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Character and Subjective Well-Being among Swedish Priests

Conference contribution
Authors Erica Schϋtz
Kevin M. Cloninger
Max Rapp-Ricciardi
Erik Lindskär
Lil Carleheden Ottosson
Ali Al Nima
Henrik Anckarsäter
C. Robert Cloninger
Danilo Garcia
Published in 9th European Conference on Positive Psychology. Budapest, Hungary
Publication year 2018
Published at Department of Psychology
Centre for Ethics, Law, and Mental Health
Language en
Keywords Character, Personality, Resilience, Swedish Priests, Well-Being
Subject categories Psychology


Background: Helping professionals have a working environment characterized by time pressure, unexpected challenges, and emotional issues [1]. According to statistics from The Swedish Social Insurance Agency, priests run a greater risk of being ill and burning out, which might impede their care for others due to stress and mental fatigue. Previous research by Cloninger and colleagues [2-4] indicates that character maturity (i.e., high self-directedness, high cooperativeness and high self-transcendence) contributes to both resilience and well-being, because these aspects influence human experiences in different life domains, in turn, facilitating the basis and extent of positive human development (see also [5]). Aim: Our aim was to first compare Swedish priests to the general population, with regard to character traits, and then to investigate the relationship between character and both resilience and subjective well-being within the priest population. Method: 515 Swedish priests (267 females, 246 males, 2 unreported) self-reported personality (Temperament and Character Inventory), resilience (Connor–Davidson Resilience Scale), and subjective well-being (Satisfaction with Life Scale, Positive Affect Negative Affect Schedule, and Harmony in Life scale). Character traits Percentiles were computed using the Swedish norms. The relationship between priests’ character and self-reported resilience and well-being was investigated by first clustering priests according to all possible combinations of high (self-directedness: S, cooperativeness: C and self-transcendence: T) and low (self-directedness: s, cooperativeness: c and self-transcendence: t) scores in the character traits, which generated eight different profiles. Secondly, we conducted paired t-tests to compare resilience and well-being between profiles that differed in one character trait, while controlling for the other two. Results: As a group, the priests had a character profile high-average in self-directedness (percentile = 62.3), high in cooperativeness (percentile = 75.5) and very high in self-transcendence (percentile = 88.4). However, there was substantial variation in character profiles within the priest population (e.g., 21% SCT “creative”, 19.2% sct downcast, 11.5% Sct “authoritarian”, 10.3% SCt “organized”, and 9.3% ScT “absolutist”). Moreover, independent of any combination, self-directedness had a direct positive relationship to resilience and all well-being measures. Nevertheless, both cooperativeness and self-transcendence were related to resilience and well-being in certain conditions, but not in others. For example, cooperativeness was negatively related to negative affect when self-directedness and self-transcendence was high, but positively related to negative affect when both were low. Conclusions: Swedish priests, as a group, seem to have a "creative" character profile, which means they are personally organized and also self-transcendent. The large variation in the group suggests, however, a heterogeneity that might have important implications for their institutional roles, and their needs. In addition, self-directedness, the character trait in which the priests scored the lowest, was the trait of greatest importance for their resilience and well-being. Finally, the relationship between cooperativeness and self-transcendence to both resilience and well-being depended on its coherence to the other two character traits.

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