AN OBSERVATIONAL STUDY OF CHARACTER STRENGTHS AND SUBJECTIVE WELLBEING IN AUSTRALIAN AND SINGAPOREAN PRE-ADOLESCENTS

Author: Audrey Ang

Ang, Audrey, 2017 AN OBSERVATIONAL STUDY OF CHARACTER STRENGTHS AND SUBJECTIVE WELLBEING IN AUSTRALIAN AND SINGAPOREAN PRE-ADOLESCENTS, Flinders University, School of Education

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Abstract

Student wellbeing has become a core focus for schools and research has shown that student wellbeing is an important influence on many aspects of school participation. As part of their strategy to increase student wellbeing, many education systems around the world have embraced positive psychology, which views developmental problems in the context of the many positive elements present in most behavioural settings. Positive psychology identifies character strengths as universally valid predictors of wellbeing for individuals, regardless of context. However, positive psychology was developed and has mainly been tested in North America, and with older adolescents and adults. Little research has examined the relevance of character strengths and their associations with wellbeing in (1) collectivist cultures and individualist cultures outside North America, or (2) during the transition to adolescence. The aim of this thesis was to examine the level of endorsement of character strengths, and the relationships between character strengths and wellbeing among pre-adolescents in one collectivist culture (Singapore) and one individualist culture outside North America (Australia). Participants were 12 to 13 year-old children in Australia and Singapore. Both countries have advanced economies, high levels of literacy, and provide schooling in English, thereby avoiding the confounding of these variables in previous cross-cultural comparisons. Participants completed 3 self-report questionnaires. Twenty-four character strengths were measured using the Values in Action Inventory of Strengths-Youth (VIA-Youth) scale. Two dimensions of subjective wellbeing were assessed: life satisfaction (Personal Wellbeing Index-School Children) and happiness (Authentic Happiness Inventory). Children making the transition to adolescence gave moderate mean levels of endorsement to all character strengths in both samples. A MANCOVA (with age and gender as covariates) showed that the Australian sample more strongly endorsed 11 character strengths, while the Singaporean sample more strongly endorsed 1 character strength. However, almost all differences were small with nationality accounting for less than 10% of the variance in character strengths. Most character strengths were positively correlated with both measures of wellbeing in both samples. The strength of the relationship was moderate in most cases. Multiple linear regressions showed that character strengths accounted for a moderate to large percentage of individual difference in both measures of wellbeing in both samples. One character strength contributed to independent variance in both measures of wellbeing in both samples: zest. In Australia, several other character strengths also contributed independent variance to life satisfaction, and several other character strengths to happiness. The amount of individual variance contributed by character strengths was moderate to large in both samples for both aspects of wellbeing. The findings suggest that the character strengths assessed by the VIA-Youth are relevant to children making the transition to adolescence in both the individualist (Australian) and collectivist (Singaporean) samples.

Keywords: positive psychology, character strengths, subjective wellbeing, life satisfaction, happiness, pre-adolescents, Australia, Singapore, individualist, collectivist
Subject: Education thesis

Thesis type: Professional Doctorate
Completed: 2017
School: School of Education
Supervisor: Tiffany Winn