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Character Strengths and Specific Populations
- Abuse survivors: When comparing college students with and without history of childhood abuse, forgiveness, appreciation of beauty/excellence, and gratitude were significantly lower among those with an abuse history (Moore, 2011).
Moore, W. (2011). An investigation of character strengths among college attendees with and without a history of child abuse. Dissertation Abstracts International: Section B: The Sciences and Engineering, 71(8-B), 5137.
- African Americans: Reviews a myriad of character strengths from the VIA Classification and highlighting what research studies have been conducted on each for African American populations. Some character strengths discussed include love, spirituality, self-regulation, teamwork, fairness, perseverance, hope, gratitude, creativity, and humor (Mattis et al., 2016).
Mattis, J. S., Simpson, N. G., Powell, W., Anderson, R. E., Kimbro, L. R., & Mattis, J. H. (2016). Positive psychology in African Americans. In E. C. Chang, C. A. Downey, J. K. Hirsch, & N. J. Lin (Eds.), Cultural, racial, and ethnic psychology book series. Positive psychology in racial and ethnic groups: Theory, research, and practice (p. 83–107). American Psychological Association. https://doi.org/10.1037/14799-005
- Art therapists and students of art: curiosity, appreciation of beauty/excellence (Riddle & Riddle, 2007).
Riddle, J. A., & Riddle, H. M. (2007). Men and art therapy: A connection through strengths. Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, 24(1), 10-15.
- College students: humor, love, kindness, honesty, and social intelligence were most endorsed (Karris & Craighead, 2012).
Karris, M., A., & Craighead, W. E. (2012). Differences in character among U.S. college students. Individual Differences Research 10(2), 69-80.
- Diverse populations: Researchers introduced the strengths-based inclusive theory of work which integrates counseling psychology with vocational psychology, strengths-based perspectives, multiculturalism, and social justice (Owens, Allan, & Flores, 2019). A follow-up article discusses strengths, hope, and other positive psychology interventions and recommendations in career and work counseling contexts for diverse populations (Owens, Flores, Kopperson, & Allan, 2019).
Owens, R. L., Flores, L. Y., Kopperson, C., & Allan, B. A. (2019). Infusing positive psychological interventions into career counseling for diverse populations. The Counseling Psychologist, 47(2), 291-314. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0011000019861608
Owens, R. L., Allan, B. A., & Flores, L. Y. (2019). The strengths-based inclusive theory of work. The Counseling Psychologist, 47(2), 222-265. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0011000019859538
- Farmers: In a study of the character strengths of smallholder farmers (who produce a substantial amount of the food supply in many developing nations) in Senegal, the strengths of creativity and judgment/critical thinking were significant linked with drip irrigation adoption (Bukchin & Kerret, 2020).
Bukchin, S., & Kerret, D. (2020). Character strengths and sustainable technology adoption by smallholder farmers. Heliyon, 6(8), e04694
- Geriatrics: Interventions involving gratitude, curiosity, courage, altruism, optimism, meaning, and other strength-based areas were delivered to 74 older adults in nursing homes and community centers. Reduced depression and increased happiness, gratitude, and life satisfaction were found (Ho, Yeung, & Kwok, 2014).
Ho, H. C., Y., Yeung, D. Y., & Kwok, S. Y. C. L. (2014). Development and evaluaton of the positive psychology intervention for older adults. Journal of Positive Psychology, 9(3), 187-197. DOI: 10.1080/17439760.2014.888577.
- Graduate students: Curiosity, love, kindness, social intelligence, and honesty were most endorsed; the virtues of humanity, wisdom, and justice were the highest endorsed. A qualitative analysis revealed several core themes: the power of strengths; the value of a strengths-based approach; the complexity of strengths-based work; and strengths born from challenge and adversity (Fialkov & Haddad, 2012).
Fialkov, C., & Haddad, D. (2012). Appreciative clinical training. Training and Education in Professional Psychology, 6(4), 204-210.
- Homeless: social intelligence, kindness, perseverance, honesty, and humor were most endorsed, whereas curiosity, humility, appreciation of beauty/excellence, forgiveness, teamwork, and gratitude were infrequently or never mentioned (Tweed, Biswas-Diener, & Lehman, 2012)..
Tweed, R. G., Biswas-Diener, R., & Lehman, D. R. (2012). Self-perceived strengths among people who are homeless. Journal of Positive Psychology, 7(6), 481-492.
- Law students: Displayed a similar profile as other highly educated groups – top strengths were judgment, curiosity, love of learning, and fairness. Character strengths related positively to undergraduate grades but negatively to LSAT scores and law school grades (Kern & Bowling, 2015).
Kern, M. L., & Bowling, D. S. (2015). Character strengths and academic performance in law students. Journal of Research in Personality, 55, 25–29
- Leaders: Authentic leadership theory (self-awareness, relational transparency, balanced processing, internal moral perspective) was examined with character strengths among leaders in Boy Scouts of America, and some positive correlations were found. In addition, older leaders were significantly lower in hope, love, bravery, and zest, while longer-tenure leaders were lower in bravery, teamwork, honesty, perseverance, and judgment/critical thinking (Harvath, 2014).
Harvath, A. R. (2014). Leader character strengths and authentic leadership: Seeking opportunities for authentic leadership development through character development. Dissertation Abstracts International Section A: Humanities and Social Sciences, 75(3-A(E)), Np.
- Leisure: A study of character strengths and leisure (context of charity sport events) found that kindness, teamwork, hope, and zest were core, event-related strengths, offering support to the insight that leisure provides an important context for activating specific strengths and that particular strengths can be tapped into to increase well-being (Coghlan & Filo, 2016).
Coghlan, A., & Filo, K. (2016). Bringing personal character strengths into the production of the leisure experience. Leisure Sciences, 38(2), 100-117. DOI:10.1080/01490400.2015.1087355
- Military:Article examines the link between character strengths and stoicism, examining how character strengths can lead to being a “reflective warrior” who is guided by wisdom and determined action (Stricker et al., 2017). Validated previous findings from studies in the Norwegian Military Academy as to the most important character strengths for military officers (Boe & Bang, 2017). One study looked at the Australian Army Special Forces operators and support personnel, finding that character strengths of integrity, teamwork, and judgment were ranked significantly above random assignment (Gayton et al 2016). Among the Australian Army Special Forces applicants, the highest character strengths were integrity/honesty, teamwork, perseverance, and love of learning, and the likelihood of passing the selection process was 2.6 times greater when teamwork was among the top strengths compared with teamwork not being listed. Interestingly, hardiness ratings revealed no significant differences (Gayton & Kehoe, 2015). Examined which character strengths were most important in developing cadets in the Norwegian Military Academy. The character strengths of leadership, honesty, perseverance, bravery, teamwork, judgment, social intelligence, self-regulation and creativity were selected by both military and expert groups; in addition, perspective, fairness, and love of learning were chosen by the military group (Boe, Bang, & Nilsen, 2015). Officers in the Indian army and civilian managers scored high in all 24 strengths but significant differences arose between the two groups on 14 strengths (Banth & Singh, 2011). Military students (in Argentina) reported higher character strengths scores than civilians; in addition, cadets with high academic or military performance in their final year had higher levels of perseverance than low-performing cadets in their final year (Cosentino & Castro Solano, 2012). Honesty, hope, bravery, perseverance, and teamwork in a sample of U.S. and Norwegian military samples (Matthews et al., 2006).
Banth, S., & Singh, P. (2011). Positive character strengths in middle-rung army officers and managers in civilian sector. Journal of the Indian Academy of Applied Psychology, 37(2), 320-324.
Boe, O., & Bang, H. (2017). The big 12: The most important character strengths for military officers. Athens Journal of Social Sciences, 4(2), 161-173.
Boe, O., Bang, H., & Nilson, F. A. (2015). Selecting the most relevant character strengths for Norwegian Army officers: An educational tool. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, 197, 801-809. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sbspro.2015.07.188
Consentino, A. C., & Castro, A. (2012). Character strengths: A study of Argentinean soldiers. Spanish Journal of Psychology, 15(1), 199-215.
Gayton, S.D., Kehoe, E. J. (2016). The character strengths of special forces personnel: insights for civilian health care practitioners. Military Medicine, 181(9), 996–1001. https://doi.org/10.7205/MILMED-D-15-00440
Gayton, S. D., & Kehoe, E. J. (2015). Character strengths and hardiness of Australian army special forces applicants. Military Medicine, 180(8), 857-862. DOI: 10.7205/MILMED-D-14-00527
Matthews, M. D., Eid, J., Kelly, D., Bailey, J. K. S., & Peterson, C. (2006). Character strengths and virtues of developing military leaders: An international comparison. Military Psychology, 18(Suppl.), S57–S68.
Stricker, A. G., Arenas, F. J., Westhauser, T. C., & Hawkins-Scribner, T. (2017). Positive education of stoic warriors as reflective practitioners in the profession of arms. Reflective Practice, 18(1), 133-146 http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14623943.2016.1251415
- Musicians: Musicians scored significantly higher than non-musicians on self-regulation and appreciation of beauty/excellence and lower than amateurs and lower than non-musicians on teamwork, fairness, and leadership (Güsewell & Ruch, 2015).
Güsewell, A., & Ruch, W. (2015). Character strength profiles of musicians and non-musicians. Journal of Arts and Humanities, 4(6), 1-17.
- Older Adults: In a semi-structured interview study of older adults, one of three core themes that emerged related to the use of character strengths to facilitate coping strategies and enable thriving (Russo-Netzer & Littman-Ovadia, 2019). Study using semi-structured interviewing of older adults in New Zealand and found a wide range of character strengths were identified. The researchers found it was challenging for older adults to talk about their strengths, and that storytelling was an important avenue for uncovering strengths. This study highlights the value of formal character strengths measurement with the VIA Survey (Waterworth et al., 2019).
Russo-Netzer, P., & Littman-Ovadia, H. (2019). "Something to live for": Experiences, resources and personal strengths in late adulthood. Frontiers in Psychology, 10. http://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02452
Waterworth, S., Raphael, D., Gott, M., Arroll, B., & Jarden, A. (2019). Uncovering strengths within community dwelling older adults: What does it mean for health care practice? Health & Social Care in the Community. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1111/hsc.12924
- Pilots: The highest strengths among 177 Israeli airline pilots were honesty, judgment/critical thinking, prudence, love, fairness, creativity, and perseverance, with bottom strengths of spirituality, zest, bravery, love of learning, and appreciation of beauty/excellence (Littman-Ovadia & Raas-Rothschild, 2018). Littman-Ovadia, H., & Raas-Rothschild, E. (2018). Character strengths of airline pilots: Explaining life and job satisfaction and predicting CRM performance. Psychology, 9, 2083-2102. https://doi.org/10.4236/psych.2018.98119
- Practitioners in human performance improvement: Study of human performance improvement (HPI) practitioners who endorsed 19 of the 24 character strengths significantly higher than a sample of working adults. The HPI group identified 14 character strengths as applicable to HPI practice, where the most-applicable strengths were leadership, honesty, love of learning, perspective, social intelligence, creativity, and judgment (Wise, 2018).
Wise, G. M. (2018). The role of character strengths in expert HPI practice: A quantitative examination. Dissertation Abstracts International: Section B: The Sciences and Engineering, 78(9-B(E)).
- Religious people: Those who practice their religion score higher on kindness, love, hope, forgiveness, and spirituality, in addition to a more meaningful life, compared with those who have a religion but don’t practice it and the non-religious (Berthold & Ruch, 2014).
Berthold, A., & Ruch, W. (2014). Satisfaction with life and character strengths of non-religious and religious people: It’s practicing one’s religion that makes the difference. Frontiers in Psychology. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00876
- Same-sex couples: Examines strengths that could be ascribed to the LGBT experience, especially in the context of training and practice (Lytle et al., 2014; Phillips, 2014).
Lytle, M. C., Vaughan, M. D., Rodriguez, E. M., & Shmerler, D. L. (2014). Working with LGBT individuals: Incorporating positive psychology into training and practice. Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity, 1(4), 335-347. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/sgd0000064
Phillips, J. C. (2014). Research ideas for the three-pillar model as applied to LGBT issues in graduate training. Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity, 1(4), 353-355. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/sgd0000071
- Service leadership/Student leadership: A university course in Hong Kong examined the integration of character strengths within the service leader (Shek, Sun, & Liu, 2015), arguing character strengths provide the most inherent power for fulfilling particular tasks and for ongoing self-development (Shek & Yu, 2015). A pilot study found that service leaders improved in behavioral and moral competence, character strengths, positive youth development qualities, and overall service leadership qualities (Shek, Yu, & Ma, 2014).
Shek, D. T. L., Sun, R. C. F., & Liu, T. T. (2015). Character strengths in Chinese philosophies: Relevance to service leadership. International Journal on Disability and Human Development, 14(4), 309-318
Shek, D. T. L., & Yu, L. (2015). Character strengths and service leadership. International Journal on Disability and Human Development, 14(4), 299-307
Shek, D. T. L., Yu, L., & Ma, C. M. S. (2014). The students were happy, but did they change positively? International Journal on Disability and Human Development, 13(4), 505-511. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1515/ijdhd-2014-0348
- South African "Born Fee" generation: Hospitality industry trainees were examined and found to rank highest in honesty, love, and fairness, with love of learning and self-regulation as the lowest strengths; females ranked honesty highest while males ranked hope as highest (Geyser & Geldenhuys, 2019).
Geyser, I., & Geldenhuys, M. (2019). Profiling work-related signature strengths of “Born Free” South Africans: A gender perspective, Journal of Psychology in Africa, 29(4), 366-374, http://doi.org/10.1080/14330237.2019.1647495
- Sport: A study of VIA Survey score changes before, during, and after a European football tournament to assess the effects of character strengths in a society (host country). The study found preliminary hints that character strengths might be malleable on a national level, as a consequence of both positive and negative events (Proyer et al., 2014). Another study in the context of sport identified 10 central strategies for sport psychology consultants to deploy with athletes, one of which was to develop an athlete’s signature strengths (Beaumont, Maynard, & Butt, 2015).
Proyer, R. T., Gander, F, Wellenzohn, S., & Ruch, W. (2014). The European football championship as a positive festivity: Changes in strengths of character before, during, and after the Euro 2008 in Switzerland. In H. A. Marujo & L. M. Neto (Eds.). Positive nations and communities: Collective, qualitative and cultural-sensitive processes in positive psychology (pp. 119-134). New York, NY: Springer Science + Business Media. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-6869-7_7
Beaumont, C., Maynard, I. W., & Butt, J. (2015). Effective ways to develop and maintain robust sport-confidence: Strategies advocated by sport psychology consultants. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 7(3), 301-318. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10413200.2014.996302
- Teachers: The highest strengths among teachers in Slovenia were fairness, kindness, honesty, and love while the lowest strengths were creativity, humor, and love of learning (Gradisek, 2012).
Gradisek, P. (2012). Character strengths and life satisfaction of Slovenian in-service and pre-service teachers. CEPS Journal, 2(3), 167-180.
Updated May 2021