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Does Self-Reported Posttraumatic Growth Reflect Genuine Positive Change?

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ABSTRACT

In this study, we evaluated the validity of self-reported posttraumatic growth (PTG) by assessing the relation between perceived growth and actual growth from pre- to posttrauma. Undergraduate students completed measures tapping typical PTG domains at Time 1 and Time 2 (2 months later). We compared change in those measures with scores on the Posttraumatic Growth Inventory (PTGI; Tedeschi & Calhoun, 1996) for those participants who reported a traumatic event between Time 1 and Time 2 (n= 122). PTGI scores generally were unrelated to actual growth in PTG-related domains. Moreover, perceived growth was associated with increased distress from pre- to posttrauma, whereas actual growth was related to decreased distress, a pattern suggesting that perceived and actual growth reflect different processes. Finally, perceived (but not actual) growth was related to positive reinterpretation coping. Thus, the PTGI, and perhaps other retrospective measures, does not appear to measure actual pre- to posttrauma change.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: University of Minnesota, Twin Cities; 2: University of Connecticut School of Medicine; 3: University of Connecticut; 4: Kent State University; and 5: Leeds School of Business, University of Colorado, Boulder

Publication date: 2009-07-01

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