Character virtues are necessary to “fulfill our potential as human beings” (Templeton, 2013). Developmental scientists argue that childhood and adolescence are critical times to foster these virtues. Is this true? And if so, what kinds of experiences are needed to facilitate acquiring these character virtues? We argue that organized after-school activities help keep youth on a virtuous path. Yet, little to no research exists on these issues. Through this proposal, we will address two Big Questions:
1) What are the patterns and developmental trajectories of character virtues from childhood and adolescence and do they predict successful development in adulthood?
2) What aspects of youth’s organized after-school activities help support youth’s positive character virtue development?
We will use cutting-edge statistics on two existing longitudinal datasets to answer these questions. We focus on five character virtues that include aspects of moral and performance virtues: hard work, self-control, emotion regulation, prosocial behavior, and cooperative behavior. Our findings will chart changes in each of the five character virtues and the interrelations among those virtues across the first three decades of life. Our findings will also describe which after-school activities are most impactful. The proposed project outcomes will build the field’s knowledge of youth’s character virtue development, influence best practices in organized activities, and help train the next generation of young scholars on character virtues. To ensure that findings will reach academic and practitioner audiences alike, the project outputs include a devoted website; fact sheets for practitioners, schools, and families; conference presentations; and journal publications.