In January 2021, Frontiers in Psychology launched a special edition journal with 15 articles on VIA Character Strengths: Theory, Research and Practice. Here are highlights from this special edition of Frontiers:

Recent Articles from the Researchers:

Short Summaries and Research Findings from All 15 Articles:

General

  • Highlights the importance of the VIA character strengths – the VIA Classification of character strengths and the VIA Inventory of Strengths – for the field of positive psychology. A large body of research has emerged since the original Character Strengths and Virtues (Peterson & Seligman, 2004) text was published. Hence, the editors believed a special issue dedicated to character strengths in the journal, Frontiers in Psychology, was warranted. They briefly comment on each of the articles in the special issue and point out important future directions for the science of character strengths. These include: 1.) further examination into the character strengths criteria; 2.) establishing additional, robust, causal links between character strengths and various outcomes (i.e., intervention studies); 3.) exploring antecedents to character strengths and social/community outcomes of character strengths; 4.) examining long-term and short-terms changes in character strengths through multi-level lenses of within-person and between-person factors; and 5.) further study on the use of character strengths at times of adversity, crisis, trauma, and hardship (Littman-Ovadia, Dubreuil, Meyers, & Freidlin, 2021).
    Littman-Ovadia, H., Dubreuil, P., Meyers, M. C., & Freidlin, P. (2021). Editorial: VIA character strengths: Theory, research and practice. Frontiers in Psychology. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.653941
  • Argues for advancing population-wide psychological maturity around building character strengths collectively, especially in response to the exponential growth of technology; offers a large number of specific future directions and studies to consider across areas of thriving (instrumentality, well-being, and collective good); surviving (resilience; modulating fight-or-flight responses); child-rearing; system dynamics; interpersonal dynamics; contextualizing character strengths; strengths-spotting; and development across the lifespan (both specific effects and non-linear effects) (Mayerson, 2020).
    Mayerson, N. H. (2020). The character strengths response: An urgent call to action. Frontiers in Psychology. http://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.02106
  • Explores how the VIA Classification of character strengths and virtues can advance the science of virtues. It reviews the three-dimensional model of cardinal virtues (moral, self-regulatory, and intellectual domains), dimensional vs. categorical characterization of virtue, evolution of adaptations underlying human capacity for using virtues, impact on both individual and communal levels, reciprocity among virtues, and practical wisdom (McGrath & Brown, 2020).
    McGrath, R. E., & Brown, M. (2020). Using the VIA classification to advance a psychological science of virtue. Frontiers in Psychology. http://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.565953
  • Studies the connection between values and character strengths and examines gratitude as a self-transcendence value and was found to be connected with prosocial behavior and peer acceptance in two samples of adolescents (Lavy & Benish-Weisman, 2021).
    Lavy, S., & Benish-Weisman, M. (2021). Character strengths as “values in action”: Linking character strengths with values theory – an exploratory study of the case of gratitude and self-transcendence. Frontiers in Psychology. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.576189
  • In a study evaluating the 24 character strengths and whether they are morally valued in a German sample, every strength was found to be positively morally valued even when there were no set consequences of the strength use. Some strengths were more morally valued than others with the top five being judgment, honesty, kindness, fairness, and hope (Stahlmann & Ruch, 2020).
    Stahlmann, A. G., & Ruch, W. (2020). Scrutinizing the criteria for character strengths: Laypersons assert that every strength is positively morally valued, even in the absence of tangible outcomes. Frontiers in Psychology. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.591028
  • This study found that behavioral examples of individuals’ highest character strengths in action was related to virtues as opposed to behavioral examples of lowest strengths or non-excellent examples; results converged strongly (not perfectly) with the VIA Classification’s current arrangement of character strengths and corresponding virtues (Giuliani, Ruch, & Gander, 2020).
    Giuliani, F., Ruch, W., & Gander, F. (2020). Does the excellent enactment of highest strengths reveal virtues? Frontiers in Psychology. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01545
  • This study examined data from 1,241 individuals and found that 22 out of the 24 character strengths correlated with their assigned virtue, with the exceptions being hope correlating highest with courage and humor correlating highest with humanity. It also found that higher levels of reported “good character” occurred for those who either had one character strength in each virtue category or who had all the character strengths in at least one virtue category (Ruch, Heintz, & Wagner, 2020).
    Ruch, W., Heintz, S., & Wagner, L. (2020). Co-occurrence patterns of character strengths and measured core virtues in German-speaking adults. Frontiers in Psychology. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.599094

Workplace/ Organizations

  • In a study of 42 teams, relationships were found between specific team roles and character strengths to align with performance and work satisfaction. Those teams with more team roles represented on their teams had higher performance and teamwork quality and those teams averaging higher levels of teamwork and fairness (or more members scoring high on prudence and fairness) had higher teamwork quality. No negative effects of having too many team members with one particular character strength were found (Gander, Gaitzsch, & Ruch, 2020).
    Gander, F., Gaitzsch, I., & Ruch, W. (2020). The relationships of team role-and character strengths-balance with individual and team-level satisfaction and performance. Frontiers in Psychology. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.566222
  • Examined the person-environment fit with character strengths and found higher levels of congruence between the character strengths of an individual and those in their occupational group and these correlated with higher current and future job satisfaction and life satisfaction. In other words, it is important for workers to fit their character strengths to their occupation. This study also replicated the repeated connection found between the 5 character strengths (i.e., dubbed the happiness strengths) and life satisfaction. In addition, different occupations showed different strengths profiles such as managers scoring higher on perspective and leadership (Gander, Hofmann, & Ruch, 2020).
    Gander, F., Hofmann, J, & Ruch, W. (2020). Character strengths: Person-environment fit and relationships with job and life satisfaction. Frontiers in Psychology. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01582

Health and Wellness

  • Reviews the character strengths profiles of medical professionals showing that the highest means among samples of medical students and physicians were fairness, honesty, judgment, kindness, and love, and when comparing specialties, general surgeons had higher levels of honesty and prudence than psychiatrists (Huber et al., 2020).
    Huber, A., Strecker, C., Kachel, T., Hoge, T., & Hofer, S. (2020). Character strengths profiles in medical professionals and their impact on well-being. Frontiers in Psychology. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.566728

Adversity

  • In a study during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown in Spain, all character strengths groupings/factors predicted an increase in mental health and positive emotions (with the exception of strengths of restraint for the latter outcome). Character strengths of restraint, interpersonal, and fortitude predicted a decrease in negative affect (Martinez-Marti et al., 2020).
    Martinez-Marti, M. L., Theirs, C., I., Pascual, D., & Corradi, G. (2020). Character strengths predict an increase in mental health and subjective well-being over a one-month period during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. Frontiers in Psychology. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.584567

Practice

  • In an attempt to bring diffuse terms such as “strengths-based” and “strengths-based practitioner” into greater clarity, to unify strengths-based practitioners across fields, and to offer a bridge for researchers and practitioners, this theory paper offers clarifying operational definitions, six guiding principles, and specificity on character strengths practices that are soaring, emerging, and ripe with potential. This same framing is offered in regard to the current status of the science of character strengths. A survey of 113 strengths-based practitioners is summarized and woven into this discussion (Niemiec and Pearce, 2020).
    Niemiec, R. M., & Pearce, R. (2020). The practice of character strengths: Unifying definitions, principles, and exploration of what’s soaring, emerging, and ripe with potential in science and in practice. Frontiers in Psychology. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.590220

Relationships

  • Different character strengths profiles emerged for each of the domains of life people spend their time in, namely work, education, leisure, personal relationships, and romantic relationships. Strengths-related behavior in the different domains of life was strongly connected to flourishing (Wagner, Pindeus, & Ruch, 2021).
    Wagner, L., Pindeus, L., & Ruch, W. (2021). Character strengths in the life domains of work, education, leisure, and relationships, and their associations with flourishing. Frontiers in Psychology. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.597534

Spirituality

  • Argues that the VIA Classification represents “the decoding of the human spirit.” It outlines the six levels by which spirituality is already infused within the VIA Classification and offers wholeness as a superordinate virtue therein. Theorizes how the fields of spirituality and character strengths can mutually enhance one another, outlining the grounding path (ways in which character strengths ground and enhance spirituality) and the sanctification path (ways in which spirituality enhances character strengths through the sacred). Concludes with an exploration of five evidence-based practices for each pathway (Niemiec, Russo-Netzer, & Pargament, 2020).
    Niemiec, R. M., Russo-Netzer, P., & Pargament, K. I. (2020). The decoding of the human spirit: A synergy of spirituality and character strengths toward wholeness. Frontiers in Psychology. http://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.02040
  • Explores how character strengths can be viewed as pathways toward nonduality and that spirituality can be understood and practiced by using character strengths. Argues that the VIA Classification represents a classification of the positive human spirit. (Littman-Ovadia & David, 2020).
    Littman-Ovadia, H., & David, A. (2020). Character strengths as manifestations of spiritual life: Realizing the non-dual from the dual. Frontiers in Psychology. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00960