Development of character strengths across the deployment cycle among U.S. Army soldiers

William J. Chopik, Whitney L. Kelley, Loryana L. Vie, Jeewon Oh, Douglas G. Bonett, Richard E. Lucas, Martin E.P. Seligman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations

Abstract

Objective: Despite a narrative of post-traumatic growth and resilience, research reliably demonstrating positive character development following adversity has proved elusive. In the current study, we examined changes in character strengths in Army soldiers deploying for the first time. Method: The sample was comprised of 212,386 Army soldiers (Mage = 26.5 years old, SD = 7.13; 70.8% White) who were deploying for the first time. Character strengths were assessed once before and up to three times following soldiers' return from deployment. Results: We found evidence for two classes of change—a resilient class (“stable high”) and a declining class (“persistent low”). Most soldiers were resilient—they had high levels of character strengths prior to deployment and changed very little across the deployment cycle. Approximately 40% of soldiers started with lower character and experienced initial declines post-deployment, from which they experienced no more than small gains over time. Conclusions: Character strengths were highly stable across the deployment transition but some soldiers experienced initial declines from which they never fully rebounded. The findings are discussed in the context of the mechanisms that drive character development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)23-34
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Personality
Volume89
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2021
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • character development
  • character strengths
  • growth mixture modeling
  • resilience
  • U.S. Army soldiers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology

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