• Open Access

From strength to strength: an 18-year comparison of New Zealand adolescents' self-perceived strengths


Correspondence to: Professor Rob McGee, Department of Preventive and Social Medicine, Dunedin School of Medicine, University of Otago, PO Box 913, Dunedin, 9054, New Zealand; e-mail: rob.mcgee@otago.ac.nz


Objective: To examine whether self-views of New Zealand (NZ) adolescents have become more positive or negative over time.

Method: We compared the self-perceptions of 609 adolescents in 1987, with 499 adolescents in 2005 using a 22-item measure of perceived strengths.

Results: The mean scores for total strengths fell by 2.4 (0.5sd) from 1987 to 2005. Endorsement of most strengths decreased over time, with especially marked decreases in perceptions of being ‘healthy’, ‘careful’, ‘good with pets’, and ‘popular’. There were increases among the girls in perceptions of being ‘attractive’ and ‘confident’ while boys showed decreases in these strengths. Boys also showed an especially marked decrease in being ‘good at sport’.

Conclusions: The findings point to significant changes in self-perceived strengths among NZ adolescents over time. An examination of changes in other critical variables suggests reasons why this may be occurring.