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Welcome to the website for the Pathways to Character Project!

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Welcome to the website for the Pathways to Character Project! The overarching goal of this project is to examine whether and how adversities, challenges, or failures that individuals experience over the course of their life can potentially lead to growth in character strengths and virtues. We have now officially launched the website and in this first blog post, we wanted to take the time to provide you with more information on the background/motivation of the project and its specific components.

Over the course of the lifespan, individuals encounter adversities, life challenges or traumas that may qualitatively change their life circumstances (Hultsch & Plemons, 1979). These adversities range from daily stressors (e.g., challenges at home or work) and chronic stressors (e.g., living with significant illness) to adverse life events (e.g., bereavement, unemployment) and clinical trauma (e.g., being involved in a major accident). These adversities are uniquely characterized by discrete and, in principle, observable environmental and social changes. These changes are potentially threatening because they precipitate the need for adjustment in identity or life routines (Gray, Litz, Hsu, & Lombardo, 2004; Turner & Wheaton, 1995).

Consistent across these adversities is their potential to have long-lasting impacts, both good and bad. Various trajectories or course of changes that have been identified following such adversities include the extent to which individuals are able to overcome and bounce back (recovery), maintain previous levels of psychological functioning (resilient), or show improvements in psychological functioning that is enduring (growth). The resilience (Bonanno, 2004; Luthar, Cicchetti, & Becker, 2000; Masten & Narayan, 2012) and post-traumatic growth (PTG; Jayawickreme, & Blackie, 2014; Tedeschi & Calhoun, 2004) literatures have been instrumental in providing conceptual and methodological frameworks to study change as a function of adversity and factors that promote positive outcomes such as PTG and resilience.

There is continued and increased interest in the PTG and resilience literatures as shown by recent debates and controversies coming to light (see Infurna & Luthar, 2016; Jayawickreme & Blackie, 2014). The recent debates highlight numerous important avenues to pursue, of which we hope the Pathways to Character project will be in the position to inform. For example, these literatures need greater clarity, specifically in the examination of claims that growth should come out of tragedy (e.g., does growth occur when studied prospectively?) and the domains through which growth is likely to manifest as a function of adversity.

The Pathways to Character Project will use a multi-pronged approach to informing the literature and cultural narrative on whether and how “strength comes from adversity”. The major component of the project is the Request for Proposals (RFP), which will encompass a $2 million grant competition where we are currently soliciting proposals from the research community. The maximum amount that researchers can request is $250,000 ($300,000 for multi-site projects) for projects not to exceed two-years in duration. We hope to make up to 10 awards. The RFP application process will be comprised of two-stages. First, a letter of intent (LOI) is due on April 15, 2017, which will provide a brief overview of the intended project (see RFP announcement here for more detailed information). The goal of the LOI is to get the overarching goals and justification for the type of project researchers want to pursue. We, along with the Advisory Board, will review the LOIs and make decisions on which projects will be invited to submit a full proposal. The full proposal will involve providing the specifics of the project (e.g., background/motivation, research design) in much greater detail and how it pertains to the overall goal of the Pathways to Character Project.

We are both very much excited about the types of projects that will be submitted for the RFP. We are expecting projects to be submitted from a wide-range of disciplines within psychology, including, but not limited to clinical science, developmental, health, industrial-organizational, social-personality, as well as from disciplines outside of psychology, including philosophy, and religion. We hope that the RFP will encourage the next generation of researchers interested in examining the possibilities for character growth following adversity, challenge or failure.

The website is intended to provide more information on the Pathways to Character Project, meet the team involved, to highlight research that eventually arises from the RFP, and provide resources and pertinent information on PTG and resilience (i.e., Resources and Blog pages).

As you are looking through the website and are potentially thinking about submitting a letter of intent, please do not hesitate to direct questions to us at info@pathwaystocharacter.org.

Note: The opinions expressed in this blog post are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the John Templeton Foundation.

References
Bonanno, G. A. (2004). Loss, trauma, and human resilience: Have we underestimated the human capacity to thrive after extremely adverse events? American Psychologist, 59, 20-28.
Gray, M. J., Litz, B. T., Hsu, J. L., & Lombardo, T. W. (2004). Psychometric properties of the life events checklist. Assessment, 11(4), 330-341.
Hultsch, D. F., & Plemons, J. K. (1979). Life events and life-span development. Life-span development and behavior.
Infurna, F. J., & Luthar, S. S. (2016). Resilience to major life stressors is not as common as thought. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 11, 175-194.
Jayawickreme, E., & Blackie, L. E. R. (2014). Post-traumatic growth as positive personality change: Evidence, controversies and future directions. European Journal of Personality, 28, 312-331.
Luthar, S. S., Cicchetti, D., & Becker, B. (2000). The construct of resilience: A critical evaluation and guidelines for future work. Child Development, 71, 543-562.
Masten, A. S., & Narayan, A. J. (2012). Child development in the context of disaster, war, and terrorism: Pathways of risk and resilience. Annual Review of Psychology, 63, 227-257.
Tedeschi, R. G., & Calhoun, L. G. (2004). Posttraumatic growth: Conceptual foundations and empirical evidence. Psychological Inquiry, 15, 1-18.
Turner, R. J., & Wheaton, B. (1995). Checklist measurement of stressful life events. Measuring stress: A guide for health and social scientists, 29-58.