Karaktersterktes in Suid-Afrikaanse hoërskool leerders / Jeanette E. Dreyer
Dreyer, Jeanette Embrensië
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Character strengths in South African secondary school learners: The aim of this investigation was to explore character strengths in young people aged 13 to 17 years, from a literature as well as an empirical perspective, with a view to future development landlord enhancement of character strengths and moral competencies in South African youth. The study was based on the emerging theoretical perspective of Positive Psychology, of which character strengths is a core concept and the Values in Action Inventory of Strengths for Youth (VIA-Youth), is the operationalization. A total group of 1691 learners from eight schools in the Vaal Triangle region participated, representing four cultural groups namely African (1~778)W. hite (n=536), Coloured (n=156) and Muslim-Indian (n=221) participants. This was a cross-sectional research design of which the results were reported in three articles: 1. Character strengths rediscovered in Psychology; 2. Validation of the VIA-Youth in a group of South African learners, and 3. Convergence and diversity of character strengths in various groups of South African learners. The fist article was a literature review in which character and character strengths as important concepts in Psychology in general and Positive Psychology in particular, were analysed. The tainted historical background of the moral-ethical "character" concept in the early years of Psychology as a science, as well as Seligman's (2002a) "resurrection" of the concept to a theoretical and research construct with application potential, was discussed. The conceptualized character strengths model of Peterson and Seligman (2004), consisting of six virtue clusters manifested by 24 character strengths, was analysed. Practical application potential and aspects for further empirical scrutiny of the character strengths model, was indicated and recommendations were made. The second article reported the results of the investigation of the psychometric properties of the VIA-Youth (Park & Peterson, 2006) in a multi-cultural group of South African learners. Descriptive statistics, reliability coefficients and correlations were calculated and confiatory and exploratory factor analyses were performed. In the total multicultural urban group (N=1362), as well as in the separate urban subgroups, acceptable reliability coefficients were obtained for most of the strengths-subscales. Mean scores for the character strengths compared well with those found in literature. Criterion related validity was supported by correlations in expected directions between VIA-Youth subscales and indices of psychological well-being and pathology in the case of the multi-cultural urban group. Exploration of construct validity by testing of structural equation models and performance of confiatory and exploratory factor analyses, revealed that the VIA Youth is more homogeneous or one-dimensional than multi-dimensional. Findings did not support the theoretically hypothesized six virtue-cluster model of character strengths. Implications for practice and further research were indicated. The third article presented the findings of the study exploring possible differences and similarities in the manifestation of character strengths in various groups of South African leaders. The Values in Action Inventory of Strengths for Youth, (Park & Peterson, 2006) was completed. A MANOVA, t-tests and Cohen's practical effect sizes, were used to determine possible significant differences among African, White, Coloured and Muslim-Indian leaders as well as between males (n=561) and females (n=801). The main findings were: That there were many significant differences in magnitude of the various character strengths among the cultural-contextual groups involved, but very few differences were of large practical significance; that girls scored significantly higher than boys on all measured character strengths, but showed large effect size practical significances only for Kindness and Appreciation of beauty, and that all sub-groups had above average mean scores on all strengths. Recommendations for further research were made, and some suggestions provided for practical application. It was finally concluded that the VIA-Youth is a conceptually socially relevant and potentially useful measuring instrument in the South African multi-cultural youth context. Extensive further research needs to be done regarding the conceptual clarity in an African cultural context, of the theoretical model of six virtues in which 24 strengths cluster to constitute the Values in Action Inventory of Strengths. The conceptualization and manifestation of character strengths in both adults and youth in South Africa, thus needs further clarification.
- ETD@Vaal Triangle Campus