Measuring Psychological Change After Trauma: Psychometric Properties of a New Bi-Directional Scale

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Abstract

Objective: The current scientific measures of posttraumatic changes in the wake of major stressors have mostly been unidirectional. This study is an attempt to develop a scale that will capture the continuum of positive to negative psychological changes after trauma. Method: Forty-five statements were presented to a veteran sample (N = 4,053) with the request to report for each item their experiences of negative, positive, or no posttraumatic changes as a result of their deployment to Afghanistan. Results: Principal component analysis brought out 4 dimensions; 26 nonoverlapping items that had correlations above .40 were selected for the final version of the scale. The 4 dimensions were given the following designations: Self-Confidence, Interpersonal Involvement, Awareness, and Social Adaptability. Most veterans reported positive changes (36.8–80.8%) whereas a minority reported negative changes (4.5–22.0%). The total scale score correlated negatively with measures of depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, and posttraumatic stress symptoms. Conclusion: The posttraumatic change scale (PTCS) demonstrated acceptable psychometric properties and captured the range from negative to positive posttraumatic changes after major stress. Contrary to several previous studies, positive posttraumatic change, as measured by the PTCS, was not associated with increased symptoms of psychopathology. This underscores the heterogeneity of psychological responses to traumatic events.

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