Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Anne Wilson

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


Research clearly demonstrates how traumatic events can damage psychological and physical health (Janoff-Bulman, 1992). However, Tedeschi and Calhoun (2004) argue that posttraumatic growth can also occur following adversity. Although largely well-received, their theory and the posttraumatic growth inventory (PTGI) have been critiqued as well. For instance, Wortman (2004) argues that Tedeschi and Calhoun give insufficient consideration to the negative consequences of traumatic events. Concurring with Wortman, we contend that the PTGI, constructed to measure only growth, does not allow participants the opportunity to report decline in any domain. This scale design may artificially inflate the apparent occurrence of posttraumatic growth while neglecting the challenges that may co-occur. In the current research, we adapted the PTGI to more fully capture respondents' experiences of both growth and decline. In three studies, participants recalled a significant negative event and completed our adapted version of the PTGI (the posttraumatic growth and decline inventory or PTGDI). In Study 2, participants were randomly assigned to complete the original PTGI or our revised PTGDI. In all studies, participants reported experiencing both growth and decline. Furthermore, up to 16& of participants completing the PTGDI reported more decline than growth, whereas participants in the PTGI condition were unable to report any decline. Moreover, measuring both growth and decline allowed us to better predict a variety of well-being indicators than measuring growth alone. Additionally, in Study 3, participants were randomly assigned to describe an event that happened to the self or another. In general, similar patterns of the relation of growth and decline to well-being were found for the self condition. Results demonstrate the importance of investigating both positive and negative consequences of adverse life events to better understand current experience.

Convocation Year


Included in

Psychology Commons