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Summary of Research Findings

Several studies have examined the links between different types of achievement and character strengths. One strength that seems to frequently find its way toward the top of the correlations charts in each study is perseverance. In addition, many other strengths have been linked with achievement. This elicits an important question that has not been fully answered by scientists: Is it better to help students (and those attempting to achieve something) tap into their most energizing and authentic, signature strengths? Or, is it more beneficial to train students on boosting a handful of specific strengths (e.g., perseverance, self-regulation, curiosity)?

Research Articles

  • Among secondary school students who took the VIA Youth Survey, a standardized intelligence test, a brief flow measure, and student- and teacher-ratings, it was character strengths (i.e., love of learning and perseverance) that consistently connected with achievement, flow, and enjoyment, above and beyond cognitive ability across all learning situations (Wagner et al., 2020).
    Wagner, L., Holenstein, M., Wepf, H., & Ruch, W. (2020). Character strengths are related to students’ achievement, flow experiences, and enjoyment in teacher-centered learning, individual, and group work beyond cognitive ability. Frontiers in Psychology. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01324
  • Military study of West Point cadets with and without a family military background found that self-control-related character strengths were important predictors of performance for those with the family military background, whereas character strengths related to a drive to fully involve oneself and navigate relationships were better predictors of performance for cadets without a family military background (Gosnell et al., 2020).
    Gosnell, C. L., Kelly, D. R., Ender, M. G., & Matthews, M. D. (2020). Character strengths and performance outcomes among military brat and non-brat cadets. Military Psychology, 32(2), 186–197. https://doi.org/10.1080/08995605.2019.1703434
  • Character strengths were found to be strongly related to four measures of academic achievement (e.g., GPA, SAT/ACT scores) and well-being indicators, with moderate relationships with psychopathology and low relations with physical health (Karris Bachik, Carey, & Craighead, 2020).
    Karris Bachik, M. A., Carey, G., & Craighead, W. E. (2020). Via character strengths among U.S. College students and their associations with happiness, well-being, resiliency, academic success and psychopathology. Journal of Positive Psychology. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2020.1752785
  • A school study of adolescents found that virtues of inquisitiveness and self-control (using the VIA 3-factor model by McGrath) predicted academic achievements and all virtues predicted well-being (with the caring virtue being highest). Strengths use full mediated the relationship between virtues and academic achievements and well-being (Tang et al., 2019).
    Tang, X., Li, Y., Mu, W., Cheng, X., & Duan, W. (2019). Character strengths lead to satisfactory educational outcomes through strengths knowledge and strengths use. Frontiers in Psychology. http://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01829
  • In a study of 653 first-year undergraduate students, greater academic integration explained the connection between character strengths (i.e., hope and gratitude) and institutional commitment, while controlling for social support (Browning et al., 2018).
    Browning, B. R., McDermott, R. C., Scaffa, M. E., Booth, N. R., & Carr, N. T. (2018). Character strengths and first-year college students’ academic persistence attitudes: An integrative model. The Counseling Psychologist, 46(5), 608-631. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0011000018786950
  • A 4-week, strengths-based training program found short-term but not long-term benefit for students who experience chronic procrastination. However, the training program not only didn’t involve anything on character strengths there was nothing on general strengths either! While called a strengths program, the focus was actually on procrastination education (Visser et al., 2017).
    Visser, L., Schoonenboom, J., & Korthagen, F. A. J. (2017). A field experimental design of a strengths-based training to overcome academic procrastination: Short- and long-term effect. Frontiers in Psychology, 8. http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01949
  • 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. http://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00610
  • The character strengths – perseverance, love, gratitude, and hope – predict academic achievement in middle school students and college students (reported in Park & Peterson, 2009a).
    Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2009a). Character strengths: Research and practice. Journal of College and Character, 10 (4), np.
  • Effective teachers (judged by the gains of their students on standardized tests) are those who are high in social intelligence, zest, and humor in a longitudinal study (reported in Park & Peterson, 2009a).
    Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2009a). Character strengths: Research and practice. Journal of College and Character, 10 (4), np.
  • Popular students, as identified by teacher ratings, are more likely to score highly on civic strengths such as leadership and fairness, and temperance strengths of self-regulation, prudence, and forgiveness.  Interestingly, none of the humanity strengths such as love and kindness were related to popularity (Park & Peterson, 2009b).
    Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2009b). Strengths of character in schools. In R. Gilman, E. S. Huebner, & M. J. Furlong (Eds.), Handbook of positive psychology in schools (pp. 65-76). New York: Routledge.
  • Academic achievement among school children is predicted by perseverance and temperance strengths (Peterson & Park, 2009).
    Peterson, C., & Park, N. (2009). Classifying and measuring strengths of character. In S. J. Lopez & C. R. Snyder (Eds.), Oxford handbook of positive psychology, 2nd edition (pp. 25-33). New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Military performance among West Point cadets was predicted by the character strength of love (Peterson & Park, 2009).
    Peterson, C., & Park, N. (2009). Classifying and measuring strengths of character. In S. J. Lopez & C. R. Snyder (Eds.), Oxford handbook of positive psychology, 2nd edition (pp. 25-33). New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Military leaders' character strength of humor predicted their followers' trust while followers’ character strength of perspective earned their leaders' trust (Sweeney et al., 2009).
    Sweeney, P., Hannah, S. T., Park, N., Peterson, C., Matthews, M., & Brazil, D. (2009). Character strengths, adaptation, and trust. Paper presented at the International Positive Psychology Association conference on June 19, 2009.
  • Strengths that predicted GPA in college students were perseverance, self-regulation, prudence, judgment and love of learning (Lounsbury et al., 2009).
    Lounsbury, J. W., Fisher, L. A., Levy, J. J., & Welsh, D. P. (2009). Investigation of character strengths in relation to the academic success of college students. Individual Differences Research, 7 (1), 52-69.
  • Predictors of college satisfaction were hope, social intelligence, self-regulation, and fairness (Lounsbury et al., 2009).
    Lounsbury, J. W., Fisher, L. A., Levy, J. J., & Welsh, D. P. (2009). Investigation of character strengths in relation to the academic success of college students. Individual Differences Research, 7 (1), 52-69.
  • After controlling for IQ, strengths of perseverance, fairness, gratitude, honesty, hope, and perspective predicted GPA (Park & Peterson, 2008a).
    Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2008a). Positive psychology and character strengths: Application to strengths-based school counseling. Professional School Counseling, 12 (2), 85-92.
  • Character strengths are related to achievement, life satisfaction, and well-being in children and youth (Park & Peterson, 2008a).
    Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2008a). Positive psychology and character strengths: Application to strengths-based school counseling. Professional School Counseling, 12 (2), 85-92.
  • The combined use of the VIA Survey and The Teacher Behaviors Checklist offers a new approach in faculty development that assists faculty in becoming more reflective and deliberate about their teaching and learning strategies (McGovern & Miller, 2008).
    McGovern, T. V., & Miller, S. L. (2008). Integrating teacher behaviors with character strengths and virtues for faculty development. Teaching of Psychology, 35 (4), 278-285.
  • In a study of nearly 1200 kids who wore a beeping watch leading them to write about their thoughts, feelings, and actions eight times per day, the most curious kids were compared with the bored kids (the top 207 and the bottom 207). The curious were more optimistic, hopeful, confident, and had a higher sense of self-determination and self-efficacy believing they were in control of their actions and decisions, than the bored kids who felt like pawns with no control of their destiny (Hunter & Csikszentmihalyi, 2003).
    Hunter, J. P., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2003). The positive psychology of interested adolescents. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 32 (1), 27-35.
  • Higher hope levels are related to greater scholastic and social competence and to creativity levels (Onwuegbuzie, 1999).
    Onwuegbuzie, A. J. (1999). Relation of hope to self-perception. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 88, 535-540.

Updated May 2021