Designing a Character Strengths Development Program for Youth Living in Violent Contexts
Keywords:positive youth development, character strengths, curriculum development, Values in Action (VIA), Central America, Glasswing International
This paper describes the design and piloting of a Character Strengths Development (CSD) curriculum for Glasswing International’s after-school program. The CSD curriculum was designed to be implemented in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, countries that make up the Central American Northern Triangle (NTCA) and have extremely high rates of violence and criminality. Development of the CSD curriculum included 3 stages: a consultativeprocess with youth, review of relevant literature and design of the curriculum, and piloting of the methodology. Students’ perspectives were engaged throughout the development process to ensure the curriculum was relevant to the lives of youth living in violent communities. The curriculum is the first to be built on the Virtues in Action framework in NTCA countries. Lessons learned are shared for CSD program design and implementation in other contexts with high levels of violence.
Ai, A., Cascio, T., Santangelo, L., & Evans-Campbell, T. (2005). Hope, meaning, and growth following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 20(5), 523-548. https://doi.org/10.1177/0886260504272896
Bonanno, G. (2004). Loss, trauma, and human resilience: Have we underestimated the human capacity to thrive after extremely aversive events? The American Psychologist, 59(1), 20–28. https://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.59.1.20
Costello, B., Wachtel, J., & Wachtel, T. (2013). Círculos restaurativos en los centro escolares: Fortaleciendo la comunidad y mejorando el aprendizaje. International Institute for Restorative Practices.
Cunningham, W., McGinnis, L., Verdú, R. G., Tesliuc, C. M., & Verner, D. (2008). Youth at risk in Latin America and the Caribbean: Understanding the causes, realizing the potential. https://doi.org/10.1596/978-0-8213-7520-4
Garbarino, J., & Kostelny, K. (1996). The effects of political violence on Palestinian children’s behavior problems: A risk accumulation model. Child Development, 67(1), 33-45. https://doi.org/10.2307/1131684
Geneva Declaration Secretariat. 2015. Global burden of armed violence 2015: Every body counts. Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781107707108
Government of El Salvador. (2019). Informe sobre los feminicidios o los asesinatos de mujeres por razón de género. Retrieved January 30, 2021, from https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Women/SR/Call/El%20Salvador.pdf
Hall, B., Canetti, D., & Hobfoll, S. (2008). Posttraumatic growth following terrorism: A review of several studies in Israel. In P. Buchwald, T. Ringeisen, & M. Eysenck (Eds.), Stress and anxiety—Application to life span development and health promotion (pp. 111-120). Logos Verlog.
Harzer, C., & Ruch, W. 2015. The relationships of character strengths with coping, work-related stress, and job satisfaction. Frontiers in Psychology, 6. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00165
Infosegura. (2020a). El Salvador archivos. Author. Retrieved January 30, 2021, from https://www.infosegura.org/seccion/el-salvador/
Infosegura. (2020b). Guatemala archivos. Author. Retrieved January 30, 2021, from https://www.infosegura.org/seccion/guatemala/
Infosegura. (2020c). Honduras archivos. Author. Retrieved January 30, 2021, from https://www.infosegura.org/seccion/honduras/
Jordan, M., & Rand, D. 2018. The role of character strengths in economic decision-making. SSRN Electronic Journal, 13(4), 382-392. https://doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3171194
Lavi, I., & Slone, M. (2011). Resilience and political violence: A cross-cultural study of moderating effects among Jewish- and Arab-Israeli youth. Youth & Society, 43(3), 845-872. https://doi.org/10.1177/0044118X09353437
Luciano, D., Hidalgo, N., Acuña, N., & Urban, A.-M. (2019). Femicidio en Honduras. Inter-American Development Bank. https://doi.org/10.18235/0001584
McGrath, B. (2014). Character strengths in 75 nations: An update. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 10(1), 41-52. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2014.888580
McGrath, B., Greenberg, M., & Hall-Simmonds, A. (2017). Scarecrow, Tin Woodsman, and Cowardly Lion: The three-factor model of virtue. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 13(4), 373-392. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2017.1326518
Médecins Sans Frontières. (2018). Forced to flee Central America’s northern triangle: A neglected humanitarian crisis. Author. https://www.msf.org/sites/msf.org/files/msf_forced-to-flee-central-americas-northern-triangle_e.pdf
Miller, K., & Jordans, M. (2016). Determinants of children’s mental health in war-torn settings: Translating research into action. Current Psychiatry Reports, 18(58). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11920-016-0692-3
Ministerio de Educación, Ciencia y Tecnología. (2019). Educational Census. Retrieved July 1, 2020, from https://www.mined.gob.sv/estadisticas-educativas/item/6116-bases-de-centros.html
Morales, E. (2010). Linking strengths: Identifying and exploring protective factor clusters in academically resilient low-socioeconomic urban students of color. Roeper Review, 32(3), 164-175. https://doi.org/10.1080/02783193.2010.485302
Niemiec, R., & McGrath, R. (2019). The power of character strengths: Appreciate and ignite your positive personality. VIA Institute on Character.
Noell, J. F. (1998). La búsqueda de factores protectores del fracaso escolar en niños en situación de riesgo mediante un estudio de casos. Revista de Investigación Educativa, 16(1), 47170.
Park, N., Peterson, C., & Ruch, W. 2009. Orientations to happiness and life satisfaction in twenty-seven nations. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 4(4), 273-279. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439760902933690
Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. 2004. Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. American Psychological Association, Oxford University Press.
Portillo, N. 2013. Evaluación de la estrategia de desarrollo juvenil para la prevención de la violencia social en San Salvador.
Ramos, E. (2011). Explosión del femicidio en El Salvador. http://www.redicces.org.sv:80/jspui/handle/10972/297
Sánchez-Elvira, Á. (2004). Los pilares y recursos de la psicología positiva en el crecimiento personal. In M. Rodríguez Zafra (Ed.), Crecimiento personal: Aportaciones de oriente y occidente (pp. 45-80). Desclée de Brower.
Shoshani, A., & Slone, M. 2016. The resilience function of character strengths in the face of war and protracted conflict. Frontiers in Psychology, 6. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.02006
Sida. 2008. Maras and youth gangs, community and police in Central America [Summary of a regional and multidisciplinary study]. https://www.sida.se/contentassets/df3445cd986943068782e217e605406e/maras-and-youth-gangs-community-and-police-in-central-america_1175.pdf
Tedeschi, R. G., & Calhoun, L. G. 1995. Trauma and transformation. SAGE.
Tough, P. (2016). Helping children succeed: What works and why. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
UNICEF. (2017). Violent deaths. UNICEF DATA. https://data.unicef.org/topic/child-protection/violence/violent-deaths/
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. (2016). Call to action: Protection needs in the northern triangle of Central America. UNHCR Discussion paper. A proposal for a strategic regional response. https://www.refworld.org/docid/57a8a8844.html
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. 2013. Global study on homicide. https://www.unodc.org/documents/data-and-analysis/statistics/GSH2013/2014_GLOBAL_HOMICIDE_BOOK_web.pdf
The World Bank. 2011. Crime and violence in Central America: A development challenge.
The World Bank. 2020. The World Bank data. Retrieved February 4, 2021, from https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SE.SEC.ENRR?locations=SV-HN-GT
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
- The Author retains copyright in the Work, where the term “Work” shall include all digital objects that may result in subsequent electronic publication or distribution.
- Upon acceptance of the Work, the author shall grant to the Publisher the right of first publication of the Work.
- The Author shall grant to the Publisher and its agents the nonexclusive perpetual right and license to publish, archive, and make accessible the Work in whole or in part in all forms of media now or hereafter known under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License or its equivalent, which, for the avoidance of doubt, allows others to copy, distribute, and transmit the Work under the following conditions:
- Attribution—other users must attribute the Work in the manner specified by the author as indicated on the journal Web site;
- The Author is able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the nonexclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the Work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), as long as there is provided in the document an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are permitted and encouraged to post online a prepublication manuscript (but not the Publisher’s final formatted PDF version of the Work) in institutional repositories or on their Websites prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work. Any such posting made before acceptance and publication of the Work shall be updated upon publication to include a reference to the Publisher-assigned DOI (Digital Object Identifier) and a link to the online abstract for the final published Work in the Journal.
- Upon Publisher’s request, the Author agrees to furnish promptly to Publisher, at the Author’s own expense, written evidence of the permissions, licenses, and consents for use of third-party material included within the Work, except as determined by Publisher to be covered by the principles of Fair Use.
- The Author represents and warrants that:
- the Work is the Author’s original work;
- the Author has not transferred, and will not transfer, exclusive rights in the Work to any third party;
- the Work is not pending review or under consideration by another publisher;
- the Work has not previously been published;
- the Work contains no misrepresentation or infringement of the Work or property of other authors or third parties; and
- the Work contains no libel, invasion of privacy, or other unlawful matter.
- The Author agrees to indemnify and hold Publisher harmless from Author’s breach of the representations and warranties contained in Paragraph 6 above, as well as any claim or proceeding relating to Publisher’s use and publication of any content contained in the Work, including third-party content.
Revised 7/16/2018. Revision Description: Removed outdated link.