Character strengths and deep connections: Modeling resilience for disaster volunteers
Poster Session III - Board: III-
This study investigated a conceptual model with two pathways, altruism and perceived spiritual support (indicators of character strengths Kindness and Spirituality), leading to resilience among Hurricanes Katrina-Rita(H-KR) volunteers. Results showed that the two indicators may have served as a protective mechanism for the whole sample despite volunteers’ different racial-cultural backgroundsIntroduction: In the new millennium, a new field, the science of human strengths, has promoted investigation of positive characteristics (Peterson & Seligman, 2004). Yet much more work is needed to explain how the strength factors are related to psychological adaptation and resilience. Using structural equation modeling (SEM), this study examined how altruism and perceived spiritual support, indicating the two character strengths, spirituality and Kindness, might enhance resilience (low depressive symptoms) of Black and White volunteers three months after Hurricane Katrina-Rita (H-KR). Based on the literature, we hypothesized that altruism and perceived spiritual support would contribute to H-KR resilience, mediated through positive attitudes, Optimism and Hope, as indicators of a third character strength, “Hope, Optimism, and Future Mindedness”. We also expected that these strengths in African Americans were faith-related, but altruism in Whites were not due to the inherent mainstream-cultural influence, secular spirituality, dating back to Victorian England. Methods: we recruited of 554 volunteers from those enrolled in a mental health profession at five universities in disaster-affected areas. No effect of university sites on the outcome of major interest was found; thus, the sample was combined for modeling. The five subsets of this database were aggregated for analysis. The majority of the combined sample was female (88%) (African American =54%). The mean age was 28.9 years (SD=9.6). Assessment instruments include CES-D (Radloff, 1977), the Hope Scale (Snyder et al., 1991), the LOT (Schier & Carver, 1985), the Altruism Scale (Rushton et al., 1981), and the Spiritual Support Scale (SSS; Ai et al., 2005). Results: The results indicated that the SEM final model fit the data adequately. The chi-square value was within the acceptable range [c2(23, N=527)=42.242]. The CFI (.987) and TLI (.972) exceeded the benchmark criteria of .95. RMSEA (.040, 90% CI .020 to 0.059) and SRMR (.027) were within the range of good fit. Squared multiple correlations suggested that this model accounted for 25% of the variance in resilience. As anticipated, all effects of two main pathways, spiritual support and altruism, on depression were indirect, mediated through positive attitudes. While faith contributed to both pathways, prayer was directly linked only with spiritual support. White race-identity was positively linked with altruism directly, whereas non-White-identity race was associated with both pathways indirectly, mediated through faith factors, with an additional effect on altruism through prayer and spiritual support. Unexpectedly, gender had no effect on any faith factor, while its direct link with altruism indicated a strong male influence. Conclusion: H-KR volunteers who shared a deep connectedness with others at two different dimensions of the perceived reality and who held greater hope and optimism about the future adjusted better after H-KR. The unique finding, nearly identical effect of Altruism and Spiritual Support despite their conceptual difference, suggests that more research is warranted to understand the interrelationship of different dimensions of life. Different attributes of altruism in Black and White volunteers implies the unique roots of deep connectedness among African Americans, derived from the spirit of a historically and contemporarily faith-related communal struggle.