International Journal of Existential Positive Psychology

Beyond Presence and Search: A Person-Level Analysis of the Meaning in Life Questionnaire

Lucas A. Keefer, Ph.D

University of Southern Mississippi

Shelby J. McGrew

Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System

Mitch Brown, Ph.D

Fairleigh Dickinson University

Matthew Baldwin, Ph.D

University of Florida


Researchers have long acknowledged the importance of a sense of meaning in life. However, this construct proves to be multi-faceted and idiosyncratic, prompting some psychologists to pursue easily administered questionnaires that trade depth for simplicity. The present paper focuses on one popular measure, the Meaning in Life Questionnaire (Steger et al., 2006), which assesses the extent to which people feel that their life has meaning (Presence) and feel motivated to pursue greater meaning (Search). Typically, research with the measure treats these as separable dimensions with different implications for well-being. The current paper presents a secondary analysis of survey data (N = 345) using latent profile analysis. Results suggest that quantitative studies of meaning might be enhanced by considering person- or profile-level analysis of these scores, which better accommodate individual patterns of response.

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