The Context for Posttraumatic Growth: Life Crises, Individual and Social Resources, and Coping
Jeanne A. Schaefer
Rudolf H. Moos
Department of Veterans Affairs and Stanford University Medical Centers
Common crises such as physical illness, bereavement, and divorce, and dramatic events such as natural disasters and war each shape the lives of the people they touch in unique and lasting ways. Most of the growing body of research on traumatic events and peoples' adaptation to them emphasizes the painful emotions and physical and psychological symptoms that these events typically produce, at least in the short run ( Bromet & Dew, 1995; Rubonis & Bickman, 1991). But, in the aftermath of adversity, people often show tenacious resilience and eventually experience personal growth. For many people, life crises are the catalyst for enhanced personal and social resources and the development of new coping skills.
Why do life crises lead to greater self-reliance and maturity, better relationships with family and friends, and new problem-solving skills for some people, but shatter the lives of others? To what extent do characteristics of the crisis itself, such as its severity, determine whether people emerge better or worse off? What role do social and community resources play in bringing about personal transformations? How do people's personal resources and coping skills contribute to successful adaptation and personal growth? We focus on these questions here.
In a quest to understand individuals' positive adaptation to life crises, researchers have emphasized factors that enable people to confront stressors and maintain healthy functioning and have begun to identify specific