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    Making meaning out of suffering: the psychology of posttraumatic growth in children and young people

    Brooks, Matthew ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-5469-7769 (2021) Making meaning out of suffering: the psychology of posttraumatic growth in children and young people. In: Psychological support for schools following a crisis or disaster: the journey of recovery. British Psychological Society, pp. 47-53. ISBN 9781854337931

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    Abstract

    For decades, research has focused on negative changes associated with adverse life events, such as natural disasters, accidents, serious illness, child maltreatment, and criminal victimisation (e.g., Gershuny & Thayer, 1999; Kearney et al., 2010; Pill et al., 2017). However, in the past 30 years, research has indicated that people can report positive, as well as negative changes, after adverse experiences. These perceived positive changes are known as posttraumatic growth (PTG), which can refer to the opening up of new possibilities and opportunities, improvements within interpersonal relationships, spiritual changes, enhanced feelings of personal strength, and a renewed appreciation for life (Joseph et al., 2012; Tedeschi & Calhoun, 2004). Some of the first studies in this area investigated the impact of accidents and disasters (e.g. Joseph et al., 1993) and indicated that people can draw upon these experiences in more positive and meaningful ways. However, the idea of positive change and growth is not new; indeed, historical and contemporary literature has long acknowledged the potential for people to change ‘for the better’. Growth research gained further interest with the focus on positive psychology in the early 2000s (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000), which emphasised positive psychological character traits and experiences. This has since developed into a larger body of literature that is starting to shape the way we view psychological responses to adverse events. While PTG research tends to focus on the positive experiences that people may perceive following adverse events, the changes may be accompanied with some distress. Emotional distress and intrusive thoughts can be experienced as individuals attempt to process the memories of their adverse events (Tedeschi & Calhoun, 2004), which could serve as a catalyst for more positive changes. Notably, PTG research does not downplay the negative experiences people can report, but offers a perspective that complements existing knowledge and support offered to survivors of adverse events.

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