Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

The Role of Leisure in the Experience of Posttraumatic Growth for People with Spinal Cord Injury

Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

The Role of Leisure in the Experience of Posttraumatic Growth for People with Spinal Cord Injury

Article excerpt

Considerable evidence has suggested that traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI) can lead to disrupted social relationships (Kleiber, Brock, Lee, Dattilo, & Caldwell, 1995) as well as negative psychological consequences such as depression (e.g., Elliot & Frank, 1996), anxiety (e.g., Kennedy & Rogers, 2000), distress (e.g., Kennedy & Evans, 2001), and disruption of one's sense of well-being (McCann & Pearlman, 1990). However, an emerging body of literature indicates that people who experience trauma can experience personal growth in the midst of such trauma (e.g., O'Leary & Ickovics, 1995; Park, Cohen, & Murch, 1996). For example, the experience of personal growth following traumatic events has been reported in various types of chronic and life-threatening illness, such as cancer (Bellizzi & Blank, 2006), HIV/AIDS (Cadell, Regehr, & Hemsworth, 2003), heart disease (Sheikh, 2004), and pediatrie leukemia (Best, Streisand, Catania, & Kazak, 2001).

In terms of negative life events, leisure researchers have paid great attention to leisure coping and have provided important insights into the role of leisure in coping with stressful life events and chronic illnesses (e.g., Hutchinson, Loy, Kleiber, & Dattilo, 2003; Iwasaki & Mannell, 2000; Kleiber, Hutchinson, & Williams, 2002). Kleiber, Hutchinson, and Williams introduced a concept of "positive transformation" following negative life events. They conceptualized the potential functions of leisure in transcending negative life events and challenged leisure researchers to explore positive outcomes following traumatic events, which can be conceptualized as posttraumatic growth (PTG). PTG refers to "positive change that the individual experiences as a result of the struggle with a trauma" (Calhoun & Tedeschi, 1999, p. 11). However, few empirical studies have examined the role of leisure in the experience of PTG. Moreover, no empirical study has intentionally selected people experiencing personal growth to explore the characteristics of growth. The purpose of this study was to explore the role of leisure in the experience of PTG for people with SCI. To capture the characteristics of PTG, this study deliberately selected individuals exhibiting evidence of PTG.

Review of Relevant Literature

Posttraumatic Growth

Despite the considerable evidence that traumatic events can lead to negative psychological, physical, and social consequences, there is increasing evidence that personal distress and growth frequently coexist in the midst of trauma. People who experience PTG demonstrate "a significant beneficial change in their cognitive and emotional lives that may have behavioral implications" (Tedeschi, Park, & Calhoun 1998, p. 3). This change facilitates a constructive cognitive processing of trauma that can change perspectives on self, others, and one's way of living (Tedeschi & Calhoun, 1995). PTG has been variously referred to as "benefit finding" (Affleck & Tennen, 1996), "flourishing" (Ryff & Singer, 2000), "perceived benefits" (Calhoun & Tedeschi, 1991), "positive by products" (McMillen, Howard, Nower, & Chung, 2001), "stress-related growth" (Park, Cohen, & Murch, 1996), and "thriving" (O'Leary & Ickovics, 1995). However, Tedeschi and Calhoun (2004) argued that the term, posttraumatic growth, is the most appropriate expression to describe the phenomenon because this term captures transformative positive life changes beyond individuals' previous level of adaptation, psychological functioning, or life awareness following major life crises. PTG tends to "have more impact on people's lives, and involves such fundamental changes or insights about living that it does not appear to be merely another coping mechanism" (Tedeschi, Park, & Calhoun, 1998, p. 3).

Previous literature has documented various personal and social factors (e.g., social support, coping, personality characteristics, and positive emotions) contributing to PTG. …

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