Does Adversity Lead to Character Growth: If so, How and for Whom?

The team members of the empirical research project at ASU will consist of Frank J. Infurna, Suniya S. Luthar and Kevin J. Grimm. This project features a prospective longitudinal design of repeated assessments from individuals in midlife over a period of two years.

The illumination of whether, how, and for whom adversity leads to character growth are the central objectives of this empirical project. The question of whether adversity leads to character growth focuses on the domains in which growth is most likely to manifest, and whether it differs by adversity; how refers to the processes through which character growth manifests following adversity (e.g., meaning-making); who focuses on individual characteristics that may increase or decrease the likelihood of experiencing growth following adversity (e.g., social support).

There are several reasons why we focus our study on individuals who are in midlife. First, midlife is a period in the lifespan that is characterized by a complex interplay of multiple roles (Lachman, 2004). Individuals are balancing family and career in the context of changing abilities in physical health and cognitive functioning. Second, the current generation of Baby Boomers is going to be living longer than previous generations. The changing needs of Baby Boomers in midlife may especially put strain on their character strengths and virtues due to the multiple roles that they will be involved in. For example, people in midlife are sandwiched between raising their children and “launching” them into adulthood, in addition to the changing relations with their aging parents due to greater involvement and potential caregiving-related duties.