Exploring the validity of the VIA-Inventory of Strengths in an African context / Itumeleng P. Khumalo
Khumalo, Itumeleng Paul
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The aim of this study was to explore the validity of the Values in Action Inventory of Strengths (VIA-IS) in an African context. This 240-item self-report questionnaire that measures 24 character strengths (Peterson & Seligrnan, 2004), was developed in a western individualistic context, and it cannot be assumed to be valid in African contexts without prior scientific evaluation. The current study, a first step in the evaluation of its validity in an African context, focussed on psychometric properties such as reliability, mean scores and variance, criterion-related validity, confirmatory and exploratory factor analyses, as well as translatability. In a cross-sectional survey design an availability sample of African students (N=256) completed the original English version of the VIA-IS and other criterion-related measures of psychological well-being and health, during facilitated group sessions. The latter scales were the Affectometer 2 (Kammann & Flett, 1983), the Fortitude Questionnaire (Pretorius, 1998), the Sense of Coherence Scale (Antonovsky, 1987), the Satisfaction with Life Scale (Diener, et al. 1985), and the General Health Questionnaire (Goldberg & Hillier, 1979). Translation of the VIA-IS into Setswana and back-translation were conducted and evaluated by a research evaluation committee. Results indicated that mean scores of the VIA-IS subscales are relatively aligned with those in a western context. Twenty of the twenty-four VIA-subscales showed satisfactory Cronbach alphas reliability indices above .70. The VIA-IS satisfies criterion-related validity as indicated by positive correlation with life satisfaction, positive affect, fortitude and sense of coherence, and negative correlation with negative affect and symptoms of ill-health. The VIA-IS was found to be translatable with preservation of original meaning, but in some instances technical terms had to be borrowed. Second order confirmatory and exploratory principal component factor analyses on the 24 strengths yielded three significant factors, and not six as theoretically expected, in this African group. The three emic virtue clusters are 1) Wisdom, knowledge and courage, 2) Horizontal and vertical relatedness and 3) Integrity in a group context: temperance and justice. This clustering of virtues reflects a socio-centric, collectivistic African cultural value system. It is concluded that the VIA-IS may have merit in an African context, but is not completely valid in its original form with its hypothesised six value clusters. With modifications and adaptations a more valid version may be developed for an African context. Studies on randomly selected, larger African samples are recommended.
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