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New findings suggest post-traumatic growth may often be illusory

29 November 2018

After a trauma many people have the sense it has changed them for the better, such as granting them a new appreciation for life or improving their relationships.

This has given rise to the appealing notion that there is such a thing as “post-traumatic growth”.

However, the majority of investigations into this phenomenon have relied on asking people whether they believe they have changed; very few have assessed people prior to a trauma and then re-assessed them afterwards to see if positive changes have actually occurred.

A new study in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships is the first to apply this kind of “prospective design” in the context of relationship breakups in young adults, and – unfortunately for anyone who found comfort and inspiration in the principle of post-traumatic growth – the authors Meghan Owenz and Blaine Fowers say their findings are more consistent with the idea that such growth is mostly illusory, the result of a positive re-appraisal of the breakup and one’s current situation.

Read more in a new post by Christian Jarrett on our Research Digest blog.

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