C2 is a research-based curriculum proven to improve teens':
1. Character strengths such as optimism, responsibility, integrity, and courage;
2. World view and positive attitude toward their future;
3. Level of happiness, self-worth, and sense of well-being;
4. More appropriate language and styles of communication with peers and adults; and
5. Behavioral measures such as school attendance, grade improvement, and choice of friends
After participating in C2, facilitators and parents reported decreases in referrals, cursing, defiance, and delinquency. They reported teen decision-making was less impulsive, more reasoned, and intelligent.
C2 was developed through application of the principles evolving from Positive Psychology’s research. When Martin Seligman became president of American Psychological Association [APA] in 1997, he believed psychology had too long maintained a pathological focus. As he defines it, PP is “as focused on strength as on weakness, as interested in building the best things in life as in repairing the worst, and as concerned with fulfilling the lives of normal people as with healing the wounds of the distressed.” [Seligman, Authentic Happiness, 2002]
In AH, Seligman cites a study of aging nuns that found those with a positive outlook in their 20s lived as much as a decade longer than those with a negative outlook. In his research, people were asked to keep a diary every night for six months, recording things that had gone well that day. They fared better in measures of happiness, optimism, and physical health than those in the control group.
In his book, Learned Optimism, Seligman shows that optimism is a skill that can be taught and learned. After becoming APA president, he asked Chris Peterson of U. of Michigan to head a team of scholars who sought to “define the concepts of ‘strength’ and ‘highest potential.’ They believed this was the way to pursue happiness.
The seminal text was Character Strengths and Virtues by Peterson and Seligman. Over 100 scholars collaborated to research societies, religions, philosophers, and thinkers throughout history. Seligman summarized their findings: “We believe that character strengths are the bedrock of the human condition and that strength-congruent activity represents an important route to the psychological good life."
For a complete list of character strengths click here.
Mark Liston first wrote a research version of C2. He contacted Dr. Peterson who informed him that C2 was the first training curriculum in Positive Psychology. Therefore he volunteered to head up our research! Dr. Seligman called Dr. Peterson “the world’s leading authority on character strengths.” Upon completion of pilot groups and peer reviews, C2 was revised into its present form.
Research group participants took a questionnaire administered at the start and after training with a 6-month follow-up. The results are very encouraging, showing that those who complete the group grow significantly in all areas of character, especially optimism, creativity, peace, and forgiveness. Teens loved the movies, grew close due to the discussions, had almost perfect attendance at the meetings, and didn’t want their group to end. Group leaders say the teens’ attitudes changed from surly to positive and their world view became more upbeat.
Furthermore, group members made significant behavioral changes. Their parents reported that they showed forethought and intelligence in decision-making, were less impulsive, applied themselves to their studies and improved their grades, were more considerate of their siblings and more respectful of their parents, and got into less trouble at school and in the community.
One father said he had to change his parenting style because his 17-year old son, described as “a thug,” had changed so dramatically. He said his son became reasonable, open to correction, respectful, thoughtful, and willing to examine his behavior to see if it was appropriate or not. His son wanted to resolve issues with his father rather than fight about them.
A mother from a rural location came to the facilitator to discuss her daughter who had been court-appointed to C2. She asked, “What is this about ‘gratitude’ and ‘hope?’ My kid is talking to me about this and I need to know what she’s talking about.”
A business owner employed a 17-year old as part of a mentoring program. Then the teen went through C2. The employer reported to the group leader that the young man earlier had been disrespectful, purposefully misbehaved, and “used his energy in a wrong way.” After the group, this behavior changed. The employer reported that the teen asked for help when he needed it, expressed gratitude and respect, and “…is one of the best workers I ever had.”
C2 research continues as groups that purchase C2 desire to take part in this national research project. If you would like to be involved, contact the Pursuing Happiness office at (417) 206-9900 or Contact Us.