The Ongoing Development of Strength-Based Approaches to People Who Hold Systemically Marginalized Identities

David M. Silverman*, R. Josiah Rosario, Ivan A. Hernandez, Mesmin Destin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Academic Abstract: Personality and social psychology have historically viewed individuals’ systemically marginalized identities (e.g., as people of color, as coming from a lower-income background) as barriers to their success. Such a deficit-based perspective limits psychological science by overlooking the broader experiences, value, perspectives, and strengths that individuals who face systemic marginalization often bring to their societies. The current article aims to support future research in incorporating a strength-based lens through tracing psychology’s journey away from an emphasis on deficits among people who contend with systemic marginalization and toward three distinct strength-based approaches: the universal strengths, difference-as-strength, and identity-specific strengths approaches. Through distinguishing between each approach, we advance scholarship that aims to understand systemically marginalized identities with corresponding implications for addressing inequality. Strength-based approaches guide the field to recognize the imposed limitations of deficit-based ideologies and advance opportunities to engage in research that effectively understands and values systemically marginalized people. Public Abstract: Inequalities, including those between people from higher- and lower-income backgrounds, are present across society. From schools to workplaces, hospitals to courtrooms, people who come from backgrounds that are marginalized by society often face more negative outcomes than people from more privileged backgrounds. While such inequalities are often blamed on a lack of hard work or other issues within marginalized people themselves, scientific research increasingly demonstrates that this is not the case. Rather, studies consistently find that people’s identities as coming from groups that face marginalization in society often serve as a valuable source of unique strengths, not deficiencies, that can help them succeed. Our article reviews these studies to examine how future research in psychology may gain a broader understanding of people who contend with marginalization. In doing so, we outline opportunities for psychological research to effectively support efforts to address persistent inequalities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPersonality and Social Psychology Review
StateAccepted/In press - 2023


  • deficit ideology
  • identity
  • inequality
  • marginalization
  • strength-based approach

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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