Character Day was a huge success! Thousands of people from all over the world participated in this movement dedicated to strengthening our world through character development. To keep the character strength momentum going, I’m sharing 10 recent research studies on VIA character strengths. Since the science of character strengths has exploded in the last decade and a half, we have gained plenty of new knowledge about these core positive qualities in human beings.
While it’s a challenge to limit this to 10, I chose only studies from the last two years. Those who are scientifically-minded will notice that these 10 studies all include a different lead scientist which implicitly tells us that the science of character is spreading widely around the world.
Character strengths are connected with…
Zest, hope, and love are still on top! Study after study, across cultures, show these three strengths as standing on top of the 24 as those most connected with happiness. This study extends these findings (Martinez-Marti & Ruch, 2014).
- Relationship satisfaction.
Among married couples, both the higher ratings of character strengths and the use of character strengths in the marriage were related to higher satisfaction in the relationship (Lavy et al., 2014).
In a rare positive psychology intervention study of older adults (aged 50-79), overall intervention was found to be most effective for a group assigned to work on using a signature strength in new ways. It was the only intervention that led to both an increase in happiness and a decrease in depression for the adults (Proyer et al., 2014).
In two workplace samples (a mixed group of several occupations and a nurses group), character strengths were connected with improved coping with work stress and with a decrease in the negative effects of stress (Harzer & Ruch, 2015).
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 work-as-a-calling (Littman-Ovadia & Lavy, 2015).
- Caring, inquisitiveness, self-control.
Following several analyses of data involving over one million people, these three elements of human character emerged (McGrath, 2015).
- Exercise habits.
In a qualitative study that tailored individual’s signature strengths to an exercise program, participants improved in exercise adherence, enjoyment of exercise, and achievement (Stocker & Hefferon, in press).
- Classroom behavior and achievement.
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).
In a study of people in China who had experienced a range of traumatic experiences, a significant relationship between virtues and resilience was found. Interestingly, it was virtues that contributed more to posttraumatic growth while resilience emerged as a strong predictor of PTSD (Duan, Guo, & Gan, 2015).
Preliminary work examining the inclusiveness of the VIA Youth Survey for youth with disabilities found that the assessment was reliable and meaningful for youth with and without disabilities and similar strengths profiles emerged (Shogren et al., in press).
Put these findings into practice! Participate in Character Day on September 18th! And, be sure to watch Tiffany Schlain’s acclaimed 8-minute film, The Science of Character, which documents the surge in research and practical utility of strengths! If you live in the Cincinnati, Ohio area and want to participate in a group event for Character Day to watch the film and discuss it, register here.
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
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
Lavy, S., Littman-Ovadia, H., & Bareli, Y. (2014). My better half: Strengths endorsement and deployment in married couples. Journal of Family Issues. DOI: 10.1177/0192513X14550365
Littman-Ovadia, H., & Lavy, S. (2015). Going the extra mile: Perseverance as a key character strength at work. Journal of Career Assessment. DOI: 10.1177/1069072715580322
Martinez-Marti, M. L., & Ruch, W. (2014). Character strengths and well-being across the life span: data from a representative sample of German-speaking adults living in Switzerland. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 1253. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01253
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
Proyer, R. T., Gander, F., Wellenzohn, S., & Ruch, W. (2014). Positive psychology interventions in people aged 50–79 years: long-term effects of placebo-controlled online interventions on well-being and depression. Aging & Mental Health, 18(8), 997-1005.
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.
Stocker, S., & Hefferon, K. (in press). The development of a character strengths based exercise program for exercise adherence. A qualitative inquiry.
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