Perceived and actual posttraumatic growth in religiousness and spirituality following disasters

Edward B. Davis, Daryl R. Van Tongeren, Stacey E. McElroy-Heltzel, Don E. Davis, Kenneth G. Rice, Joshua N. Hook, Jamie D. Aten, Crystal L. Park, Laura Shannonhouse, Austin W. Lemke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations

Abstract

Objective: Religious/spiritual (R/S) growth is a core domain of posttraumatic growth (PTG). However, research on R/S growth following disasters has over-relied on retrospective self-reports of growth. We therefore examined longitudinal change in religiousness/spirituality following two disasters. Method: Religious survivors of Hurricanes Harvey (Study 1) and Irma (Study 2) completed measures of perceived R/S PTG, general religiousness/spirituality (“current standing”-R/S PTG), and subfacets of religiousness/spirituality (spiritual fortitude, religious motivations, and benevolent theodicies). In Study 1, 451 participants responded at 1-month and 2-month postdisaster. In Study 2, participants responded within 5-days predisaster and at 1-month (N = 1,144) and 6-months postdisaster (N = 684). Results: In both studies, perceived R/S PTG was weakly related to longitudinal increases in general religiousness/spirituality and in most of its subfacets, but reliable growth in any R/S outcome was rare. Additionally, Study 2 revealed evidence that actual change in psychological well-being is associated with actual (but not perceived) R/S PTG, but disaster survivors tend to exhibit declines in their religiousness/spirituality, spiritual fortitude, and religious motivations. Conclusions: Results suggest disaster survivors are only modestly accurate in perceiving how much positive R/S change they experience following a disaster. We discuss implications for clinical practice, scientific research, and empirical and conceptual work on PTG more broadly.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)68-83
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Personality
Volume89
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2021
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • disasters
  • longitudinal
  • posttraumatic growth
  • religion
  • spirituality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology

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