1080/13576500444000119

Malin, H., Reilly, T. S., Quinn, B., & Moran, S. (2014). Adolescent purpose development: Exploring empathy, discovering roles, shifting priorities, and creating pathways. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 24(1), 186-199.

McKnight, P. E., & Kashdan, T. B. (2009). Purpose in life as a system that creates and sustains health and well-being: An integrative, testable theory. Review of General Psychology, 13(3), 242-251.

Moran, S., Bundick, M. J., Malin, H., & Reilly, T. S. (2012). How supportive of their specific purposes do youth believe their family and friends are? Journal of Adolescent Research, 28(3), 348-377. doi:10.1177/0743558412457816

Rosenberg, M., & McCullough, B. C. (1981). Mattering: Inferred significance and mental health among adolescents. Research in Community and Mental Health, 2, 163-182.