U.S. Mexicans’ Pathways to Character

There is popular and scholarly interest in the idea that adverse experiences may promote character/virtue development. Scholarship can address previous methodological and conceptual limitations by studying character development processes in groups that demonstrate high exposure to adversity and high virtues. Though there is substantial within-group diversity, prior research shows that U.S. Mexicans display high character strengths (including relatedness, spirituality, and prosocial behaviors) and high rates of exposure to adversities. Therefore, we propose a cultural-developmental investigation of character growth from late childhood (10 years of age) to early adulthood (23 years) in a large (N = 749), longitudinal sample of U.S. Mexicans. We will model longitudinal changes in relatedness, spirituality, and prosocial behaviors among individuals that are diverse on adversity exposures and examine individual characteristics that might trigger growth following adversity. To address prior critical methodological and conceptual limitations, we include (a) individuals who have experienced no adversities, traumatic events, and chronic adversities; (b) a direct assessment of current standing measures of character strengths, both before and after adversity exposure; and (c) the exploration of mechanisms that may support growth processes. The work will advance an understanding of character strength development in a rapidly growing and relatively vulnerable U.S. population.