We conduct rigorous research to understand how youth can thrive.

Our research falls into the following 3 categories

Spirituality & Wisdom

Inspiring young people to develop character and moral virtues to equip them to live with meaning and

Emotional Regulation & Well-Being

Giving the young people we serve a toolbox of healthy emotional habits that last a lifetime.

Pupose-Based Identity

Promoting a greater sense of purpose and meaning to help young people positively impact the world.

The Thrive Approach

Conducting Empirical Research

We engage in rigorous empirical research to discover new knowledge that promotes human thriving. The Center has a strong tradition of research in the areas of positive youth development, character virtue and strengths, moral development, and religious and spiritual development.

Translating Research into Resources

Our research is translated into resources that can transform adolescent lives and social change. Parents, teachers, coaches and anyone who works with young people can use Thrive Center resources to promote positive change, and that change can transform whole communities.

Measuring Our Impact

We test and measure the effectiveness of Thrive Center resources, gauging real-world impact and gathering data from around the world. This data informs future research projects that will lead to new discoveries to promote human thriving around the world.

The Thrive Model

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Major Research Initiatives

Ongoing Projects

Man riding bike through the sunset

The Joyride Project

Dr. King’s explores the nature of joy and how to nurture joy in youth in order to promote thriving.
Teen girl praying

Spiritual Exemplars Project

A continuation study, Dr. King follows up on the spiritual journeys of elected youth exemplars.
Kids laughing and clapping

CI Study of Positive Youth Development

Dr. King and partners study the impact of Compassion International’s program on diverse impoverished youth.

Completed Projects


Spiritual Transformation in Youth Camps

Research by Drs. Schnitker and Barrett indicates when and why camp experiences bring spiritual transformation.


Relational Capacity in Youth Ministries

How does the number of personal relationships affect youth workers and ministries? Dr. Barrett investigated.


The Thriving Conversation Project

Pilot program by Dr. Furrow to promote initiative and self-confidence in teens previously in prostitution.


Evolution in Human Thriving

Drs. King, Barrett, and Furrow engaged theologians and psychologists on evolutionary psychology, spirituality, and thriving.

Emotional Health in Elite Athletes

Identity in Elite Athletes

Dr. Houltberg leads a study in examining the role of self-narrative profiles in elite athletes'


Virtue Interventions in Young Athletes

Drs. Schnitker and Houltberg examine the contexts in which teen athletes develop character strengths.

Adult Mentors _ Thriving

Evaluating Mentorships for Thriving

How can mentor-youth relationships guide adolescent thriving? Dr. King measures high school mentorship program.


Goals, Virtues & Well-Being

Does goal satisfaction increase goal achievement? Dr. Schnitker examines personality dynamics.

The Good Physician

Good Physician Project

Longitudinal study by Dr. Schnitker to explore virtue formation in good physicians.


The Thrive Center has an established body of scholarly work in positive youth development, religion and spirituality, character virtue and emotion regulation.

Access peer-reviewed publications, scholarly articles, and essays produced from our research here.

Religion as Fertile Ground

Drs. King, Schnitker, and Houltberg provide an overview of how religion is linked to moral and virtue development in youth.

Joy as a Virtue: the Means & Ends of Joy

Dr. King and Thrive Fellow, Defoy propose a definition and framework for understanding joy through thriving.

Exploring Religiousness & Hope Among Salvadoran Youth

The CI research team test whether religiousness is related to hopeful future expectations.

Joy Distinguished

Dr. King provides a teleological perspective on joy as a virtue that can lead to thriving.

Determinants of Health & Well-Being

Dr. Rojas-Flores and Thrive student, Jennifer Vaughn report on the potential health crisis among children of immigrants.

The Big 3 Components of PYD Programs in Rwanda

The CI Research Team report on the data collected from Rwandan participants to assess the traits of effective PYD programs.

Evaluating the MDAS in Mexican & Salvadoran Youth

The CI research team apply the MDAS to indicate the extent to which spirituality was integrated into the lives of youth.

Illuminating the Use of the Specificity Principle

The CI research team explore the use of the specificity principle in future assessments of Sustainable Development Goal indicators.

Religion, Spirituality & Thriving

Drs. Schnitker, King, and Houltberg propose that religion/spirituality is related to thriving through telos, virtues, and transcendence.

Adolescent Religion & Spirituality

Drs. King and Hardy capture the latest research on religion and spirituality for youth thriving in this special issue.