Does self-reported posttraumatic growth reflect genuine positive change?

Psychol Sci. 2009 Jul;20(7):912-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2009.02381.x. Epub 2009 Jun 8.


In this study, we evaluated the validity of self-reported posttraumatic growth (PTG) by assessing the relation between perceived growth and actual growth from pre- to posttrauma. Undergraduate students completed measures tapping typical PTG domains at Time 1 and Time 2 (2 months later). We compared change in those measures with scores on the Posttraumatic Growth Inventory (PTGI; Tedeschi & Calhoun, 1996) for those participants who reported a traumatic event between Time 1 and Time 2 (n= 122). PTGI scores generally were unrelated to actual growth in PTG-related domains. Moreover, perceived growth was associated with increased distress from pre- to posttrauma, whereas actual growth was related to decreased distress, a pattern suggesting that perceived and actual growth reflect different processes. Finally, perceived (but not actual) growth was related to positive reinterpretation coping. Thus, the PTGI, and perhaps other retrospective measures, does not appear to measure actual pre- to posttrauma change.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events
  • Male
  • Mental Recall
  • Perception*
  • Personal Satisfaction
  • Prospective Studies
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales / statistics & numerical data
  • Quality of Life / psychology
  • Self Disclosure*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / diagnosis*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / etiology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology*
  • Stress, Psychological / complications
  • Stress, Psychological / diagnosis
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Students / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*
  • United States
  • Young Adult