Conceptualizing strengths: positive development and mental health correlates in emerging
Master of Arts
Personal strengths and well-being
Stress and well-being (undergraduate students)
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Research on individual strengths has historically been conducted with samples across the lifespan. However, the conceptualization and operationalization of strengths has varied by study, leaving gaps in the literature. In the present study, the character and psychosocial strengths models were employed simultaneously to extend the psychosocial strengths approach into the emerging adult undergraduate population. N=280 undergraduate students from Lakehead University were recruited to complete measures of character strengths, psychosocial strengths, retrospective strength development over time, well-being, anxiety, depression, stress, emotional experience, and conduct problems. A number of hypotheses were tested to clarify the nature of the relationships between these variables of interest and to establish construct validity for the Strengths Assessment Inventory – Post Secondary (SAI-PS). The main findings were generally consistent with the stated hypotheses and are used to frame psychosocial strengths within a developmental model. Most notably, psychosocial strengths were significantly and positively associated with well-being, though the respective negative associations found between psychosocial strengths and depression and anxiety were no longer significant when accounting for the variability due to stress. Emerging adulthood can be reconceptualized in light of the positive associations between emotional character strengths and psychosocial strengths, as the present findings were aligned with previously established theories of strengths in other life stages. Psychometric properties of the SAI-PS were established in terms of convergent validity with well-being and character strength measures, and discriminant validity with depression, anxiety, and conduct problem measures. Implications of the results for future strength-based interventions and research are discussed.