Character Strengths and PERMA: Investigating the Relationships of Character Strengths with a Multidimensional Framework of Well-Being
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.
KeywordsCharacter 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.
- 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. https://doi.org/10.1002/per.408.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Avsec, A., Kavčič, T., & Jarden, A. (2016). Synergistic paths to happiness: Findings from seven countries. Journal of Happiness Studies, 17, 1371–1390. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-015-9648-2.
- 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. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11482-018-9689-x.
- 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). https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00876.
- Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow. New York, NY: Harper and Row.Google Scholar
- 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). https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00686.
- 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. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-016-9751-z.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- 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. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11482-018-9690-4.
- 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. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2017.1365164.
- 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. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01159.
- 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. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11482-018-9688-y.
- 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. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11482-018-9699-8.
- 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
- 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. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jvb.2013.06.002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Kavčič, T., & Avsec, A. (2014). Happiness and pathways to reach it: Dimension-centered versus personcentered approach. Social Indicators Research, 118, 141–156. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11205-013-0411-y.
- 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. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jrp.2013.04.007.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- 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. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2016.1163403.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- 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
- 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. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11205-011-9823-8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- 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. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-012-9331-9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- 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). https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00456.
- 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. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2015.1137622.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- 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). https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00460.
- 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. https://doi.org/10.1027/1015-5759/a000030.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- 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. https://doi.org/10.1027/1614-0001/a000022.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- 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. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2014.03.042.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Seligman, M. E. P. (2002). Authentic happiness. New York: Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
- Seligman, M. E. P. (2011). Flourish. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
- 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. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11482-018-9693-1.
- 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. https://doi.org/10.1177/0272431618791286.
- 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). https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00610.