Is virtue more than its own reward? Character strengths and their relation to well -being in a prospective longitudinal study of middle school -aged adolescents

Katherine Kampe Dahlsgaard, University of Pennsylvania


Two studies are reported that explore the identification and correlates of character strengths in youth. In Study 1, I developed the VIA-Y a self-report measure of child character strengths based on the Values In Action (VIA) Classification of Strengths (Peterson & Seligman, 2004). After first testing the VIA-Y on a sample of 334 middle school students, I refined the measure and then examined its psychometric properties in a separate sample of 134 middle school students. The majority of the 24 scales of the VIA-Y show acceptable internal reliability as well as good cross-informant convergence with analogous scales of the parent-report measure (the VIA-P) also developed for this study. Exploratory factor analysis of the VIA-Y reveals a reliable and interpretable factor structure. Evidence for the convergent validity of the VIA-Y is provided by typically moderate, significant positive correlations with measures of life satisfaction, self-esteem, and competency and typically moderate, significant negative correlations with measures of psychological problems. Though correlations between the VIA-Y and these self-reported validity measures may have been inflated due to common method variance, stronger evidence of its validity is provided by significant associations in the expected directions with external, non-self-report indices of overt behavior. The second sample was followed prospectively over the course of one year, and, in Study 2, I investigated the predictive relationship between the factor-based VIA-Y virtue scales and various outcome measures of psychological well-being. Cross-sectional analyses revealed robust and stable relationships between several of the virtue scales and self-reported life satisfaction and parent-reported psychological problems. However, longitudinal analyses with hierarchical linear modeling (HLM) revealed that virtues measured at the first assessment point were largely unrelated to change in outcome. When significant effects were found, they were not in the predicted direction, with lower initial status on some virtues predicting slower decline in life satisfaction or faster decline on internalizing problems. Limitations of both studies are addressed.

Subject Area

Developmental psychology|Psychotherapy

Recommended Citation

Dahlsgaard, Katherine Kampe, "Is virtue more than its own reward? Character strengths and their relation to well -being in a prospective longitudinal study of middle school -aged adolescents" (2005). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3179723.