Title of Abstract

Post-traumatic Growth Predicts Defensive Responses to Reminders of Death

Submitting Student(s)

Sophie Pringle

Session Title

Additional Projects

Faculty Sponsor (for work done with a non-Winthrop mentor)

Donna Nelson, Ph.D. & Merry Sleigh, Ph.D.

College

College of Arts and Sciences

Department

Psychology

Abstract

We conducted an experiment to test whether differences in post-traumatic growth predicts use of defensive strategies in response to reminders of death. We hypothesized that when reminded of death, those with low (versus high) post-traumatic growth would be more defensively reactive and more likely to report inflated self-esteem and reduced thoughts about mortality. Participants were 22 men and 58 women (45 % White; 37 % Black) who responded to the Post-Traumatic Growth Inventory. Afterward, they were randomly assigned to write about what would happen to them if they died (mortality salience condition) or experienced pain (control condition). They then responded to items assessing self-esteem and death anxiety. A 2 X 2 (post-traumatic growth level X experimental condition) MANOVA with LSD post-hoc tests revealed that participants with low post-traumatic growth in the mortality salience condition reported the fewest number of death thoughts [F(3, 79) = 6.7, p = .01]. Furthermore, in the mortality salience condition, those with low post-traumatic growth reported higher self-esteem than those with high post-traumatic growth. However, in the control condition, those with high post-traumatic growth reported higher self-esteem compared to those with low post-traumatic growth. [F (3, 79) = 3.88, p = .05]. In sum, we found that adults who experienced low (versus high) levels of growth in response to trauma engaged in defensive strategies when reminded of death. Specifically, they denied having thoughts about death and reported inflated self-esteem. Our findings advance our understanding of how mortality salience impacts individuals with differing levels of growth following trauma.

Start Date

15-4-2022 12:00 PM

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Apr 15th, 12:00 PM

Post-traumatic Growth Predicts Defensive Responses to Reminders of Death

We conducted an experiment to test whether differences in post-traumatic growth predicts use of defensive strategies in response to reminders of death. We hypothesized that when reminded of death, those with low (versus high) post-traumatic growth would be more defensively reactive and more likely to report inflated self-esteem and reduced thoughts about mortality. Participants were 22 men and 58 women (45 % White; 37 % Black) who responded to the Post-Traumatic Growth Inventory. Afterward, they were randomly assigned to write about what would happen to them if they died (mortality salience condition) or experienced pain (control condition). They then responded to items assessing self-esteem and death anxiety. A 2 X 2 (post-traumatic growth level X experimental condition) MANOVA with LSD post-hoc tests revealed that participants with low post-traumatic growth in the mortality salience condition reported the fewest number of death thoughts [F(3, 79) = 6.7, p = .01]. Furthermore, in the mortality salience condition, those with low post-traumatic growth reported higher self-esteem than those with high post-traumatic growth. However, in the control condition, those with high post-traumatic growth reported higher self-esteem compared to those with low post-traumatic growth. [F (3, 79) = 3.88, p = .05]. In sum, we found that adults who experienced low (versus high) levels of growth in response to trauma engaged in defensive strategies when reminded of death. Specifically, they denied having thoughts about death and reported inflated self-esteem. Our findings advance our understanding of how mortality salience impacts individuals with differing levels of growth following trauma.