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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
Print version ISSN 0041-4751

Tydskr. geesteswet. vol.48 n.1 Pretoria  2008


Karaktersterktes herontdek in die sielkunde


Character strengths rediscovered in psychology



Chrizanne van EedenI; Marié P. WissingII

IDepartement Psigologie, Noordwes Universiteit, VanderbijlPark e-pos:
IIDepartement Psigologie, Noordwes Universiteit, Potchefstroom




In hierdie artikel ontleed ons-die konstrukte "karakter" en "karaktersterktes" as belangrike konsepte in sielkunde in die algemeen en in positiewe sielkunde in die besonder. Die karakterkonsep het 'n lang geskiedenis in die sielkunde gehad, gekenmerk deur kom-en-gaan tendense. Die belangrikheid en relevansie van die teoretiese konsep kon nooit suksesvol weerlê word nie, maar die feit dat so 'n abstrakte verskynsel soos karakter nie empiries ondersoek is nie, het gelei tot die uitsluiting daarvan uit hoofstroom sielkunde/psigologie. Die opkomende sub-dissipline van positiewe sielkunde het egter die karakterkonsep weer na vore gebring en dit empiries meetbaar gemaak in karaktersterktes as psigologiese eienskappe. Die karaktersterktemodel van Peterson en Seligman (2004) sluit 24 manifestasies van karakter (karaktersterktes) in, vervat in ses groepe waardes. Hierdie model verteenwoordig 'n kernkonstruk van die positiewe sielkunde en hou baie belofte in vir navorsing en praktiese toepassing wat toegespits is op die begrip en bevordering van psigologiese welstand en lewensvervulling van individue en gemeenskappe. Verdere navorsing oor die betroubaarheid en geldigheid van die model in die Suid-Afrikaanse konteks is noodsaaklik. Sodanige navorsing kan die uitbou van die teoretiese grondslae van die karaktersterktekonstruk en -model bevorder, veral met inagneming van kultuurdiversiteit.

Trefwoorde: Deugde, karakter, karaktersterktes, positiewe sielkunde, psigofortologie, Values in Action, VIA-IS


In this article, we analyze the constructs "character" and "character strengths" as important concepts in psychology in general and positive psychology in particular. The character concept has had a long history in psychology since the 1920's, but lost its theoretical and empirical importance some decades thereafter in favour of the concept of personality.
The (moral-philosophical) concept "character" has evaded empirical scrutiny in the early years of psychology as a discipline and this has led to its exclusion from mainstream psychology. The emerging perspective of positive psychology however, has resurrected the character concept and operationalized it in terms of character strengths. The character strengths model of Peterson and Seligman (2004), introduces 24 manifestations of character, clustered into six groups of virtues namely, wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance and transcendence. Peterson and Seligman (2004), developed the Values in Action Classification of Strengths as a system in which distinctions are made between virtues, strengths and enabling themes. Virtues are core characteristics valued by moral philosophers universally and strengths are less abstract psychological characteristics that serve as routes for achieving virtues. Enabling themes are factors that lead people to manifest given character strengths in given situations and hence contribute to virtues. Talents and abilities (e.g. intelligence) and characteristics not valued across cultures, were excluded from the classification system (Carr, 2004). The 24 strengths associated with 6 virtues can be assessed with the Values in Action Inventory of Strengths (VIA-IS) or the VIA-IS for youth (VIA-Y), both self report questionnaires. The VIA-IS can be accessed at
The character strength subscales of the VIA-IS all have good reliability in USA-studies, and the inventory is in further validation.
The character strengths idea plays an important role in the new domain of positive psychology, and holds much promise for practice and research aimed at understanding and promoting psychological well-being and fulfilment of individuals and communities. According to Peterson and Seligman (2004), their research found a remarkable similarity in the relative endorsement of the 24 character strengths by adults around the world and from the USA. The most commonly endorsed strengths in 54 countries are kindness, fairness, authenticity, gratitude and open-mindedness, and the lesser strengths consistently include prudence, modesty and self-regulation. The correlations of the rankings from nation to nation, are strong (0.80+), - indicating more cultural, ethnic, religious and economic similarities than differences, and seemingly points to a universality of human nature as manifested by character strengths. In South Africa however, a more emic factor pattern emerged indicating an African collective-cultural system. Further research on this model and validation of measures thereof, is necessary in the South African context that includes cultural diversities not previously taken into account.
As far as practical application is concerned the character strengths model could enhance the practice fields of developmental- and child psychology, clinical- and therapeutic psychology, educational psychology, industrial- and organizational psychology, health psychology, geriatric psychology, forensic psychology, pastoral- and community psychology and social psychology. Of the three pillars of positive psychology namely, positive subjective experiences (happiness, pleasure, gratification, fulfilment); positive individual traits (strengths of character, talents, interests, values) and positive institutions (families, schools, businesses, communities, societies) (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000), the second one presents the application context for the development and enhancement of character strengths. Constructs included in the character strengths model, for example gratitude, hope, self-regulation, etc. are being applied in various contexts, phases of life, type of interventions, as well as for remediation of pathology and for promotion of flourishing and research in this regard is ongoing. Further empirical studies in this regard are necessary, specifically in the South African context.

Key concepts: Virtues, character, character strengths, positive psychology, psychofortology, Values in Action, VIA-IS


Full text available only in PDF format.



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Chrizanne van Eeden het 'n PhD in Sielkunde en is 'n senior dosent in psigologie aan die Noordwes Universiteit (Vaaldriehoekkampus). Haar navorsing en studieleiding aan nagraadse studente fokus op die begrip, meting, voorkoms en bevordering van psigologiese welsyn en sterktes in mense (psigofortologie) asook ander aspekte van die positiewe sielkunde vakgebied. Sy het onder andere 'n kurrikulum vir voorgraadse onderrig in positiewe sielkunde (sterktes en veerkragtigheid in mense) ontwikkel en is 'n gasdosent vir doktorale studente aan 'n Suid-Afrikaanse universiteit. Sy was een van die organiseerders van die First South African Positive Psychology Conference in 2006. Sy het verskeie internasionale kongresreferate gelewer en publikasies in vaktydskrifte gehad, almal met betrekking tot die vakgebied van positiewe sielkunde.
Chrizanne van Eeden holds a PhD in psychology and is a senior lecturer in psychology at the North-West University (VaalTriangle campus). Her research and promotion of the studies of post-graduate students focus on the understanding, measurement, prevalence and promotion of psychological well-being and strengths in people (psychofortology), as well as other aspects of positive psychology. She developed amongst others, a curriculum for the undergraduate teaching of positive psychology (strength and resilience in people) and is an invited lecturer for doctoral students at a South African university. She was one of the organisers of the South African Positive Psychology Conference in 2006. She has presented various papers at international conferences and has publications in scientific journals, all relating to the field of positive psychology.
Marié Wissing is professor in Psigologie en Direkteur van die Skool vir Psigososiale Gedragswetenskappe aan die Noordwes Universiteit (Potchefstroom Kampus). Haar navorsing fokus is op die verstaan, meting, prevalensie en bevordering van psigologiese welsyn en sterktes in die konteks van bio-psigo-sosiale gesondheid. Sy is 'n NRF-gegradeerde navorser, en 'n lid van die Africa Unit for Transdisciplinary Health Research (AUTHeR). Haar navorsingsprogram in Psigofortologie (i.e. die wetenskap van psigologiese sterktes) sluit verskeie groot spannavorsingsprojekte in wat baie studente en nasionale en internasionale kollegas insluit. Sy het kurrikula vir onderrig in Positiewe Sielkunde in Suid-Afrika ontwikkel, was 'n besoekende professor of genooide dosent aan verskeie universiteite in Suid-Afrika en in Europa, en dien op die redaksies van wetenskaplike tydskrifte. Sy het die Stalsprys vir Sielkunde in 2003 ontvang van die Suid-Afrikaanse Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns, en is in 2004 vereer vir haar bydrae tot werkswelsyn by die South African Work Wellness Conference. Sy was een van die leiers vir die organisering van die First South African Positive Psychology Conference in 2006. Sy is benoem op die Board of Directors van die International Positive Psychology Association (IPPA) wat in 2007 gestig is.
Marié Wissing is professor in Psychology and Director of the School for Psychosocial Behavioral Sciences at the North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa. Her research interests are the understanding, measurement, prevalence and promotion of psychological well-being and strengths in the context of bio-psycho-social health. She is a NRF rated researcher, and a member of the Africa Unit for Trans-disciplinary Health Research (AUTHeR). Her research program in Psychofortology (i. e. the science of psychological strengths) includes several large team research projects including many students and national and international colleagues. She developed curricula for teaching of Positive Psychology in South Africa, was a visiting professor or invited lecturer at several universities in South Africa and Europe, and serves on the editorial boards of disciplinary journals. She received the Stals prize for Psychology in 2003 from the South African Academy of Science and Art, and a reward for contribution to work wellness in 2004 at the South African Work Wellness Conference. She was one of the leaders in the organization of the First South African Positive Psychology Conference in 2006. She is a member of the Board of Directors of the International Positive Psychology Association (IPPA) established in 2007.

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