How Positive Psychology Factors Mitigate Risk for Delinquent Behavior



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Research suggests that positive psychology factors have the potential to protect a variety of individuals including children, adolescents, and adults from adverse outcomes (e.g., low levels of psychological well-being, high levels of psychopathology). However, there is no known research that examines if positive psychological factors are protective against delinquent behavior—prevalent negative outcomes in American society (e.g., engagement in illegal or deviant activity)—particularly in individuals in which various risk factors are present. The current study was designed to evaluate the ability of positive psychological factors (specifically, gratitude, self-esteem, and posttraumatic growth) to mitigate risk (after childhood maltreatment, low levels of social support, and low socioeconomic status) for delinquent behavior in young adults. Statistical analyses explored the moderating effects of positive psychological variables on delinquent behavior in the context of experiencing certain risk factors. Results revealed that these positive psychological factors did not protect against delinquent behavior in situations in which certain risk factors were present. However, exploratory analyses provided interesting information regarding the role of gratitude and self-esteem in relation to delinquent behavior. These findings inform the field of positive psychology and may contribute to the development of positive psychology interventions designed to reduce delinquent behavior in vulnerable populations.



Positive psychology, Resilience, Risk factors, Delinquent behavior, Undergraduate students