life goals across countries

life goals across countries

How much individuals endorse different life goal domains (Roberts, O’Donnell, & Robins, 2004) can help give their life purposes a specific aim. Plus, how well these domains cohere may depend, in part, on what countries and cultures may allow or value. Countries may differentially view how strongly two “outlets” for a life goal actually “go together.”  

For example, on US samples, Roberts and Robins’ (2000) Life Goals Questionnaire factors into seven domains: aesthetic (be a good artist, writer, musician, actor); hedonistic (have an exciting lifestyle, interesting experiences, fun); social (help others, volunteer); political (community leader, political involvement); religious (religious activities, spiritual life); relationship (marriage, children, good family relationships) and economic (standard of living, career, job, business ownership).

Does this domain structure hold in other countries? Also, for this study, a creativity/change oriented domain with six items not on the original questionnaire was included (change others’ thinking, create, discover, make world better, problem solve, originality).Correlations among items suggest college service-learning students in Brazil, Spain, Finland, Korea, China, as well as the United States, may not think about these life goal domains in the same way.

For the most part, the hedonistic domain was universal. The politics and social domains held together, except in Spain. Similarly, the economic domain was consistent, except business ownership applied only in the US and Spain.

On the other hand, the aesthetic domain only held together in China and Korea. In the other countries, someone would be a writer or an artist, not pursue a more general aesthetic life goal. The relationship domain seemed split between the US where all three relationships went together, and other countries where having good family relationships seemed a different type of life goal than having children.

The new creativity/change domain showed surprising cohesion. All items applied in Korea, China, and the US, and most in the other countries. Spain and Finland did not include change others’ thinking, and Brazil and Finland showed inconsistent inclusion of originality.

By Cori A. Palermo, Clark University, & Randi Garcia, Smith College, USA



Roberts, B. W., O’Donnell, M., & Robins, R. W. (2004). Goal and personality trait development in emerging adulthood. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 87(4), 541-550. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.87.4.541

Roberts, B. W., & Robins, R. W. (2000). Broad dispositions, broad aspirations: The intersection of personality traits and major life goals. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 26(10), 1284-1296. doi:10.1177/0146167200262009