C2 is the first comprehensive character training curriculum based on Positive Psychology according to Dr. Chris Peterson, the director of C2’s early research and the Arthur F. Thurnau professor of psychology at the University of Michigan.  Chris was the co-author with Martin Seligman, the father of Positive Psychology, of the 850-page Character Strengths and Virtues (Peterson & Seligman, 2004).  He generously volunteered to head up C2’s initial research in 2007-2009.

C2’s latest edition has been upgraded to include conceptualization and research from Positive Youth Development, Social Emotional Learning, and Character Education.  These four fields possess the best character conceptualization and research from the behavioral sciences, education, and educational psychology.

Research on Character Education and Strength Development

Research from these fields consistently supports these truths:

  1. Character training increases student well-being, positive emotions, engagement in purposeful living, positive relationships, and non-academic achievement.
  2. Encouragement and development of a positive adult culture in schools and youth organizations that models character is the strongest factor contributing to positive youth culture.
  3. Character training, adult character modeling, and positive youth culture are three of the highest-impact factors improving academic performance.
  4. Character training, adult character modeling, and positive youth culture have a symbiotic relationship:  Each one develops and supports the other.

C2 Research

A major research project is being developed that will use the new edition of C2.  It is a random sample experimental design aimed at maximum validity.

A simple study with a small sample was conducted when C2 was first published in 2008.  It involved four pilot groups:

  • A school-based group in Pennsylvania
  • A boarding school setting for underprivileged, inner-city teens in Virginia
  • A mandatory, court-ordered small group for juvenile offenders as an alternative to incarceration
  • A group of teens who had received professional counseling for various issues plus two other teens who wanted the training and group experience

Sample size began with approximately 50 teens and 28 completed the six-month long groups.  The assessment was the 24-item Brief Strengths Test (C. Peterson, 2004) that was modified to a teen development level to produce the 28-item Youth Strengths Test (YST; Peterson & Liston, 2008).  The YST used a Likert scale answer set of 1 (never) to 10 (always). This was administered to all students as a pre-test, again after 3 months, and a posttest.  

The posttest answer set was modified to include both reflective and current answers.  Students answered each item using the same 10-point Likert scale for “Before” the group and “Now.”

Scoring first combined then averaged students’ pre-, mid-, and reflective scores for their pre-test total.  This was compared to their posttest total.  

Students on average reported 21% growth in character strength.  Student scores increased for twenty-six strengths and declined in two: Spirituality and Awareness.  The highest growth levels were for the strengths of [in order] Optimism, Humility, Creativity, Peace, Forgiveness, Determination, and Kindness.

The graph below shows the combined mean scores of all students for the 28 strengths taught in C2:


Students and presenters graded the lessons using the school grading system of A to F including minus and plus. All lessons earned between A and B-.

Facilitator Comments

Peer reviews and comments from facilitators were positive and instructive.  One facilitator who is a professional counselor said, “I’m in a community where I get to see these kids regularly.  They don’t sidestep me but come up and talk about their lives.  They say they want to go through the group again.”

He added, “Most of the verbalization that these kids are involved in is the most negative kinds of communication.  They developed a more appropriate way to get their opinions as well as facts across.  Most of the parents I got to know said they feel their children show more ‘intelligence’ now.”

Another said he conducted a verbal evaluation and all students said the group had “changed their lives.”  He saw the most change in two students.  One was the president of his middle school student government.  The other was an impoverished 18-year old who could not read and had been expelled for attacking another student.  The latter said he was enrolling in credit recovery and was going to graduate and learn to read.

The facilitator of the court-mandated group said, “Their definitions of these words were much different than [C2’s].  To them, Creativity could be stealing and Optimism could be, ‘I can sell more crack than anyone else!’  C2 definitions rocked their world, helping them realize they were wrong.  One kid started looking up the words in [the dictionary] before the group.”

He added, “The more they studied C2, the more truth they got into, dealing with their issues and dropping their defenses, attitudes and disrespect for the group.  Relationship [developed between] each person in the group and [they showed] respect for character building.”

Regarding their test scores, he said, “These kids aren’t going to tell you much [and] won’t exaggerate their change but might downgrade [or] minimize it.  I don’t see this as a negative.  I see that they grew.  Most of them continue to tell me about the experience as positive and useable growth when combating inappropriate behavior.”

Parent Reports

One father asked the facilitator of the court-mandated group, “What are you doing to my boy?”  When asked what he meant, the father replied, “He used to always be looking for a fight over anything, rolling his eyes, disagreeing and complaining about anything I said.  Now he’s talking intelligent.  When he doesn’t like what I say, he says, ‘We need to process this’ or ‘let’s sit down and talk about this.’  He looks me in the eye and shows some respect.  I like that.”

Another parent said her daughter was failing Math and Language Arts when she started the group.  She added that she had always said she hated Math and was terrible at it.  The semester of the group, she made an A in LA and a B in Math for the first time since early elementary school.  She also changed her friends to a healthier group.


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