Character Strength Changes & Deployment

Research Paper Title

Development of character strengths across the deployment cycle among US Army soldiers.


Despite a narrative of post-traumatic growth and resilience, research reliably demonstrating positive character development following adversity has proved elusive.

In the current study, the researchers examined changes in character strengths in Army soldiers deploying for the first time.


The sample was comprised of 212,386 Army soldiers (Mage = 26.5 years old, SD = 7.13; 70.8% White) who were deploying for the first time.

Character strengths were assessed once before and up to three times following soldiers’ return from deployment.


The researchers found evidence for two classes of change:

  • A resilient class (“stable high”); and
  • A declining class (“persistent low”).

Most soldiers were resilient-they had high levels of character strengths prior to deployment and changed very little across the deployment cycle.

Approximately 40% of soldiers started with lower character and experienced initial declines post-deployment, from which they experienced no more than small gains over time.


Character strengths were highly stable across the deployment transition but some soldiers experienced initial declines from which they never fully rebounded.

The findings are discussed in the context of the mechanisms that drive character development.


Chopik, W.J., Kelley, W.L., Vie, L.L., Oh, J., Bonett, D.G., Lucas, R.E. & Seligman, M.E.P. (2020) Development of character strengths across the deployment cycle among U.S. Army soldiers. Journal of Personality. doi: 10.1111/jopy.12564. Online ahead of print.


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