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Trauma exposure and short-term volitional personality trait change

Blackie, Laura E.R.; Hudson, Nathan W.

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Nathan W. Hudson


Objective: Research into post-traumatic growth (PTG) finds individuals report positive changes in their identity, relationships, and worldviews after trauma. In a pre-registered 16-week longitudinal study, we examined trait change after recent trauma exposure to test an operationalization of PTG as positive personality change. We examined the influence of intrapersonal and social factors including motivation to change traits, perceived social support, and event centrality. Method: Participants (n=1004) reported on trauma exposure in past 1-month, centrality of each traumatic event, and social support. Participants with trauma exposure (n=146) and a matched control group reported on their traits in 8 waves at 2-week intervals, and motivation to change traits in 3 waves. Results: Although some trait change was observed, it was not consistent with PTG. We found agreeableness declined in the trauma relative to the control group among participants who did not want to change in this trait. Conscientiousness declined for individuals with highly central traumas. Social support predicted increases in emotional stability, conscientiousness, and openness but only for individuals in the control group. Conclusions: We discuss the value of defining PTG as positive trait change and suggest future directions including assessment of facet-level changes and ideographic methods.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jul 22, 2022
Online Publication Date Jul 29, 2022
Publication Date 2023-06
Deposit Date Aug 4, 2022
Publicly Available Date Jul 30, 2024
Journal Journal of Personality
Print ISSN 0022-3506
Electronic ISSN 1467-6494
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 91
Issue 3
Pages 583-600
Keywords Social Psychology
Public URL
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