Poster Presentation 6th World Congress on Positive Psychology 2019

What Parents Look For In Their Children: Character Strengths As Described In The VIA Classification Are Generally Desirable (#600)

Johannes Bodo Heekerens 1 , Lisa Wagner 2 , Willibald Ruch 2 , Nina Vaupotic 3
  1. Free University of Berlin, Berlin, Germany
  2. University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
  3. University of Münster, Münster, Germany

Park and Peterson (2009) describe good character as „what parents look for in their children“ (p. 65). With this idea in mind, the present study investigated which character strengths and additional characteristics parents look for in their children.

To address this question, we combined two methodological approaches. Participants were assigned to either an open response format, in which answers were coded using content analysis (2 coders in each language; high interrater-agreement of kappa = .91/.93) or ratings of desirability and importance of the 24 character strengths and 10 additional characteristics (e.g., intelligence, attractiveness). We sampled German-speakers (n = 1,128) and English-speakers (n = 405) who were parents, expecting or trying to conceive a child.

Overall, the results of both approaches and languages converged well. Parents mostly looked for love, honesty, kindness, and social intelligence in their children, but all character strengths were mentioned and rated as at least somewhat desirable. Comparisons with other characteristics underlined the relevance of character strengths: For instance, 22 character strengths were rated as more important than good grades.

Taken together, the findings support the notion that character strengths are in fact characteristics that parents want for their children and presumably also aim at fostering them.