Investigating Posttraumatic Growth in Midlife Using an Intensive Longitudinal Research Design: Posttraumatic Growth Is Not as Prevalent as Previously Considered

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2 Scopus citations

Abstract

The notion that adversity leads to enduring improvements in psychological functioning carries promise given the diverse adversities individuals confront over their life course. However, research on posttraumatic growth (PTG) has relied on cross-sectional research designs, which severely limit the ability to discern whether growth transpires following adversity. Our goal was to examine whether PTG is possible across a diverse array of outcomes and identify factors that promote PTG. We analyzed data from a longitudinal, prospective study that assessed midlife participants monthly for a period of 2 years. Over the study period, 276 participants experienced a major life stressor, and multiphase multilevel models were used to examine whether PTG transpired in life satisfaction, gratitude, compassion, generativity, meaning-making, and religiosity/spirituality. On average, life satisfaction, generativity, and meaning-making declined following adversity; substantial between-person differences were observed across all outcomes. Our multidimensional approach revealed that, on average, individuals experienced PTG in less than one outcome. More anticipated support and less interpersonal strain were consistently associated with positive functioning in each outcome. Our discussion focuses on how multidimensional approaches to studying PTG promise to disentangle which outcomes potentially grow following adversity and illuminate best research practices for examining PTG, laying the groundwork for future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)576-596
Number of pages21
JournalEuropean Journal of Personality
Volume36
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2022

Keywords

  • major life stressors
  • midlife
  • multidimensional approach to studying adversity
  • posttraumatic growth
  • social support

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology

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