Positive psychological assessment: Modern Measures, Approaches, Methodologies, Models and Guidelines

Llewellyn Ellardus van Zyl, Leon T. de Beer, Peter M. ten Klooster, Marielle A.J. Zondervan-Zwijnenburg, Maria Vera

Research output: Contribution to journalSpecial issueAcademicpeer-review


The use of positive psychological assessment measures (PPAMs) has seen a rapid rise during the last decade. This rise is partially fuelled by the popularity of the 'positive approach towards mental health' in practice and the worldwide expansion of wellbeing research within the discipline. On the one hand, an ever-increasing amount of practitioners employ PPAMs to assess the positive states, traits, and behaviours that could lead their clients to the good life and track their interventions' effectiveness. On the other, researchers are continually expanding our understanding of wellbeing through the development/conceptualization of new positive psychological constructs. Both these developments call for- and rely upon valid and reliable psychometric instruments and assessment measures to advance positive psychology's science and practice.

Despite these calls, recent criticisms of positive psychology have highlighted the fallibility of PPAMs; which directly affects the credibility of the discipline and its underlying theories. Several studies have shown that various PPAMs produce inconsistent factorial structures, varying levels of internal consistency and significant differences in their predictive capacity between cultures. Further, popular PPAMs have also been shown to be culturally biased, and very few instruments are grounded in local traditions. The widespread practice of merely (back) translating PPAMs developed in the West into local languages in the East or Africa, without thorough contextualization, has also drawn much criticism. In addition, questions have also been posed not just if PPAMs are valid for a particular population but also whether the instrument can validly be used for a particular purpose. For example, the VIA Strengths Inventory is a valid measure to assess strengths but is it a valid measure that can be used for recruitment and selection purposes. Finally, it is unclear to what degree low scores on negative psychological states, traits and behaviours (e.g., on depression, inattentiveness) can be used to assess positive psychological states, traits and behaviours (e.g., happiness, self-control).

Therefore, there is a need for more innovative and robust approaches towards the development, validation, evaluation, and use of PPAMs to enhance the discipline's credibility. Newly developed, (back) translated, and popular PPAMs also need to provide extensive evidence of their validity, reliability and construct equivalence. Further, given the methodological advancements in psychometric evaluation and statistical modelling (e.g. developments in ESEM, Bayesian approaches to confirmatory factor analysis and measurement invariance, item response theory models, etc), best practice guidelines on the estimation and reporting PPAMs are needed to enhance researchers' competence and robustness of applied psychometrics. Further, given the rapid rise of new PPAMs being developed to measure similar positive psychological constructs, it is difficult for both researchers and practitioners to decide upon the most appropriate instrument for their needs. Therefore, it is imperative to investigate the criterion validity of new versus established measures and conduct systematic reviews of the psychometric properties of existing measures to better enable the field to choose PPAMs that are fit-for-purpose.

As such, the purpose of this special issue/research topic is to curate modern approaches/tools, methodologies, models and estimation/evaluation guidelines for PPAMs. In particular, we invite manuscripts that reports on:

(a) The development and validation of new or adapted psychometric instruments that aim to measure positive states (e.g. happiness), traits (e.g. strengths) and behaviours (e.g. life crafting);
(b) The psychometric properties, validity/reliability and construct equivalence of existing PPAMs;
(c) Measurement invariance of positive psychological constructs over time and between groups (e.g. gender, culture, socioeconomic status)
(d) Cultural differences in the operationalization of positive psychological constructs;
(e) Computer adaptive PPAMs and non-invasive assessment approaches
(f) The development and validation of Qualitative PPAMs such (e.g. strengths-based interviewing, visual voice analyses and photo-ethnography)
(g) Innovative and Novel Approaches to the assessment of positive states/traits/behaviours (e.g. strengths spotting)
(h) Best practice guidelines and "How To" guides for the estimation and reporting advanced psychometric evaluation methods (such as Bayesian CFAs, Measurement Invariance);
(i) Systematic Literature reviews on the factorial structures, validity and internal consistency of existing PPAMs
(j) The dimensionality or continua of the 'negative' and positive psychological concepts

To be considered for this research topic in Frontiers, we invite potential authors to submit a 300 Word Abstract of their proposed contributions via the Frontiers System before or on the 30th of April 2021. The final manuscripts will be due on the 30th of July 2021 and will be subjected to the normal blind collaborative review process as Frontiers.
Original languageEnglish
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 6 Mar 2021

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