Strengths and adversity across the lifespan


An image of a light within someone's hands

The theme of our research brings together researchers with a common interest in studying psychological strengths (that is, dispositions or competencies that confer intrapersonal and/or interpersonal benefits) across the life span. Much of this research has also examined the role that these strengths play in countering adversity and/or in promoting wellbeing.

The psychological strengths being studied within this research theme include, but are not limited to, resilience, emotional intelligence, mindfulness, self-compassion, gratitude, authenticity and empathy. The aspects of adversity that are examined by members include, for example, long-term health conditions, mental health and emotional disorders, stress and adverse family dynamics.

Researchers working within the theme of Strengths and Adversity across the Life Span, examine the development and expression of psychological strengths, and the everyday outcomes with which they are associated. We are particularly interested in understanding how psychological strengths link to facets of mental health, wellbeing, resilience and prosociality across a wide range of contexts including educational, workplace and health-related settings.


Contributors to this theme share the collective goals of increasing collaborative working and developing impactful research that has the possibility of shaping theory, policy and/or practice.


Example topics include:

  • Biological, evolutionary, cognitive and/or social influences on the development and expression of psychological strengths;
  • Interventions, programmes, or therapeutic approaches designed to counteract adverse life experiences, and/or to foster psychological strengths, prosocial behaviours, or wellbeing;
  • Short and long-term outcomes relating to the development or practice of psychological strengths (e.g., emotional competencies, mate choice, educational attainment or engagement, wellbeing, mental health, relationship building/maintenance);
  • The darker side of psychological strengths and traits that are perceived to be prosocial, such as the relationship between emotional intelligence and emotional manipulation and how gratitude links to ingratiation;
  • Importance of psychological strengths, prosociality and/or wellbeing at organisational or societal levels (e.g. use of strengths to enhance team working, leadership, commitment to communal goals such as pro-environmentalism).

Affiliate Members

Nikki Ayles (Associate Lecturer)

Alice Clements (PhD student)

Krista Easton (PhD student)

Dr Liz Gulliford (University of Northampton)

Dr Gordon Ingram (Universidad de los Andes, Colombia)

Dr Rose Lea (University of Oxford)

Dr Kate Muse (University of Gloucestershire)

Penelope Paske (PhD student)

Dr Laura Simmons

Christopher Thomas (PhD student)

Gemma Thornton (PhD student)

Current projects

  • Positively resilient? Examining psychological adjustment to workplace changes after COVID-19 (Davis, Morgan, Simmons et al.)
  • Experiences of implant loss following reconstructive surgery (Mahoney et al.)
  • Examining how gratitude is experienced on social media (Morgan, Davis, Muse et al.)
  • Practitioner Training Intervention in Anaphylaxis (Mahoney et al.)
  • Treatment and experiences of health anxiety (Muse et al.)
  • An online ‘positive education’ programme to promote wellbeing in university students (Morgan & Simmons)
  • A cross-cultural exploration of the understanding of gratitude (Morgan et al.)
  • Understanding Stigma in Adolescents with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Muse et al.)
  • Gratitude and Long-Term Mate Choice (Morgan & Farrelly)
  • Families Un-Locked: A longitudinal study on the impact of COVID-19 on families and relationships (Misca, with Relate UK)
  • Mate choice, prosocial behaviour and pro-environmentalism (Farrelly et al.)

Recent Publications

  • Causer, H., Muse, K., Smith, J., & Bradley, E. (2019). What is the experience of practitioners in health, education or social care roles following a death by suicide? A qualitative research synthesis. International journal of environmental research and public health, 16(18), 3293.
  • Davis, S.K., Morningstar, M., Dirks, M. & Qualter, P. (2020) Ability emotional intelligence: What about recognition of emotion in voices? Personality and Individual Differences, 160(109938).
  • Davis, S.K., Morningstar, M. & Qualter, P. (2020) Ability EI predicts recognition of dynamic facial emotions, but not beyond the effects of crystallized IQ. Personality and Individual Differences, 160(109968).
  • Davis, S.K., Nowland, R.A. & Qualter, P. (2019) The Role of Emotional Intelligence in the Maintenance of Depression Symptoms and Loneliness Among Children. Frontiers in Psychology, 10(A1672), 1-12.
  • Davis, S.K. (2019) Emotional Intelligence and Attentional Bias for Threat-related Emotion Under Stress. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 59(3), 328-339.
  • Bhogal, M. S., Farrelly, D., Galbraith, N., Manktelow, K., & Bradley, H. (2020). The role of altruistic costs in human mate choice. Personality and Individual Differences, 160, 109939.
  • Bhogal, M. S., Bartlett, J. E., & Farrelly, D. (2019). The influence of mate choice motivation on non-financial altruism. Current Psychology, 38(4), 959-964.
  • Farrelly, D., & Bhogal, M. S. (2021). Mate choice enhances pro-environmentalism. Pre-print available via
  • Farrelly, D., & King, L. (2019). Mutual mate choice drives the desirability of altruism in relationships. Current Psychology, 38(4), 977-981.
  • Bhogal, M. S., & Farrelly, D. (2019). The psychology of prosocial behavior: An introduction to a special issue. Current Psychology, 38(4), 910-911.
  • Bhogal, M. S., Farrelly, D., & Galbraith, N. (2019). The role of prosocial behaviors in mate choice: A critical review of the literature. Current Psychology, 38(4), 1062-1075.
  • Gulliford, L., Morgan, B. & Jordan, K. (2020). A prototype analysis of virtue. Journal of Positive Psychology.
  • Gulliford, L., Morgan, B., Abbott, J. & Hemming, E. (2019). Ingratiation, Self-Monitoring and Social Intelligence: A Prosocial Relationship? Current Psychology, 38(4), 1021-1032.
  • Gulliford, L. & Morgan, B. (2019). The ‘positive’ valence of gratitude. In Brown, N. J. L., Lomas, T. & Eiroá-Orosa, F. J., (Eds.). The Routledge International Handbook of Critical Positive Psychology. London, UK: Routledge.
  • Hudecek, M. F., Blabst, N., Morgan, B., & Lermer, E. (2020). Measuring Gratitude in Germany: Validation Study of the German Version of the Gratitude Questionnaire-Six Item Form (GQ-6-G) and the Multi-Component Gratitude Measure (MCGM-G). Frontiers in psychology11.
  • Kühne, F., Lacki, F. J., Muse, K., & Weck, F. (2019). Strengthening competence of therapists‐in‐training in the treatment of health anxiety (hypochondriasis): Validation of the Assessment of C ore CBT S kills (ACCS). Clinical psychology & psychotherapy, 26(3), 319-327.
  • Lea, R., Davis, S.K., Mahoney, B., & Qualter, P. (2019) Does Emotional Intelligence Buffer the Effects of Acute Stress? A Systematic Review. Frontiers in Psychology, 10(810).
  • Margana, L., Bhogal, M. S., Bartlett, J. E., & Farrelly, D. (2019). The roles of altruism, heroism, and physical attractiveness in female mate choice. Personality and Individual Differences, 137, 126-130.
  • Misca, G., Walker, J., & Kaplan, C. (2019). “Experts by Experience”: The Involvement of Service Users and Families in Designing and Implementing Innovations in Family Justice. Family Court Review, 57(3), 414-424.
  • Muse, K., Scurlock-Evans, L., & Scott, H. (2021). “The most important question is not ‘how?’but ‘why?’”: A multi-method exploration of a blended e-learning approach for teaching statistics within Undergraduate psychology. Psychology Teaching Review.
  • Owens, R., Driscoll, H., & Farrelly, D. (2019). Variation in Women’s Mate Preferences Over the Development of a Monogamous Relationship Corresponds with Changes in Men’s Life History Strategy. Evolutionary Psychological Science, 1-8.
  • Scherman, R., Misca, G., & Tan, T. (2020). The Perceptions of New Zealand Lawyers and Social Workers about Children Being Adopted by Gay Couples and Lesbian Couples. Frontiers in Psychology, 11. Article no. 520703. ISSN Online: 1664-1078.
  • Walker, J., & Misca, G., (2019). Partnership in Practice: European Perspectives. Family Court Review, 57(3), 294-300.
  • Walker, J., & Misca, G. (2019). Why Listening to Children and Young People is Important in Family Justice. Family Court Review, 57(3), 375-386.


Information for prospective PhD students

We welcome proposals from propsective students with interests in any areas aligned to our theme.   Please see the research school pages for details on how to apply.  The following provide ideas for self-funded proposals:

‘Positive Higher Education’: The Role of Universities in Developing Character Strengths and Wellbeing (Supervisors: Dr Blaire Morgan, Dr Bérénice Mahoney)

 Emotional intelligence in bipolar disorder (Supervisors: Dr Sarah Davis, Professor Lisa Jones, Dr Katherine Gordon-Smith) 

The emotionally intelligent social media user (Supervisors: Dr Sarah Davis, Dr Blaire Morgan, Dr Kate Muse)


For more information about this theme, please contact Dr Blaire Morgan