Character strengths and life satisfaction


Term Paper, 2017
31 Pages, Grade: 2,0

Excerpt

Contents

Abstract

List of tables

List of figures

1 Introduction

2 Theoretical background
2.1 Character strengths
2.2 Life satisfaction
2.3 Character strengths and life satisfaction
2.4 Relation of character strengths and life satisfaction to gender
2.5 Relation of character strengths and life satisfaction to age
2.6 Aim of this study and hypotheses

3 Method
3.1 Participants
3.2 Instruments
3.3 Procedure

4 Results
4.1 Factor analysis
4.2 Preliminary analyses
4.3 Results regarding the hypotheses

5 Discussion

6 Conclusion

7 References

8 Appendix

Abstract

Character strengths are more or less stable personality traits and contribute to a fulfilling life (Peterson & Seligman, 2004). This web-based study aims to determine the factorial structure of character strengths and investigate the relationship between character strengths and life satisfaction regarding gender and age in an adult German sample (N = 423). Measures used are the Values in Action Inventory of Strengths (VIA-IS; Peterson & Seligman, 2004) and the Satisfaction With Life Scale (SWLS; Diener, Emmons, Larsen & Griffin, 1985). Four factors of character strengths were found through factor analysis: intellectual strengths, interpersonal strengths, emotional-spiritual strengths and strengths of restraint. All factors of character strengths correlated with life satisfaction with emotional-spiritual strengths being the highest. Women had higher scores on emotional-spiritual strengths whereas men had higher scores on intellectual strengths. Higher age was associated with higher scores on emotional-spiritual strengths and higher life satisfaction. Calculated separately for each age group the relation between character strengths and life satisfaction was mildly moderated by gender.

Keywords: Character strengths, VIA Inventory of Strengths, life satisfaction

List of tables

Table 1. Principal axis factor analysis with promax rotation and extraction offour factors..

Table 2. Descriptive statistics of the factors of character strengths and SWLS (N = 423)

Table 3. Correlations between character strengths and life satisfaction

Table 4. Correlations between character strengths and life satisfaction for age groups

Table 5. Partial correlations between character strengths and life satisfaction for age groups controlling for gender

Table 6. Correlations between character strengths and life satisfaction for men and women

List of figures

Figure 1. Character strengths and virtues (Park, Peterson & Seligman, 2006)

Figure 2. Circumplex-model of character strengths (Peterson, 2006)

Figure 3. Histogram with normal distribution curve of the scale intellectual strengths

Figure 4. Normally distributed Q-Q-plot of the scale intellectual strengths

1 Introduction

In the past decades a lot of research effort has been put into defining psychological diseases. This has led to the compilation of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) by the American Psychiatric Association (APA, 1994) and the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD) by the World Health Organization (WHO, 1990). The focus of researchers lying thereby on the “bad” parts of living: the classification and treatment of diseases and disorders. Recently the focus of research turned to the “good” parts of living to answer the question: What makes live worth living? “Positive psychology” emerged as a scientific field that deals with topics regarding human happiness and flourishing (Peterson & Seligman, 2004). Overall positive psychology focuses on positive subjective experiences, positive individual differences and how to foster the latter two. Thereby it complements the research about psychological disorders by exploring resilience to find out which human characteristics can prevent psychological disorders from occurring in the first place. One branch of positive psychology is the study of character strengths and virtues in order to define and classify “good” character and how to cultivate it.

2 Theoretical background

In the following I will first define virtues, character strengths and life satisfaction. Then I will present some empirical findings about character strengths and life satisfaction in relation to age and gender which form the theoretical basis of this study.

2.1 Character strengths

Peterson and Seligman (2004) describe character in terms of virtues and character strengths in their Values in Action Inventory of Strengths (VIA-IS). The six virtues (wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance, transcendence) can be seen as broad and rather abstract concepts of good character. Peterson and Seligman (2004) describe them as universal and known in every culture past and present in one form or another. They are consistently valued by moral philosophers and religious thinkers, but also by more recent books (e. g. the Harry Potter books) or even television series (e. g. Star Trek, Pokemon). The multifaceted nature of virtues makes it difficult to measure them. Because of this each virtue is defined by a number of distinct character strengths - 24 in total, as can be seen in figure one on the next page. This means that a virtue can be expressed through different character strengths. For example one could show the virtue temperance through the character strengths modesty and prudence or through self-regulation and forgiveness. The whole process of choosing the six virtues and the 24 character strengths of the VIA classification is described in Peterson and Seligman (2004).

Peterson and Seligman (2004) describe character strengths in general as positive desirable traits that reflect upon thoughts, feelings and actions. They are personality traits with generality across different situations and stability over time that different individuals display more or less. But they are most certainly also formed and influenced by the environment one grows up and lives in and therefore can be changed or learned. Some character strengths can only be displayed in certain situations (e. g. bravery). It is also important to note that character strengths fall into the moral domain, so their use should be intrinsically motivated. As an integral part of positive psychology the display of character strengths should contribute to a fulfilling life and individual happiness.

So to summarize: “Character” as defined for this study refers to stable individual differences in the display of the 24 character strengths and is formed by one’s environment.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 1. Character strengths and virtues (Park, Peterson & Seligman, 2006)[1].

When the 24 character strengths of the VIA classification are grouped statistically by means of factor analysis usually five factors emerge. Peterson and Seligman (2004) call these intellectual strengths (e. g. creativity, curiosity, love of learning), interpersonal strengths (e. g. kindness, leadership, teamwork), strengths of restraint (e. g. fairness, modesty, forgiveness, prudence), emotional strengths (e. g. bravery, hope, self-regulation, zest) and theological/spiritual strengths (e. g. gratitude, spirituality). This five-factor structure has been replicated by Ruch et al. (2010), Littman-Ovadia and Lavy (2011), McGrath (2015) and Azanedo, Fernandez-Abascal and Barraca (2014).

Based on ipsative data Peterson (2006) found that character strengths can be defined by two bipolar factors: strengths of the heart (e. g. spirituality, humour) vs. strengths of the mind (e. g. self-regulation, perseverance) and strengths focusing on self (e. g. creativity, curiosity) vs. strengths focusing on others (e. g. teamwork, leadership). This two-factor solution can be arranged in a circumplex-model (see figure two).

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 2. Circumplex-model of character strengths (Peterson, 2006).

2.2 Life satisfaction

Life satisfaction is one aspect of subjective well-being and refers to the global assessment of one’s quality of life (Diener et al., 1985). One’s own life circumstances are evaluated and compared with one’s individual idea of a fulfilling life. This assessment is highly subjective, because each individual sets their own standard of an ideal life themselves; it is not imposed externally.

2.3 Character strengths and life satisfaction

In a large sample of 5299 adults (primarily US citizens) all character strengths were to a certain extent positively correlated to life satisfaction - while controlling for age and gender (Park, Peterson & Seligman, 2004). This is to be expected following the above definition of character strengths as psychologically fulfilling. In this study hope, zest, love, gratitude and curiosity had the strongest positive correlations to life satisfaction of all the character strengths. Modesty, creativity, appreciation of beauty and excellence, judgment and love of learning were only weakly positively correlated to life satisfaction. These findings have also been replicated in other studies (Brdar, Anic & Rijavec, 2011; Proctor, Maltby & Linley, 2011).

Regarding the five-factor model of character strengths presented above Littman-Ovadia and Lavy (2011) found that interpersonal strengths (e. g. leadership, teamwork) did not correlate significantly with life satisfaction, but the four other factors did. Contradicting this Park et al. (2004) found that interpersonal strengths were more strongly associated with life satisfaction than intellectual strengths (e. g. creativity, love of learning, judgement). Proyer, Ruch and Buschor (2013) found that significant predictors for life satisfaction were interpersonal strengths, emotional strengths (e. g. zest, hope) and spiritual strengths (e. g. spirituality, gratitude).

2.4 Relation of character strengths and life satisfaction to gender

Generally studies found higher scores for women than men on interpersonal strengths like love and kindness and higher scores for men than women on intellectual strengths like curiosity and creativity (Park et al., 2004; Littman-Ovadia & Lavy, 2011; Linley et al., 2007). These findings have also been replicated for different cultures. For example in a Japanese sample men had higher scores than women on self-regulation and on intellectual strengths like judgement, perspective and creativity (Shimai, Otake, Park, Peterson & Seligman, 2006). Women had higher scores than men on love, teamwork, gratitude and appreciation of beauty and excellence.

Brdar et al. (2011) examined the relationship between character strengths and life satisfaction regarding gender. Women had higher scores than men on interpersonal strengths and also on appreciation of beauty and excellence, honesty and gratitude. For women the highest predictors for life satisfaction were hope, love, appreciation of beauty and excellence and zest. Curiosity only correlated with life satisfaction for women. Men had higher scores than women only on self-regulation. The correlations between life satisfaction and intellectual strengths were higher for men than women. For men the highest predictors for life satisfaction were creativity, fairness, humour and perspective. Social intelligence only correlated with life satisfaction for men.

Most studies did not find any differences in gender regarding life satisfaction (Brdar et al., 2011; Littman-Ovadia & Lavy, 2011; Proyer, Gander, Wyss & Ruch, 2011).

2.5 Relation of character strengths and life satisfaction to age

Empirical findings on character strengths relating to age are inconsistent. Park et al. (2004) did not find any age differences regarding character strengths. Other studies have. In a German sample age correlated positively with strengths of the virtue temperance (forgiveness, modesty, prudence, self-regulation), gratitude and spirituality (Ruch et al., 2010). Similarly in Linley et al. (2007) and Azanedo et al. (2014) strengths of restraint (e. g. prudence, self­regulation) and intellectual strengths (e. g. love of learning) correlated highly positive with age.

Regarding the relationship between character strengths, life satisfaction and age Proyer et al. (2011) found that appreciation of beauty and excellence and spirituality correlated higher with life satisfaction for older people compared to young and middle-aged people. Isaacowitz, Vaillant and Seligman (2004) investigated differences in character strengths and life satisfaction between three age groups (young adults: age 18 to 25, middle-aged adults: age 36 to 59, older adults: age 60 and above). For all three age groups higher levels of character strengths were correlated with higher life satisfaction. But while older people had the highest scores on what the authors call “generativity-relevant” strengths like teamwork and kindness, younger people had their highest scores on creativity and curiosity (Isaacowitz et al., 2004, p. 95). For young adults only hope significantly predicted life satisfaction, whereas among middle-aged individuals, love was the only predictor. This is consistent with theories on developmental tasks for each age group. For younger people an open view of the world is beneficial to prompt exploration to find their own “place”. Older people benefit from character strengths concerning social connection.

2.6 Aim of this study and hypotheses

This study aims to replicate previous findings of a five-factor structure of character strengths (Peterson & Seligman, 2004; Ruch et al., 2010; Littman-Ovadia & Lavy, 2011). The empirical findings on character strengths, life satisfaction, age and gender presented above lead to the following hypotheses:

H1a: There are age differences concerning the scores on character strengths.

H1b: Men and women differ in their scores on character strengths.

H2a: There are age differences concerning life satisfaction.

H2b: Men and women do not differ in their life satisfaction.

H3: Character strengths correlate with life satisfaction.

H4a: There are age differences concerning the relationship between character strengths and life satisfaction.

H4b: There are gender differences concerning the relationship between character strengths and life satisfaction.

3 Method

3.1 Participants

Study participants were 439 adults primarily with German citizenship. Participants were excluded if they gave too many similar answers (e. g. always “1” on a scale from one to five). To identify unusual response patterns the dataset was transposed so that variables were in the rows and participants were in the columns. Then factor analyses (principal component) with two fixed factors and without rotation were conducted. As was expected the majority of participants had a high loading on the first factor and a low to average loading on the second factor. A negative loading on the first factor or a high loading on the second factor together with a low loading on the first factor indicated an unusual response pattern. As a result of this screening 16 participants were excluded from the following analyses. That reduced the sample to 423 adults (179 male, 244 female) from age 18 to 82 (M = 37.78, SD = 14.93). Most participants were either married or in a relationship and did not have children. The majority had university degrees or vocational training and were employed.

3.2 Instruments

The Values in Action Inventory of Strengths (VIA-IS; Peterson, Park & Seligman, 2005) measures the 24 character strengths defined by Peterson und Seligman (2004) with 10 items per scale (240 items in total) on a five-point Likert scale from „very much unlike me“ to „very much like me“. An exemplary item of the scale forgiveness is „I believe it is best to forgive and forget.” Responses are averaged within scales. Ruch et al. (2010) developed the German version of the VIA-IS. In the German version the median of the internal consistency of all scales measured by Cronbach’s alpha was a = .77 (N = 1674) and the average of the test-retest correlations of all scales was rtt = .73 over a nine month period (Ruch et al., 2010). The validity is given with a comparison of the self- and peer-rating versions and correlates with measures of happiness and subjective well-being (Peterson et al., 2005). For this study the short version of the German VIA-IS with 120 items (five items per scale) was used.

The Satisfaction With Life Scale (SWLS; Diener et al., 1985) measures general life satisfaction (e. g. “The conditions of my life are excellent.”). This self-report questionnaire contains five items with a seven-point Likert scale from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree”. It has acceptable psychometric properties (Pavot & Diener, 1993).

3.3 Procedure

The survey was available online between May 26th, 2016 and June 6th, 2016. The participants were invited personally and via social networks. They did not receive any payment for their participation. However a feedback about their own character strengths according to their answers on the VIA-IS was sent to them.

4 Results

All the following analyses were calculated with the statistics program SPSS version 22.

4.1 Factor analysis

A factor analysis was conducted to determine the dimensional structure of the VIA-IS in this sample. A principal axis factor analysis was chosen, because this method takes into account the random error inherent in measurement. Initially the number of factors was determined using the Kaiser criterion which extracts all factors with eigenvalues greater than one. The Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin criterion as measure of sampling adequacy (KMO = .91) and the diagonals of the anti-image matrix (MSA >= .83) indicated that the data was suitable for a factor analysis. The Bartlett test of sphericity was significant (x2 (276) = 5467.44, p < .001), so the scales were sufficiently correlated for a factor analysis.

The initial configuration with the Kaiser criterion for factor extraction lead to five factors with eigenvalues greater than one. These factors were retained for rotation using promax, because the resulting factors were expected to correlate. Unfortunately one of the factors was only comprised of the two character strengths perseverance and hope and was not suitable for interpretation in light of the previous findings on the factorial structure of the VIA-IS. Also the strength love did not load with more than .25 on any factor which is insufficient to allow interpretation.

Therefore another principal axis factor analysis with promax rotation and extraction of four factors was calculated. The results are shown in table one on the next page. The highest loadings appear in bold. In accordance with the literature presented above factor one comprised of intellectual strengths, factor two of interpersonal strengths and factor four of strengths of restraint. Factor three seemed to be a mixture between the previously called emotional and spiritual strengths. Factor one explained 35.41 % of the variance; taken together the four factors explained a total of 52.0 % of the variance. Most character strengths could be allocated primarily to one of the four factors. For some strengths that was not the case. For example curiosity loaded on factor one with .56 and on factor three with .43 so that the allocation was not clear. This was similar with the strengths social intelligence, zest, humour, modesty and spirituality.

[...]


[1] Religiousness = spirituality

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Details

Title
Character strengths and life satisfaction
College
University of Kassel
Grade
2,0
Author
Year
2017
Pages
31
Catalog Number
V448866
ISBN (eBook)
9783668839342
ISBN (Book)
9783668839359
Language
English
Tags
character
Quote paper
Marie-Rose Degg (Author), 2017, Character strengths and life satisfaction, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/448866

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