Is Posttraumatic Growth Trauma-Specific? Invariance Across Trauma- and Stressor-Exposed Groups

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Objective: Posttraumatic growth (PTG), or multidimensional positive change following a traumatic event (TE), is conceptualized as qualitatively distinct from growth following a nontraumatic stressful event (NTSE; Tedeschi & Calhoun, 2004; Zoellner & Maercker, 2006). However, the degree to which PTG is a trauma-specific phenomenon has yet to be established. Although research indicates that individuals who experience TEs endorse greater PTG than those who experience NTSEs (Kastenmüller et al., 2012; Tedeschi & Calhoun, 1996), factorial invariance and latent mean differences in PTG between these groups have yet to be examined. Accordingly, the aim of the present study was to extend previous findings by examining the factorial invariance of the Posttraumatic Growth Inventory (PTGI) across groups whose worst stressor was a Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed. [DSM–5]; American Psychiatric Association, 2013) Criterion A event or a non-Criterion A event. Method: Participants were 644 undergraduates who reported experiencing a stressful event and completed the Life Events Checklist for DSM–5 (LEC-5) and PTGI. Results: Results indicated that the previously identified 5-factor model of the PTGI provided the best fit, although fit was mediocre. A higher order model significantly worsened model fit and thus was rejected. Unexpectedly, strong factorial invariance and equivalence of latent means were found, indicating that the factor structure and latent means of PTG were identical across groups. Conclusions: Findings indicate that PTG might not be qualitatively or quantitatively distinct from growth due to NTSEs, and TEs and NTSEs elicit similar levels of PTG. Limitations include cross-sectional design.

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