Does self-reported posttraumatic growth reflect genuine positive change?

Patricia A Frazier, Howard Tennen, Margaret Gavian, Crystal Park, Patricia Tomich, Ty Tashiro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

340 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)912-919
Number of pages8
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by funds from the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues, Kent State University, the University of Connecticut, the University of Maryland, and the University of Minnesota. We thank Mark Snyder, Alexander Rothman, Sulani Perera, and Reiko Hirai for their helpful comments.


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