Character Strengths and Specific Populations

Research Articles


  • 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).
    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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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: 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).
    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 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).
    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. 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).
    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. Consentino, A. C., & Castro, A. (2012). Character strengths: A study of Argentinean soldiers. Spanish Journal of Psychology, 15(1), 199-215.
  • 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 (Ruch, 2014).
    Ruch, W. (2014). The flock of sheep revisited: Character strength profiles of musicians. Psychology of Music.
  • 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: 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:
  • 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:
  • 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).
    1.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: 2.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:
  • 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 4/26/2018