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Posttraumatic growth

a positive consequence of trauma

Cassie M. Lindstrom, Kelli N. Triplett

pp. 569-583

Life in the fast-paced 21st century includes a multitude of stressors. Interactions with loved ones, pressures at work, and failing health are stressors faced by thousands of adults each day. Traumatic events, as defined by the DSM-IV-TR, are extremely stressful events causing a fear of death, helplessness, or horror (American Psychiatric Association 2000). Unfortunately, traumatic events are rather common (Norris and Sloane 2007) and most trauma research has focused on the development of problems due to traumatic experiences (Joseph et al. 2005). However, despite emotional and physical strain caused by traumatic experiences, some trauma survivors report positive changes in their lives due to their struggle to cope with the aftermath of these events. The idea that traumatic events can lead to positive personal change, referred to here as posttraumatic growth (PTG) (Calhoun and Tedeschi 1999, 2004, 2006; Tedeschi and Calhoun 1995, 1996, 2004), is not a new concept. Since their inception, the religions of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism have all recognized positive changes as an outcome of traumatic events (Joseph and Linley 2005).In the past few decades, trauma research has shifted from focusing solely on negative outcomes of trauma to incorporating positive consequences of traumatic experiences. Furthermore, research regarding posttraumatic growth has increased dramatically in recent years. Growth following a traumatic experience has been referred to as benefit-finding (Davis et al. 1998), stress-related growth (Park et al. 1996; Park 1998), and adversarial growth (Joseph and Linley 2004; Linley and Joseph 2004). However, the model of posttraumatic growth (PTG) has been referred to as the most comprehensive model of growth due to adversity (Joseph and Linley 2005). It is important to note that PTG does not suggest that negative consequences of traumatic experiences are nonexistent. Instead, PTG offers a more complete understanding of trauma outcomes by focusing on positive consequences while acknowledging that negative outcomes do occur. Further, it appears possible for each survivor to find both negative and positive aspects of their experience (Janoff-Bulman and Yopyk 2004); negative and positive consequences of the same traumatic event are not mutually exclusive. Before discussing PTG in detail, a general overview of trauma is offered.

Publication details

DOI: 10.1007/978-1-4419-0748-6_28

Full citation:

Lindstrom, C. M. , Triplett, K. N. (2010)., Posttraumatic growth: a positive consequence of trauma, in T. W. Miller (ed.), Handbook of stressful transitions across the lifespan, Dordrecht, Springer, pp. 569-583.

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