Research

What are the Ingredients of Adversity? Examining Characteristics of Adverse Events as Predictors of Character Growth

Why do some events lead to growth in character strengths and others do not? Past research has addressed this question using a typological approach where adversities are grouped into different types or categories (e.g., daily stressor vs. clinical trauma). This approach has practical and theoretical limitations which we circumvent in this project by using a dimensional approach to examine how and why adverse events differ in their impact on character strengths. In previous research, we have identified 10 dimensions of event characteristics (e.g., external control, negative valence). In the present project, we examine the association among these event characteristics and character growth in a five-wave prospective longitudinal study of emerging adults. Event characteristics and central character strengths (altruism, humility, gratitude, empathy, spirituality, and open-mindedness) will be assessed at each occasion. These data allow us to address five central research questions: (1) Which characteristics of adverse events are generally associated with character growth? (2) Which characteristics of adverse events are generally associated with declines in character strengths? (3) Are specific characteristics of adverse events associated with growth in specific character strengths? (4) Does the perception of event characteristics change over time? (5) Is the association between adversity and character strengths bidirectional?