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Trauma Appraisals and Posttraumatic Growth Among Survivors of Sexual Assault

NCJ Number
Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy Volume: Online Dated: 2023
Date Published

This article reports on the methodology and outcomes of a study examining whether appraisals directed toward the self, toward the world, or toward relationships are most conducive to growth for victims of interpersonal violence.


Trauma survivors often endorse some level of post-traumatic growth (PTG), referring to positive outcomes after trauma related to meaning-making and strengthened perceptions of the self. While extant research points to cognitive processes at the root of PTG, post-trauma cognitions such as shame, fear, and self-blame have thus far only been linked to negative outcomes of trauma exposure. The current study examines the association between post-trauma appraisals and PTG among victims of interpersonal violence. Findings will reveal whether appraisals directed toward the self (shame and self-blame), toward the world (anger and fear), or those directed toward relationships (betrayal and alienation) are most conducive to growth. A sample of 216 adult women, ages 18 to 64 years, were interviewed at baseline and three, six, and nine months later as part of a larger study on social reactions received when disclosing sexual assault. As part of the interview battery, they were administered the Post-traumatic Growth Inventory (PTGI) and Trauma Appraisal Questionnaire. Post-trauma appraisals were used as time-invariant predictors of PTG (PTGI score) at each of the four time points. Post-trauma appraisals of betrayal were associated with initial PTG and alienation appraisals predicted increases in PTG over time. However, self-blame and shame did not predict PTG. Results suggested that a violation to one's views of interpersonal relationships, reflected in experiences of alienation and betrayal post-trauma, may be especially relevant for growth. As PTG reduces distress among trauma victims, this finding suggests targeting maladaptive interpersonal appraisals is an important intervention target. Publisher Abstract Provided

Date Published: January 1, 2023