Factors Contributing to Posttraumatic Growth

Article excerpt

Contributing Editor's Note: In this column, members of the NASP Crisis Management in the Schools Interest Group bring to you summaries of three articles relevant to school crisis response. The first summary reports the findings of a meta-analysis of the factors that contribute to positive outcomes following exposure to a crisis event (a must-read for all school crisis intervention team members). The second summary describes an article that discussed issues important to consider when providing group crisis interventions (e.g-, psychological debriefing) in cross-cultural contexts. Finally, the third summary reports the findings of a meta-analysis that explored differences in brain size associated with trauma exposure and PTSD.

Summarized by Steve DeBlois, NCSP, West Warwick Public Schools, West Warwick, RI.

The Journal of Loss and Trauma recently published a meta-analysis investigating an important goal for anyone who has experienced trauma: posttraumatic growth. In the article, "Optimism, Social Support, and Coping Strategies as Factors Contributing to Posttraumatic Growth: A Meta-Analysis," Pietrantoni and Prati (2009) review a plethora of studies to examine the types of variables that may influence one's ability to overcome trauma. A representative sample was derived of 103 studies that identified a measureable positive change following exposure to a highly stressful life event. Study participants were broad and included a wide range of ages, races, genders, and other demographics. Pietrantoni and Prata attempted to determine which factors were likely to foster an increase in happiness and overall life satisfaction for crisis survivors.

Optimism, social support, and adaptive coping strategies were the three systems ofvariables analyzed. Optimism was qualified contextually as being a "dispositional" construct, as those who possess it have a "generalized expectancy for positive outcomes" even in the midst of adversity. Pietrantoni and Prata argue that an optimistic outlook allows for several advantageous outcomes, such as an increase in cognitive flexibility to shift one's pattern of thinking, reframing a stressful situation in a more favorable light, and forming a perceived capability to manage demands of a potentially traumatic event. In this way, a self-fulfilling prophecy may emerge as a product of positive thinking in which one is convinced that the crisis event has produced meaningful gains.

The next variable under investigation with a predicted ameliorating effect was social support Pietrantoni and Prata used a conceptual model outlining support provided by friends and family members as a key environmental resource that may influence coping behavior and bring about a successful adaptationto life crises. By establishing a system of postcrisis support, one may feel less isolated and more empowered to overcome life Stressors. Specific types of support were not differentiated for the purposes of this meta-analysis. …