Character Strengths and PERMA: Investigating the Relationships of Character Strengths with a Multidimensional Framework of Well-Being

  • Lisa WagnerEmail author
  • Fabian Gander
  • René T. Proyer
  • Willibald Ruch


Character strengths are positively valued traits that are expected to contribute to the good life (Peterson and Seligman 2004). Numerous studies have confirmed their robust relationships with subjective or hedonic well-being. Seligman (2011) provided a new framework of well-being suggesting five dimensions that encompass both hedonic and eudemonic aspects of well-being: positive emotions, engagement, positive relationships, meaning and accomplishment (forming the acronym PERMA). However, the role of character strengths has not been studied so far in this framework. Also, most studies on the relationships between character strengths and well-being only have only relied on self-reports. This set of two studies examines the relationships of character strengths and the orientations to well-being in two cross-sectional studies (Study 1: N = 5521), while also taking informant-reports into account and utilizing different questionnaires to control for a possible method bias (Study 2: N = 172). Participants completed validated assessments of character strengths and the PERMA dimensions (self-reports in Study 1, self- and informant-reports in Study 2). Results showed that in self-reports, all strengths were positively related to all PERMA dimensions, but there were differences in the size of the relationships. Accomplishment, for example, showed the strongest associations with strengths such as perspective, persistence, and zest, whereas for positive relationships, strengths such as teamwork, love, and kindness were the best predictors. These findings were largely confirmed by informant-reports in Study 2. The findings provide further support for the notion that character contributes to well-being and they could guide the development of strengths-based interventions tailored to individual needs.


Character strengths PERMA Flourishing Well-being Orientations to happiness 



This study has been supported by research grants from the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF; grants 100014_132512 and 100014_149772 awarded to RP and WR, and 100014_172723 awarded to WR). The authors thank Sara Wellenzohn and Sarah Frankenthal for their help with data collection and Mara Stewart for proofreading.

Supplementary material

11482_2018_9695_MOESM1_ESM.docx (54 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 53.6 kb)


  1. Allport, G. W. (1921). Personality and character. Psychological Bulletin, 18, 441–455. Scholar
  2. Asendorpf, J. B., Borkenau, P., Ostendorf, F., & van Aken, M. A. (2001). Carving personality description at its joints: confirmation of three replicable personality prototypes for both children and adults. European Journal of Personality, 15, 169–198. Scholar
  3. Avsec, A., Kavčič, T., & Jarden, A. (2016). Synergistic paths to happiness: Findings from seven countries. Journal of Happiness Studies, 17, 1371–1390.
  4. Baumann, N. (2012). Autotelic personality. In S. Engeser (Ed.), Advances in flow research (pp. 165–186). New York: Springer. Scholar
  5. Baumann, D., Ruch, W., Margelisch, K., Gander, F., & Wagner, L. (2019). Character strengths and life satisfaction in later life: an analysis of different living conditions. Applied Research in Quality of Life.
  6. 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, 5(876).
  7. Buschor, C., Proyer, R. T., & Ruch, W. (2013). Self- and peer-rated character strengths: how do they relate to satisfaction with life and orientations to happiness? The Journal of Positive Psychology, 8, 116–127. Scholar
  8. Butler, J., & Kern, M. L. (2016). The PERMA-profiler: a brief multidimensional measure of flourishing. International Journal of Wellbeing, 6(3), 1–48. Scholar
  9. Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow. New York, NY: Harper and Row.Google Scholar
  10. Gander, F., Proyer, R. T., & Ruch, W. (2016). Positive psychology interventions addressing pleasure, engagement, meaning, positive relationships, and accomplishment increase well-being and ameliorate depressive symptoms: A randomized, placebo-controlled online study. Frontiers in Psychology, 7(686).
  11. Gander, F., Proyer, R. T., & Ruch, W. (2017). The subjective assessment of accomplishment and positive relationships: initial validation and correlative and experimental evidence for their association with well-being. Journal of Happiness Studies, 18, 743–764. Scholar
  12. Gander, F., Hofmann, J., Proyer, R. T., & Ruch, W. (2019). Character strengths – Stability, change, and relationships with well-being changes. Applied Research in Quality of Life.
  13. Ghielen, S. T. S., Woerkom, M. van, & Meyers, M. C. (2017). Promoting positive outcomes through strengths interventions: a literature review. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 1–13.
  14. Goodman, F. R., Disabato, D. J., Kashdan, T. B., & Kauffman, S. B. (2017). Measuring well-being: A comparison of subjective well-being and PERMA. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 13, 1–12. Scholar
  15. Güsewell, A., & Ruch, W. (2012). Are only emotional strengths emotional? Character strengths and disposition to positive emotions. Applied Psychology. Health and Well-Being, 4, 218–239. Scholar
  16. Harzer, C., & Ruch, W. (2014). The role of character strengths for task performance, job dedication, interpersonal facilitation, and organizational support. Human Performance, 27, 183–205. Scholar
  17. Hausler, M., Strecker, C., Huber, A., Brenner, M., Höge, T., & Höfer, S. (2017). Distinguishing relational aspects of character strengths with subjective and psychological well-being. Frontiers in Psychology, 8.
  18. Höfer, S., Gander, F., Höge, T., & Ruch, W. (2019). Special issue: Character strengths, well-being, and health in educational and vocational settings. Applied Research in Quality of Life.
  19. Huber, A., Strecker, C., Hausler, M., Kachel, T., Höge, T., & Höfer, S. (2019). Possession and applicability of signature character strengths: What is essential for well-being, work engagement, and burnout? Applied Research in Quality of Life.
  20. Huta, V., & Waterman, A. S. (2014). Eudaimonia and its distinction from hedonia: Developing a classification and terminology for understanding conceptual and operational definitions. Journal of Happiness Studies, 15, 1425–1456. Scholar
  21. Isler, R. B., & Newland, S. A. (2017). Life satisfaction, well-being and safe driving behaviour in undergraduate psychology students. Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour, 47, 143–154. Scholar
  22. John, O. P., & Srivastava, S. (1999). The big five trait taxonomy: History, measurement, and theoretical perspectives. In L. A. Pervin & O. P. John (Eds.), Handbook of personality, second edition: Theory and research (pp. 102–138). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  23. Johnston, C. S., Luciano, E. C., Maggiori, C., Ruch, W., & Rossier, J. (2013). Validation of the German version of the career adapt-abilities scale and its relation to orientations to happiness and work stress. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 83, 295–304. Scholar
  24. Kavčič, T., & Avsec, A. (2014). Happiness and pathways to reach it: Dimension-centered versus personcentered approach. Social Indicators Research, 118, 141–156.
  25. Kleiman, E. M., Adams, L. M., Kashdan, T. B., & Riskind, J. H. (2013). Gratitude and grit indirectly reduce risk of suicidal ideations by enhancing meaning in life: Evidence for a mediated moderation model. Journal of Research in Personality, 47, 539–546. Scholar
  26. Krueger, R. F., Derringer, J., Markon, K. E., Watson, D., & Skodol, A. E. (2012). Initial construction of a maladaptive personality trait model and inventory for DSM-5. Psychological Medicine, 42, 1879–1890. Scholar
  27. Martínez-Martí, M. L., & Ruch, W. (2017a). Character strengths predict resilience over and above positive affect, self-efficacy, optimism, social support, self-esteem, and life satisfaction. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 12, 110–119. Scholar
  28. Martínez-Martí, M. L., & Ruch, W. (2017b). The relationship between orientations to happiness and job satisfaction one year later in a representative sample of employees in Switzerland. Journal of Happiness Studies, 18, 1–15. Scholar
  29. McGrath, R. E. (2014). Scale- and item-level factor analyses of the VIA inventory of strengths. Assessment, 21, 4–14. Scholar
  30. Norrish, J. M., Williams, P., O’Connor, M., & Robinson, J. (2013). An applied framework for positive education. International Journal of Wellbeing, 3(2), 147–161. Scholar
  31. Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Peterson, C., Park, N., & Seligman, M. E. (2005a). Assessment of character strengths. In G. P. Koocher, J. C. Norcross, & S. S. Hill III (Eds.), Psychologists’ desk reference (Vol. 3, 2nd ed., pp. 93–98). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  33. Peterson, C., Park, N., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2005b). Orientations to happiness and life satisfaction: The full life versus the empty life. Journal of Happiness Studies, 6, 25–41. Scholar
  34. Peterson, C., Ruch, W., Beermann, U., Park, N., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2007). Strengths of character, orientations to happiness, and life satisfaction. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 2, 149–156. Scholar
  35. Proyer, R. T., Annen, H., Eggimann, N., Schneider, A., & Ruch, W. (2012). Assessing the “good life” in a military context: how does life and work-satisfaction relate to orientations to happiness and career-success among Swiss professional officers? Social Indicators Research, 106, 577–590. Scholar
  36. Proyer, R. T., Ruch, W., & Buschor, C. (2013). Testing strengths-based interventions: A preliminary study on the effectiveness of a program targeting curiosity, gratitude, hope, humor, and zest for enhancing life satisfaction. Journal of Happiness Studies, 14(1), 275–292. Scholar
  37. Proyer, R. T., Gander, F., Wellenzohn, S., & Ruch, W. (2015). Strengths-based positive psychology interventions: A randomized placebo-controlled online trial on long-term effects for a signature strengths- vs. a lesser strengths-intervention. Frontiers in Psychology, 6(456).
  38. Proyer, R. T., Gander, F., Wellenzohn, S., & Ruch, W. (2016). Addressing the role of personality, ability, and positive and negative affect in positive psychology interventions: Findings from a randomized intervention based on the authentic happiness theory and extensions. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 11, 609–621. Scholar
  39. Ruch, W., & Proyer, R. T. (2015). Mapping strengths into virtues: the relation of the 24 VIA-strengths to six ubiquitous virtues. Frontiers in Psychology, 6(460).
  40. Ruch, W., Harzer, C., Proyer, R. T., Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2010a). Ways to happiness in German-speaking countries: the adaptation of the German version of the orientations to happiness questionnaire in paper-pencil and internet samples. European Journal of Psychological Assessment, 26, 227–234. Scholar
  41. Ruch, W., Proyer, R. T., Harzer, C., Park, N., Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2010b). Values in action inventory of strengths (VIA-IS): adaptation and validation of the German version and the development of a peer-rating form. Journal of Individual Differences, 31, 138–149. Scholar
  42. Ruch, W., Martínez-Martí, M. L., Proyer, R. T., & Harzer, C. (2014). The character strengths rating form (CSRF): development and initial assessment of a 24-item rating scale to assess character strengths. Personality and Individual Differences, 68, 53–58. Scholar
  43. Ruch, W., Bruntsch, R., & Wagner, L. (2017). The role of character traits in economic games. Personality and Individual Differences, 108(Supplement C), 186–190. Scholar
  44. Ruch, W., Gander, F., Platt, T., & Hofmann, J. (2018). Team roles: their relationships to character strengths and job satisfaction. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 13, 190–199. Scholar
  45. Seligman, M. E. P. (2002). Authentic happiness. New York: Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
  46. Seligman, M. E. P. (2011). Flourish. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  47. Slavin, S. J., Schindler, D., Chibnall, J. T., Fendell, G., & Shoss, M. (2012). PERMA: a model for institutional leadership and culture change. Academic Medicine, 87, 1481. Scholar
  48. Strecker, C., Hausler, M., Huber, A., Höge, T., & Höfer, S. (2019). Identifying thriving workplaces in hospitals: Work characteristics and the applicability of character strengths at work. Applied Research in Quality of Life.
  49. Su, R., Tay, L., & Diener, E. (2014). The development and validation of the comprehensive inventory of thriving (CIT) and the brief inventory of thriving (BIT). Applied Psychology. Health and Well-Being, 6, 251–279. Scholar
  50. Teng, C.-I. (2011). Who are likely to experience flow? Impact of temperament and character on flow. Personality and Individual Differences, 50, 863–868. Scholar
  51. Wagner, L. (2018). Good character is what we look for in a friend: Character strengths are positively related to peer acceptance and friendship quality in early adolescents. The Journal of Early Adolescence.
  52. Wagner, L., & Ruch, W. (2015). Good character at school: Positive classroom behavior mediates the link between character strengths and school achievement. Frontiers in Psychology, 6(610).
  53. Weber, M., & Ruch, W. (2012). The role of character strengths in adolescent romantic relationships: an initial study on partner selection and mates’ life satisfaction. Journal of Adolescence, 35, 1537–1546. Scholar

Copyright information

© The International Society for Quality-of-Life Studies (ISQOLS) and Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lisa Wagner
    • 1
    Email author
  • Fabian Gander
    • 1
  • René T. Proyer
    • 2
  • Willibald Ruch
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of ZurichZurichSwitzerland
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyMartin-Luther University Halle-WittenbergHalleGermany

Personalised recommendations