Perceived posttraumatic growth and depreciation after spinal cord injury: Actual or illusory?

Objective: This study examined whether retrospective reports of posttraumatic growth (PTG) and depreciation (PTD) of individuals recently diagnosed with a spinal cord injury (SCI) coincide with prospectively measured changes in the conceptually close domains of general self-efficacy (SE) and purpose in life (PIL). The study also tested whether PTG/D and changes in SE and PIL independently predict psychological adjustment to the injury (depressive symptoms, anxiety, life satisfaction). Method: Adopting a longitudinal design, a sample of 206 newly injured patients admitted to one of the four Swiss SCI rehabilitation centers was analyzed. SE and PIL were assessed one month after injury diagnosis and at rehabilitation discharge, PTG/D and the adjustment indicators only at discharge. Structural equation modeling was used to calculate latent change scores for SE and PIL, to correlate these scores to PTG/D scores, and to regress the adjustment indicators on both of them. Results: PTG/D scores were weakly (rmax = .20, p = .033) correlated to changes in SE and PIL. In the multivariate analyses, positive changes in SE and PIL and PTG scores were all associated with better adjustment (e.g., fewer depressive symptoms). In contrast, PTD scores were related to lower adjustment. Conclusions: These results suggest that PTG/D in the initial time after a potentially traumatic medical event seem to be illusory to some degree, as indicated by their weak association with “actual” (i.e., longitudinally measured) changes. Nevertheless, both, PTG/D and actual changes, need to be considered by researchers and clinicians, as they seem to be independently related to psychological adjustment. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)