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Assessing Character Strengths in Young Children

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dc.contributor.advisor Lumley, Margaret Friedmann, Jordan 2022-05-19T15:18:25Z 2022-05-19T15:18:25Z 2022-05 2022-05-17
dc.description.abstract Character strengths (i.e., positive core traits that manifest through people’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviours) are a central focus of positive psychology and positive youth development research. Character strengths are theorized to develop across early childhood and throughout development, evidencing numerous associations with wellbeing and the potential to buffer against illbeing. Despite the substantial advancement of character strengths research with older children, adolescents, and adults, very little attention has focused on understanding and assessing character strengths in young children. This dissertation sought to address this deficit by building a better understanding of young children’s character strengths using an exploratory sequential mixed method design. The first objective was to develop a rigorous coding system for identifying early childhood character strengths from caregiver descriptions, and to document the coding system to facilitate future research via a coding manual. The second objective was to examine which character strengths were most prevalent in caregiver descriptions of children aged 4 to 6. Results from 147 caregiver interviews were generally consistent with previous research on the most and least prevalent character strengths with the exception of zest, which was more prevalent in descriptions of this younger sample. Sex differences were also examined. Strengths of love and creativity were more prevalent in descriptions of female children, while humour and prudence were more prevalent in descriptions of male children. The third objective was to explore associations between character strengths and descriptive characteristics of the sample. Response duration and word count were not associated with key participant demographics, with the exception of caregiver level of education. Caregiver level of education was also positively associated with character strengths content. The fourth objective was to examine how early childhood character strengths associate with childhood functioning. Child happiness was significantly positively associated with strengths of creativity, hope, and love of learning, appreciation of beauty and excellence, and zest. Child difficulties were significantly positively related to zest, and prosocial behaviour was significantly positively related to kindness and social intelligence, and significantly negatively related to humour and prudence. Implications and future directions for character strengths research with young children are discussed. en_US
dc.language.iso en en_US
dc.publisher University of Guelph en
dc.subject character strengths en_US
dc.subject positive psychology en_US
dc.subject positive youth development en_US
dc.title Assessing Character Strengths in Young Children en_US
dc.type Thesis en Psychology en_US Doctor of Philosophy en_US Department of Psychology en_US
dc.rights.license All items in the Atrium are protected by copyright with all rights reserved unless otherwise indicated. University of Guelph en

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