Perceived posttraumatic growth after spinal cord injury: actual or illusory?

  • S. Kunz
  • S. Joseph
  • S. Geyh
  • C. Peter


Background: The objective of the current study is to examine whether retrospective reports of posttraumatic growth (PTG) of individuals with spinal cord injury (SCI) represent “actual” or “illusory” changes. To do so, we investigate whether 1) PTG (increased sense of personal strength, greater appreciation of life) coincides with longitudinally measured changes in the related domains self-efficacy (SE) and purpose in life (PIL) and 2) whether PTG and the changes in SE and PIL are differently associated with psychological adjustment (symptoms of depression, anxiety, life satisfaction). Methods: We use data collected within the ongoing Swiss Spinal Cord Injury Cohort Study (SwiSCI). So far, 318 newly-injured patients of the 4 Swiss SCI rehabilitation centres participated. SE and PIL are assessed 1 month after injury diagnosis and at rehabilitation discharge. Structural equation modelling is used to calculate latent change scores for SE and PIL. These scores are then correlated with PTG and the adjustment indicators, each measured at rehabilitation discharge. Expected results: We hypothesize that PTG shows a weak positive correlation with changes in SE and PIL. We expect PTG to be weakly and positively related to psychological adjustment, but anticipate stronger associations between increases in SE and PIL and better psychological adjustment. Current work stage: Data analysis on-going. Discussion: The results of the current study will contribute to the clinical understanding of PTG. Identifying whether PTG represents “actual” (i.e. longitudinally measured) changes and how it is associated with adjustment can inform health practitioners about its relevance as a potential intervention target.
Poster presentations