Posttraumatic growth in low-income Black mothers who survived Hurricane Katrina

Am J Orthopsychiatry. 2019;89(2):144-158. doi: 10.1037/ort0000398. Epub 2019 Jan 24.


This mixed-methods study aimed to gain knowledge of the lived experience of posttraumatic growth (PTG) in 32 low-income Black mothers whose New Orleans' homes were damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, and half of whom had relocated indefinitely to Houston. Data from in-depth interviews with participants were examined in conjunction with quantitative scores on the Posttraumatic Growth Inventory (PTGI; Tedeschi & Calhoun, 1996). Participants were interviewed face-to-face on a range of postdisaster experiences, including positive changes, in 2009. Participants also completed the PTGI via a telephone survey within six months of being interviewed. Most (26 out of 32) participants described experiencing PTG within the 5 domains of the PTGI, with the domains most frequently coded, in descending order, being New Possibilities, Relating to Others, Personal Strength, Appreciation for Life, and Spiritual Change. PTG stemmed heavily from exposure to opportunities in survivors' postdisaster communities, including increased racial diversity, improved neighborhoods, and new educational and economic opportunities. Participants' frequency of all PTG codes was associated with their overall PTGI scores with a small-to-moderate effect size (r = .32; p = .078) in a relationship that trended toward significance. Without minimizing the catastrophic losses they entail, disasters may in some cases create spaces for PTG for survivors, including through new opportunities in areas where survivors formerly experienced oppression. Policymakers should examine how to make such opportunities available, visible and accessible to individuals absent a disaster. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved).

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Black or African American / psychology*
  • Cyclonic Storms*
  • Disasters
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • New Orleans
  • Posttraumatic Growth, Psychological*
  • Poverty / psychology*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Survivors / psychology*
  • Young Adult