Talk to Probe Character Development, Faith

Dr. Sarah Schnitker

Dr. Sarah Schnitker

Sarah Schnitker, assistant professor of psychology at the Thrive Center for Human Development at Fuller Theological Seminary, examines character strength development and the formation of virtues on Thursday, April 17, from 3:30-5 p.m. in Winter Hall’s Darling Foundation Lecture Hall (Room 210) at Westmont. The talk, “Character Strength Development in Adolescents: How Does Religion Affect the Formation of Virtues and the Efficacy of Interventions?” is sponsored by the Westmont Provost’s Office. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Since the emergence of positive psychology in the late 90s, numerous positive psychological interventions that foster character strengths and virtues have been developed. However, Schnitker says these interventions are often presented as a means to attain personal happiness in a context devoid of moral meaning.

“In contrast, the development of virtues has historically been located in religious contexts for the purpose of honoring God or others,” she says. “Christians have long equated the development of virtues or spiritual fruit with spiritual formation.”

Schnitker’s talk will probe data from two studies addressing the role of religion and spirituality in formation of character strengths in adolescents. “The first study will track changes in virtues over time in adolescents who experience a spiritual transformation at Young Life Camp,” she says. “The second study will examine how religiousness and beliefs about God influence the efficacy of self-control and patience interventions administered to adolescents.”

Schnitker, who earned a master’s degree and doctorate from the University of California, Davis, has taught at Fuller since 2010. She is on the editorial board for the Journal of Positive Psychology.