What is Post Traumatic Growth (PTG)?
While the limited research and literature on suicide bereavement has focused on the psychopathology associated with this experience of loss, a new area of Positive Psychology offers another vehicle for investigating the possibilities of personal growth within the context of this distressing and traumatic event. Calhoun and Tedeschi (2006) pioneered the concept of Posttraumatic Growth (PTG), a construct of positive psychological change that occurs as the result of one’s struggle with a highly challenging, stressful, and traumatic event.
How is PTG measured?
Posttraumatic Growth is measured by the Posttraumatic Growth Inventory (PTGI; Tedeschi & Calhoun, 1996) and can be found on the “Resources” page of this website. When you take the PTGI, there will be an overall score and then five subscale scores reflecting five factors which represent your level of PTG. The five factors include Relating to Others (greater intimacy and compassion for others), New Possibilities (new roles and new people), Personal Strength (feeling personally stronger), Spiritual Change (being more connected spiritually), and a deeper Appreciation of Life (Tedeschi & Calhoun, 2004)
How can you grow and suffer at the same time?
Posttraumatic growth theory does not suggest that there is an absence of suffering as wisdom builds, but rather that appreciable growth occurs within the context of pain and loss. In fact, some measure of significant distress may be necessary for growth to occur, although too much distress may impair the bereaved and render them unable to engage in the growth process (Butler et al., 2005). Along with growth or wisdom-building, the fruits of PTG may also include a preparedness or “resilience” for future events that may otherwise be traumatic (Calhoun & Tedeschi, 2006; Meichenbaum, 2006).
How does PTG differ from resilience?
Some researchers speculate that PTG is a kind of resilience, while others suggest that resilience plays an important role in the development of PTG (Lepore and Revenson, 2006). Calhoun and Tedeschi conceptualize a complicated relationship between PTG and resilience. Studies have shown an inverse relationship between PTG and resilience where highly resilient people experience less PTG than less resilient people do (Tedeschi & McNally, 2011). Highly resilient individuals may have stronger coping skills and are less likely to struggle with the psychological consequences of trauma, but are also less likely to experience as many opportunities for change that proceed from the emotional wrestling with trauma.
What makes growth more likely in some individuals and less likely in others?
Personality traits and mood states, such as extraversion, optimism, positive affect, openness to experience have been positively associated with PTG, while personality traits, such as neuroticism, have been negatively associated with PTG (Linley & Joseph, 2004; Stanton, Bower, & Low, 2006; Costa & McCrae, 1985). Other demographic variables, including gender and socioeconomic status, are also associated with this process (Calhoun & Tedeschi, 2006). These characteristics may play a central role in how an individual manages the interruption of one’s life goals or plans through a personal crisis or a trauma (Tedeschi & Calhoun, 2004).