In psychology literature, traumatic events have been widely examined in terms of their negative effects on survivors, namely posttraumatic stress and posttraumatic stress disorder. However, several studies showed that although its negative outcomes, traumatic events also produce some positive outcomes on trauma survivors. These positive outcomes have been called as posttraumatic growth.
Posttraumatic Growth (PTG)
Highly stressful and traumatic life events, despite negative psychological effects can also promote some positive changes in individuals, which is called posttraumatic growth (PTG) (Joseph & Linley, 2008; Tedeschi & Calhoun, 1995).
In mid-1980s, there was an increasing tendency to investigate PTG in individuals who have experienced traumatic events. Tedeschi and Calhoun (1995) defined the term Posttraumatic Growth as “positive psychological change experienced as a result of the struggle with highly challenging life circumstances”. Positive psychological changes have been referred to with different concepts in the literature, such as stress-related growth (Park, Cohen, & Murch, 1996); perceived benefits (McMillen & Fisher, 1998); and adversarial growth (Linley & Joseph, 2004).
Tedeschi and Calhoun (2004) proposed that for PTG to occur, the traumatic event must be severe enough. In other words, they suggested that the more severe the event, the more growth will be experienced. Additionally, they stated that this positive psychological change could be both a process and an outcome of a traumatic event and was composed of five main domains of posttraumatic growth such as greater appreciation of life, changes in relationships with others, greater sense of personal strength, recognition of new possibilities, and spiritual changes. In order to report having PTG, it is enough to show positive change in at least one of these domains. Each of the PTG domains represents positive changes in different areas of life.
Increased appreciation of life can be defined as a change in the sense of priorities, in other word, the sense of what is important for the individual’s life. The domain of changes in relationships with others is designated by having closer and more meaningful relationships with friends, and family and having increased compassion and empathy for others (Sheikh, 2008; Tedeschi, Park, & Calhoun,1998). The domain of personal strength is manifested by understanding that bad things can happen and saying: “If I can handle this experience then I can also handle anything in my life”. Identification of new possibilities domain of PTG is defined as perceiving the possibility of choosing a new and different direction in life. Lastly, spiritual change is identified by more commitment with spiritual and existential questions in the aftermath of the traumatic event. Tedeschi and Calhoun (2004) reported that even atheistic individuals could experience spiritual growth as a result of the trauma.
Findings of research on PTG showed that it was important to further understand PTG and its benefits for individuals. Similarly, Karanci, Aker, Işıklı,Erkan, Gül, and Yavuz (2012) stated that it was crucial to take into account the timing of the assessment because of the fact that PTG can refer to different processes after trauma in different time periods following trauma.