Latest Research on Character Strengths

Research on Character Strengths from the Past Year

  • Experimental field study of job crafting finding that an intervention on job crafting led to strengths crafting for older but not younger workers, and strengths crafting was positively connected with a fit between demands and supplies (i.e., person-job fit). The job crafting intervention did not influence job crafting toward employee interests (Kooij et al., 2017).

    Kooij, D. T. A. M., van Woerkom, M., Wilkenloh, J., Dorenbosch, L., & Denissen, J. J. A. (2017). Job crafting towards strengths and interests: The effects of a job crafting intervention on person–job fit and the role of age. Journal of Applied Psychology. doi: 
    • Randomly controlled study of a multi-step, single-session intervention focusing on signature strengths. The intervention showed significant increases in well-being and decreases in depression and anxiety in the long-run while stress levels decreased in the short-run (Duan & Bu, 2017).
    Duan, W., & Bu, H. (2017). Randomized trial investigating of a single-session character-strength-based cognitive intervention on freshman’s adaptability. Research on Social Work Practice. DOI: 10.1177/1049731517699525


    • In addition to discussing the adaptation and application of mindfulness and character strengths for parents and teachers helping children, a study conducted by Children Inc. is reported here that replicated data of Park and Peterson (2006) on the top character strengths in very young children, as discovered through analyses of parent interviews. Those top strengths include (in descending order): love, kindness, curiosity, humor, perseverance, creativity, love of learning, social intelligence, and bravery (Lottman, Zawaly, & Niemiec, 2017).

      Lottman, T., Zawaly, S., & Niemiec, R. M. (2017). Well-being and well-doing: Bringing mindfulness and character strengths to the early childhood classroom and home. In C. Proctor (Ed.), Positive psychology interventions in practice (pp. 83-105). Cham, Switzerland: Springer.

    • Longitudinal study of character and purpose development using survey and interview data from middle school students. The three character strengths studied (gratitude, perseverance, and compassion) showed small but significant correlations with purpose. The researchers argue for a study of the multidirectional development relationships for different character strengths (Malin, Liauw, & Damon, 2017).

      Malin, H., Liauw, I., & Damon, W. (2017). Purpose and character development in early adolescence. Journal of Youth and Adolescence. Np. DOI:

    • Character strengths predict behavior in the moral domain and explain incremental variance in economic games above the Big 5 trait of Honesty/Humility. Honesty and humility predict fair and altruistic decisions in economic games (Ruch, Bruntsch, & Wagner, 2017).

      Ruch, W., Bruntsch, R., & Wagner, L. (2017). The role of character traits in economic games. Personality and Individual Differences, 108, 186-190. DOI: 10.1016/j.paid.2016.12.007

    • Mindfulness and character strengths were found to work together to facilitate mental well-being. In particular, temperance and interpersonal character strengths explained the relationship between mindful observing and flourishing, and a longitudinal analysis found that the observing facet of mindfulness predicted temperance strengths which then predicted flourishing. The observing facet of mindfulness was positively related to interpersonal-, intellectual-, and temperance-related character strengths (Duan & Ho, 2017).

      Duan, W., & Ho, S. M. Y. (2017). Does being mindful of your character strengths enhance psychological wellbeing? A longitudinal mediation analysis. Journal of Happiness Studies. DOI 10.1007/s10902-017-9864-z

    • The first empirical study to examine overuse, underuse, and optimal-use of character strengths. Several findings: First, it reveals that these constructs do indeed exist for the 24 character strengths; second, overuse and underuse were significantly related to higher depression, less flourishing, and less life satisfaction (with underuse of character strengths doing worse) while the optimal-use (i.e., golden mean) of character strengths was significantly related to higher flourishing and life satisfaction and less depression; third, 87.5% of individuals with or without a clinical diagnosis of social anxiety disorder (social phobia) were able to be correctly sorted to having or not having the condition based on a combination of several overuses and underuses of character strengths. Finally, the study introduces a new research assessment measure called Overuse, Underuse, Optimal-Use (OUOU) of Character Strengths (Freidlin, Littman-Ovadia, & Niemiec, 2017). The instrument is available free to researchers on the VIA site.

      Freidlin, P., Littman-Ovadia, H., & Niemiec, R. M. (2017). Positive psychopathology: Social anxiety via character strengths underuse and overuse. Personality and Individual Differences, 108, 50-54. DOI:

    • Reviews the research on character strengths and disability observing that when the disability field discusses “strengths” and “strengths-based approaches” it is usually referring to strength categories known as skills, interests, and resources, and not character strengths. This paper offers a framework of tools/concepts for the intellectual/developmental disabilities field to bring the latest character strengths science into assessment, interventions, and systems of support (Niemiec, Shogren, & Wehmeyer, in press)

      Niemiec, R. M., Shogren, K. A., & Wehmeyer, M. L. (2017). Character strengths and intellectual and developmental disability: A strengths-based approach from positive psychology. Education and Training in Autism and Developmental Disabilities, 52(1).

    • Examined the top character strengths of treatment program/school staff for students with autism and other developmental disorders and found kindness, honesty, humor, fairness, and love to be highest; follow-up interviews found that the staff use these strengths to motivate students, build other strengths and strong relationships, maximize progress and coping, avoid negative outcomes, and meet individuals’ unique needs (Korn, Woodard, & Tucker, in press).

      Korn, M. A., Woodard, C. R., & Tucker, C. A. (in press). Positive character traits of special education staff: Commonalities and applications. International Journal of Special Education.

    • Three studies examined the perceived character strengths of one’s relationship partner. Higher recognition and appreciation of one’s partner’s character strengths predicted greater relationship commitment, satisfaction, investment, intimacy, self-expansion, and support for goals, while recognizing significant costs of strengths was associated with negative outcomes. Interestingly, these findings were not explained by the Big Five personality traits, capitalization, or gratitude. This study introduces a new research assessment measure called the Partner Strengths Scale (Kashdan et al., 2017). It is available free to researchers on the VIA site.

      Kashdan, T.B., Blalock, D.V., Young, K.C., Machell, K.A., Monfort, S.S., McKnight, P.E., & Ferssizidis, P. (2017). Personality strengths in romantic relationships: Measuring perceptions of benefits and costs and their impact on personal and relational well-being. Psychological Assessment. DOI: 10.1037/pas0000464

    • Reviewed 66 studies relating to empirical literature on strengths among same-sex couple relationships and organized the findings into 3 relationship processes (respect and appreciation of individual differences, positive emotions/interactions, effective communication/negotiation) and 4 positive relationship characteristics (perceived intimacy, commitment, egalitarian ideals, and “outness”) (Rostosky & Riggle, 2017). 

      Rostosky, S. S., & Riggle, E. D. B. (2017).

      Same-sex couple relationship strengths: A review and synthesis of the empirical literature (2000–2016).

      Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity, Np. DOI:



    • A new model of role behavior in teams is presented and validated. Seven team roles, originally theorized by the VIA Institute on Character, were found to relate positively to job satisfaction. The roles include: idea creator, information gatherer, decision-maker, implementer, influencer, energizer, and relationship manager (Ruch et al., 2016).

    Ruch, W., Gander, F., Platt, T., & Hofmann, J. (2016). Team roles: Their relationships to character strengths and job satisfaction. Journal of Positive Psychology. DOI: 

      • Randomized, controlled trial involving 3 groups - adults who targeted top 5 strengths, adults who targeted bottom 5 strengths, and a placebo group. The 2 intervention groups showed benefits to happiness for up to three months and depression benefits as well. Those with initially higher strength levels tended to benefit more from working on lower strengths while those initially lower in strengths levels tended to benefit more from working on higher strengths (Proyer et al., 2015).
        Proyer, R. T., Gander, F., Wellenzohn, S., & Ruch, W. (2015). Strengths-based positive psychology interventions: A randomized placebo-controlled online trial on long-term effects for a signature strengths vs. a lesser strengths-intervention. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 456. DOI:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00456
      • Although not using VIA strengths, studies from different disciplines have shown that targeting the strong – a capitalization model – is superior in important ways to a focus on remediating deficiencies – a compensation model. Examples from psychotherapy (Cheavens et al., 2012) and the workplace (Meyers et al., 2015) are referenced here.
        1. Cheavens, J. S., Strunk, D. R., Lazarus, S. A., & Goldstein, L. A. (2012). The compensation and capitalization models: A test of two approaches to individualizing the treatment of depression. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 50, 699-706. 2. Meyers, M.C., van Woerkom, M., de Reuver, R., Bakk, Z., & Oberski, D.L. (2015). Enhancing psychological capital and personal growth initiative: Working on strengths or deficiencies? Journal of Counseling Psychology, 62(1), 50-62. doi: 10.1037/cou0000050.
        • Character strengths use at work is connected with not only job satisfaction but also productivity and organizational citizenship behavior. These connections are explained by high positive emotions and engagement (Lavy & Littman-Ovadia, in press).
          Lavy, S., & Littman-Ovadia, H. My better self: Using strengths at work and work productivity, organizational citizenship behavior and satisfaction (in press). Journal of Career Development.
        • In a workplace study involving 686 participants, the character strength of perseverance was the strength most associated with work productivity and least associated with counter-productive work behaviors. This was best explained by the workers’ sense of meaning at work and perceptions of work-as-a-career and as-a-calling (Littman-Ovadia & Lavy, in press).
          Littman-Ovadia, H., & Lavy, S. (in press). Going the extra mile: Perseverance as a key character strength at work. Journal of Career Assessment.
        • In 2 workplace samples (a mixed group of several occupations and a nurses group), character strengths were connected with improved coping with work stress and decrease the negative effects of stress (Harzer & Ruch, 2015).
          Harzer, C., & Ruch, W. (2015). The relationships of character strengths with coping, work-related stress, and job satisfaction. Frontiers in Psychology. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00165
        • In a study of nearly 10,000 New Zealand workers that examined indicators of flourishing, workers who reported a high awareness of their strengths had a 9.5 times more likely to be flourishing than those with low strengths awareness. Moreover, workers who reported high strengths use were 18 times more likely to be flourishing than those with low strengths use (Hone et al., 2015).
          Hone, L. C., Jarden, A., Duncan, S., & Schofield, G. M. (2015). Flourishing in New Zealand workers: Associations with lifestyle behaviors, physical health, psychosocial, and work-related indicators. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 57(9), 973-983.
          • Reviews the research on character strengths and disability observing that when the disability field discusses “strengths” and “strengths-based approaches” it is usually referring to strength categories known as skills, interests, and resources, and not character strengths. This paper offers a framework of tools/concepts for the intellectual/developmental disabilities field to bring the latest character strengths science into assessment, interventions, and systems of support (Niemiec, Shogren, & Wehmeyer, in press).
            Niemiec, R. M., Shogren, K. A., & Wehmeyer, M. L. (in press). Character strengths and intellectual/developmental disability: A call to action. Intellectual disability.
            • Preliminary work examining the inclusiveness of VIA Youth Survey for youth with disabilities. This study found that the assessment was reliable and meaningful for youth with and without disabilities and similar strengths profiles emerged (Shogren et al., in press).
              Shogren, K. A., Wehmeyer, M. L., Lang, K., & Niemiec, R. M. (in press). The application of the VIA classification of strengths to youth with and without disabilities.
                • Offers analyses and validity information for VIA Survey translations. Languages from the following nations were examined in this study: Denmark, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Portugal, Brazil, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, mainland China (simplified Chinese), and Hong Kong (traditional Chinese) (McGrath, in press).
                  McGrath, R. E. (in press). Measurement invariance in translations of the VIA inventory of strengths. European Journal of Psychological Assessment.
                • This study provides an alternative to traditional factor analyses in understanding factors and examining the VIA Classification. Several analyses were conducted included studying the views of 70 experts (from philosophy, psychology, theology) and 41 laypersons on how they would rate the strengths and the categories they would place them in. Most of the character strengths aligned with the original projected virtue with one main exception (i.e., humor lined up best under humanity and wisdom) A subsequent factor analysis performed across these ratings revealed 6 factors (Ruch & Proyer, 2015).
                  Ruch, W., & Proyer, R. T. (2015). Mapping strengths into virtues: the relation of the 24 VIA-strengths to six ubiquitous virtues. Frontiers in Psychology.
                • In a unique study involving the development of a three-factor model for character strengths, results were consistent across three data sets constituting over 1 million cases, revealing strong evidence for strengths reflecting 3 components – caring, inquisitiveness, and self-control (McGrath, 2015).
                  McGrath, R. E. (2015). Integrating psychological and cultural perspectives on virtue: The hierarchical structure of character strengths. Journal of Positive Psychology, 10(5), 407-424. DOI: 10.1080/17439760.2014.994222
                • Offers psychometric data on the shortened version of the VIA Survey (240 items). Robert McGrath took the 5 items with the highest corrected item-total correlations to create the 120-question version. He did the same for the best 3 items on the 72-item version but only the former is discussed in this paper (Littman-Ovadia, 2015).
                  Littman-Ovadia, H. (2015). Short form of the VIA Survey: Construction of scales and preliminary tests of reliability and validity. International Journal of Humanities Social Sciences and Education, 2(4), 229-237.
                  • This study found that self-esteem partially explained the connection between life satisfaction and strengths use and this effect was stronger for students with low to moderate levels of positive affect (Douglass & Duffy, 2015).
                    Douglass, R., & Duffy, R. (2015). Strengths use and life satisfaction: A moderated mediation approach. Journal of Happiness Studies.
                  • Qualitative study examining an exercise program that is tailored to each individual’s signature strengths. Results showed improvements in exercise adherence, enjoyment of exercise, and achievement (Stocker & Hefferon, in press).
                    Stocker, S., & Hefferon, K., (in press). The development of a character strengths based exercise program for exercise adherence. A qualitative inquiry.
                  • In a study of primary school students and a study of secondary school students, several character strengths were associated with positive classroom behavior (e.g., perseverance, social intelligence, prudence, hope, self-regulation) and school achievement (e.g., love of learning, perseverance, zest, perspective, gratitude, hope) (Wagner & Ruch, 2015).
                    Wagner, L., & Ruch, W. (2015). Good character at school: Positive classroom behavior mediates the link between character strengths and school achievement. Frontiers in Psychology. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00610
                  • Two studies explored the link between VIA virtues and posttraumatic growth among people in China who had experienced the trauma of a natural disaster (first study) or a range of traumatic experiences (second study). Results revealed significant, positive correlations between virtues and posttraumatic growth (Duan & Guo, 2015) and a significant relationship between virtues and trait resilience where the former contributed more to posttraumatic growth while the latter was a strong predictor of PTSD (Duan, Guo, & Gan, 2015).
                    1. Duan, W., & Guo, P. (2015). Association between virtues and posttraumatic growth: Preliminary evidence from a Chinese community sample after earthquakes. PeerJ, 3, e883. 2. Duan, W., Guo, P., & Gan, P. (2015). Relationships among trait resilience, virtues, post-traumatic stress disorder, and post-traumatic growth. PLOS One. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0125707
                  • Reviews the integration of mindfulness and character strengths, offers three case studies applying Mindfulness-Based Strengths Practice (MBSP) successfully in the business/organizational setting, and offers anecdotal support that MBSP boosts positive relationships and helps people manage problems (Niemiec & Lissing, 2015).
                    Niemiec, R. M., &Lissing, J. (2015, in press) Mindfulness-based strengths practice (MBSP) for enhancing well-being, life purpose, and positive relationships. In I. Ivtzan & t. Lomas (Eds.), Mindfulness in positive psychology: The science of meditation and wellbeing. London: Routledge.