Assessing internal character strengths in tamariki and rangatahi with intellectual disabilities in Aotearoa New Zealand : Master of Art Psychology, Department of Psychology, Massey University

Thumbnail Image
Open Access Location
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Massey University
The Author
People with an Intellectual Disability (ID) are commonly known by a criteria of deficits, ignoring internal strengths that they possess. The prominent deficit paradigm in Aotearoa New Zealand has been a result of historical ‘othering’ and stigma, the influence of the eugenics movement and institutionalisation. Positive psychologists aim to highlight internal character strengths, such as optimism, kindness and resilience to enhance well-being. Positive psychologists face barriers of how to assess tamariki and rangatahi with an ID, especially moderate to severe. The Assessment Scale for Positive Character Strengths-Developmental Disorders (ASPeCT-DD) is a by proxy measurement that assesses for perceived character strengths in others. Aims: 1) to investigate what people thought about using the ASPeCT-DD and if they considered it useful, 2) to assess and identify perceived character strengths in tamariki and rangatahi with moderate to severe ID, 3) to investigate the relationship between perceived character strengths and well-being and life-satisfaction ratings, 4) to see if other variables are predictive of overall scores of the ASPeCT-DD. Method: Ages of tamariki and rangatahi ranged from 11-24 (n =23, M =17.6). Support staff were chosen to complete the surveys and needed to have known the tamariki or rangatahi for at least a year (n =23), age ranged from 19-55 (M=37.4). The ASPeCT-DD was used alongside a single measure of well-being, a single measure of life-satisfaction and six open ended questions. Descriptive statistics, correlation coefficients and linear regression were used to obtain quantitative data. Thematic analysis was used for the six open-ended questions. Results: Every tamariki or rangatahi were described as having at least 13 strengths, median 19. The overall strengths score and well-being rating (r =.687, p =<0.01) and overall strengths score and life-satisfaction rating (r=.677, p<0.01) showed significant positive correlations. Frequency of challenging behaviours and overall strengths score (r=-.706, p =<0.01) showed a significant negative correlation. Higher frequency of challenging behaviours was significantly predictive of lower overall strength ratings (t =2.444, p =0.27). Raters commented that using the ASPeCT-DD helped to see the person as a whole, break down othering and identify potential, as well as a byproduct of feeling more positive themselves. Strengths were highlighted in the open ended questions that were not captured in the ASPeCT-DD. Discussion: The findings challenge the prominent deficit paradigm and highlight the strengths that tamariki and rangatahi with moderate to severe ID possess. The ASPeCT-DD is considered useful by support staff and can increase their own well-being. Future research, limitations and recommendations are discussed.