The role of resilience and gratitude in posttraumatic stress and growth following a campus shooting

Psychol Trauma. 2017 Jan;9(1):62-69. doi: 10.1037/tra0000149. Epub 2016 Aug 22.


Objective: This study investigated the role of resilience and gratitude in the relationship between trauma exposure, posttraumatic stress (PTS), and posttraumatic growth (PTG) following the campus shooting at Seattle Pacific University. The prevalence of community traumatic events such as school shootings has increased dramatically in the last decade. However, a significant number of individuals report positive changes such as enhanced appreciation for life, suggesting that some people are able to convert adverse experiences into personal growth. The purpose of this study was to understand characteristics about trauma and protective characteristics that contribute to PTG.

Method: Participants were 359 students, faculty, and staff (75% female; mean age = 27.26, SD = 12.61) enrolled or employed the day the shooting took place. Approximately four months following the event respondents completed self-report questionnaires about trauma exposure (i.e., physical and emotional proximity), PTS symptoms, PTG, resilience, and gratitude.

Results: Results supported our moderated-mediation hypothesis (B = 3.97, t = 4.11, 95th confidence interval [2.08, 5.88], p < .01), suggesting that both resilience and gratitude can be conceptualized as protective mechanisms, with resilience operating to prevent adverse outcomes while gratitude may promote positive outcomes following trauma.

Conclusion: Given the prevalence of lifetime trauma, findings indicate that mental health professionals should consider a multifaceted approach to buffer the effects of trauma by preventatively cultivating resilience and enhancing gratitude in posttrauma interventions as a means to decrease PTS and increase PTG. Additional research is needed to understand how individuals develop positive traits as both protective and coping mechanisms. (PsycINFO Database Record

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Exposure to Violence / psychology*
  • Female
  • Homicide / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Psychological Trauma / psychology*
  • Resilience, Psychological
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology*
  • Students / psychology*
  • Universities
  • Young Adult