Initiatives & Events
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The theme of “strength from adversity” is appealing to many, and central to a number of cultural narratives. However, claims that adversity can in fact build character lacks robust empirical evidence, with many unanswered questions remaining. Do character strengths and virtues in fact grow following adversity and what are the rigorous methodological approaches for prospectively assessing potential growth? The Pathways to Character project aims to promote research that rigorously examines whether adversity, challenge, or failure can strengthen character, with a focus on the virtues of altruism, humility, gratitude, relatedness/empathy, spirituality and open-mindedness.Learn More
The empirical research at WFU will be led by Eranda Jayawickreme and other collaborators. This project aims to address the causality, accuracy, stability, and mechanisms of short-term adversity-driven change with 360 participants drawn from two different populations each highly likely to be exposed to different forms of challenge and failure; a student sample experiencing a year of significant academic challenges (following Blackie et al., 2016) and a low socio-economic community sample (following Blackie, Jayawickreme, Helzer, Forgeard, & Roepke, 2015).
Although many individuals retrospectively report feeling more open-minded and receptive to new possibilities after experiencing major stressors (i.e., potentially life-altering adverse events), pertinent longitudinal studies are scarce and have yielded contradictory findings. People may involuntarily distort their perceptions to cope with difficulties. Furthermore, experimental research has shown that minor stressors (i.e., daily problems) decrease open-mindedness […]
Research at ASU will examine the nature of character growth following adversity, its concordance with informant reports, the processes through which growth manifests following adversity and individuals’ characteristics that may increase or decrease one’s likelihood of experiencing character growth following adversity.
Research at WFU will combine experience sampling methodology, self- and informant-ratings and qualitative interviews to examine the relationship between retrospective self-perceived growth, growth-relevant behaviors, identity and reputation to accurately access character change following challenge and failure.
Our Project Team is an interdisciplinary group of scholars, each of them well-respected in their field, who will be a part of the grant review process and serve as a board of advisors for the Pathways to Character Project.Learn more