Predictors of Posttraumatic Growth 10–11 Months After a Fatal Earthquake

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Abstract

Objective: Posttraumatic growth (PTG) is a commonly observed phenomenon in the wake of a distressing event, capturing potentially beneficial effects for posttraumatic adaptation. However, it is not entirely clear what factors are essential for the development of PTG, especially after natural disasters. Most importantly, it is uncertain what type of relationship exists between posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) and PTG. As yet, there is also no consensus on whether PTG can best be seen as a process outcome or as a coping mechanism. The current study aimed to elucidate these uncertainties. Method: The study explored PTG in a community sample (N = 412) 10–11 months after a major earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand. Nonsymptomatic predictors of PTG were assessed 4–7 months after the earthquake, and symptomatic predictors were assessed both 4–7 and 10–11 months after the earthquake, with PTG measured in the second assessment. Results: Results showed that the unique relationship between PTSS and PTG was modeled best both linearly and curvilinearly, suggesting that PTSS over a certain level shift from a positive association with PTG to a negative one. PTG was predicted by being female, having less household income, PTSS symptoms modeled linearly and curvilinearly at Time 1, and PTSS modeled linearly at Time 2. Conclusion: Support was found for the coping model of PTG, suggesting the importance of fostering growth to manage posttraumatic distress.

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