No pain, no gain: cross-lagged analyses of posttraumatic growth and anxiety, depression, posttraumatic stress and prolonged grief symptoms after loss

Background and objectives: Major negative life-events including bereavement can precipitate perceived positive life-changes, termed posttraumatic growth (PTG). While traditionally considered an adaptive phenomenon, it has been suggested that PTG represents a maladaptive coping response similar to cognitive avoidance. To clarify the function of PTG, it is crucial to establish concurrent and longitudinal associations of PTG with post-event mental health problems. Yet, longitudinal studies on this topic are scarce. The present study fills this gap in knowledge. 

Design: A two-wave longitudinal survey was conducted. 

Methods: Four-hundred and twelve bereaved adults (87.6% women) filled out scales assessing PTG and symptoms of depression, anxiety, prolonged grief, and posttraumatic stress at baseline and 6 months later. 

Results: The baseline concurrent relationships between all symptom levels and PTG were curvilinear (inverted U-shape). Cross-lagged analyses demonstrated that symptom levels did not predict levels of PTG 6 months later, or vice versa. 

Conclusions: Findings suggest PTG after loss has no substantive negative or positive effects on mental health. Development of specific treatments to increase PTG after bereavement therefore appears premature.


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Maarten C. Eisma ; Lonneke I. M. Lenferink ; Margaret S. Stroebe ; Paul A. Boelen and Henk A. W. Schut | 2019
In: Anxiety, Stress, & Coping : An International Journal ISSN: 1477-2205 | 32 | 3 | 231-243
Anxiety Disorders, Anxiety Symptoms, Depressive Disorders, Depressive Symptoms, Longitudinal Study, Mental health, Posttraumatic growth, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD (en), Statistical Analysis, Traumatic Grief
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