Facilitators of growth

What are the factors that enhance the perception of adversarial growth? Many scientists have claimed that specific characteristics of the person, social environment, and the event may influence the level of adversarial growth reported by an individual.

A recent meta-analytic review of the topic by Prati and Pietrantoni (2009) has provided a more comprehensive understanding of some of the important factors associated with greater self-reported levels of adversarial growth.

The meta-analysis revealed that adversarial growth was strongly related to

  • Positive reappraisal – a coping style that involves focusing on the positive aspects of what has happened or is happening.
  • Religious coping – turning to religion for support and guidance during and after a stressful event.

Additionally, adversarial growth was also moderately related to

  • Seeking social support from other people during and after the stressful event
  • Optimism
  • Spirituality

Again, while this article provides a systematic review of the current evidence it is not without limitations. Most importantly, given the lack of prospective research in the field one needs to remain cautious and avoid drawing causal conclusions from this review. Most of these studies consist of cross-sectional data, meaning that no causal claims about the relationship can be made. For example, it is unclear whether adversarial growth causes increases in optimism, whether it is optimism that is causing people to report adversarial growth, or whether increases in both adversarial growth and positive well-being are caused by a third unknown factor such as well-being. With that said, the review does improve scientists’ understanding on the specific conditions in which adversarial growth is more likely to be reported.

Key reference

  1. Prati, G. & Pietrantoni, L. (2009). Optimism, social support, and coping strategies as factors contributing to posttraumatic growth: A meta-analysis. Journal of Loss and Trauma, 14, 364-388.