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Aspects of moral character, civic purpose and social identity in relevance to the psychological well-being of adolescents in Sri Lanka


Miyuru Chandradasa ,

University of Kelaniya, PO Box 6, Thalagolla Road, Ragama, LK
About Miyuru
Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine
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Layani, C. Rathnayake

District Base Hospital, Dickoya-Hatton, LK
About Layani, C.
Psychiatry Unit
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Moral character is defined as the complex constellation of psychological characteristics that motivate and enable persons to function as moral agents competently. Character is composed of various character strengths, and these are trainable personal characteristics. Purpose is the long-term, progressive intention to accomplish specific aims that are meaningful to self and the broader world. Character strengths and purpose in adolescence is associated with academic achievement and long-term mental and physical well-being. Identity crisis in adolescence is associated with moral character formation, developing a purpose and psychological well-being.

Sri Lanka leads human development indices (HDI) in the region. Retention in secondary schooling is high, but higher education enrolment is less than 20% and below the average for lower-middle income countries. Therefore, more than 80% of adolescents exit the educational system without entering a standard tertiary education course. After leaving school, they do not have opportunities in a structured environment to promote desirable character strengths. Despite laws against child cruelty, corporal punishment and psychological aggression are highly prevalent in Sri Lankan schools. There is sound research evidence that this method is counterproductive to long-term mental well-being and character development. Psychiatry is, at times, criticised for only focusing on psychopathology and not on overall positive mental health. Child and adolescent mental health expertise are limited in the country, and psychiatrists need to look beyond diagnostic categories to facilitate and support the character development of young Sri Lankans.

Considering this context, there is a need for school-based, culturally relevant character development programmes for Sri Lankan adolescents. These programmes need to be developed recognising moral, ethical, social and cultural values, employing multi-sectoral collaboration. There has been a rising interest world over on character development in adolescents and its relevance to the mental well-being and future workforce of a country. Even though there have been several publications from the West, we could not access any publications on adolescent character development’s relevance to psychological well-being from Sri Lanka. This article discusses recent and relevant literature on character development in adolescence and the potential application of this evidence to the well-being of Sri Lankan adolescents.

How to Cite: Chandradasa, M. and Rathnayake, L.C., 2019. Aspects of moral character, civic purpose and social identity in relevance to the psychological well-being of adolescents in Sri Lanka. Journal of the Postgraduate Institute of Medicine, 6(1), pp.E89 1–3. DOI:
Published on 31 Jul 2019.
Peer Reviewed


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