Academic journal article European Journal of Psychotraumatology

Growing from Experience: An Exploratory Study of Posttraumatic Growth in Adolescent Refugees

Academic journal article European Journal of Psychotraumatology

Growing from Experience: An Exploratory Study of Posttraumatic Growth in Adolescent Refugees

Article excerpt

Copyright: © 2016 Marieke Sleijpen et al. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, allowing third parties to copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format, and to remix, transform, and build upon the material, for any purpose, even commercially, under the condition that appropriate credit is given, that a link to the license is provided, and that you indicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use.

Received: 29 May 2015; Revised: 26 October 2015; Accepted: 27 December 2015; Published: 12 February 2016

Competing interests and funding: There is no conflict of interest in the present study for any of the authors.

*Correspondence to: Marieke Sleijpen, Foundation Arq, Nienoord 5, 1112 XE Diemen, The Netherlands, Email:;

This paper is part of the Special Issue: Global mental health: trauma and adversity among populations in transition. More papers from this issue can be found at

For the abstract or full text in other languages, please see Supplementary files under 'Article Tools'

Exposure to potentially traumatic events (PTEs) is a known risk factor for the development of mental health disturbances, while a growing body of empirical research also reveals that positive changes may take place after PTEs. This phenomenon of benefiting or growing psychologically from PTEs has been recognised throughout human history and is incorporated in the world's major religions (Splevins, Cohen, Bowley, & Joseph, 2010). Over the years, different names have been assigned to this phenomenon, but it is most frequently referred to as benefit finding , stress-related growth , or posttraumatic growth (PTG). Tedeschi and Calhoun (2004) defined PTG as a "positive psychological change experienced as a result of the struggle with highly challenging life circumstances" (p. 1). It manifests itself in improved interpersonal relationships, an increased sense of personal strength, positive changes in life priorities, and a richer existential and spiritual life (Tedeschi & Calhoun, 1996). Tedeschi and Calhoun suggested it is not the event itself but the struggle following the hardship that leads to PTG.

Although PTG has been identified in a variety of populations (children, adolescents, and adults) from different countries exposed to a range of PTEs (e.g., cancer, natural disasters, and bereavement), only a small number of studies have been conducted with adult refugees. To the authors' knowledge, no quantitative studies have examined PTG among young refugees. PTG has been found to be present in adult refugees alongside negative consequences of trauma and ongoing difficulties, such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms (Hussain & Bhushan, 2011; Kroo & Nagy, 2011; Powell, Rosner, Butollo, Tedeschi, & Calhoun, 2003; Teodorescu et al., 2012).

There is contradictory evidence regarding the relationship between PTSD symptoms and PTG: Studies have found a significant positive relationship (e.g., Hall et al., 2010; Solomon & Dekel, 2007), a negative relationship (e.g., Frazier, Conlon, & Glaser, 2001), and no relationship at all (e.g., Widows, Jacobsen, Booth-Jones, & Fields, 2005). These conflicting findings on the relationship between PTSD and PTG might suggest a curvilinear relationship between PTG and PTSD; PTSD symptoms are first associated with an increase in PTG, but when the PTSD symptoms become more severe PTG decreases (e.g., Shakespeare-Finch & Lurie-Beck, 2014). Further, puzzling findings have been reported with regard to the relationship of PTG with more general adjustment outcomes, such as quality of life. Some studies reveal a positive relation between quality of life and PTG (e. …

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