College student growth after a stressful period : the effects of demographics and experiencing distress and suicidality on self-reported domains of growth
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Stakeholders in college student mental health have called for a shift in focus from disease to wellness. In response, researchers have exerted increasing effort exploring factors that foster and maintain mental health among this population. One such germane factor is posttraumatic growth (PTG). Researchers knowledgeable about this phenomenon posit that individuals can endure a subjectively traumatic experience, cope successfully with the effects of that trauma, and thereby function better than before the trauma. Although researchers have identified various dimensions of growth, they have acknowledged the sociocultural relativism of existing measures, suggesting the possibility of differential growth potential among diverse populations, as well as the possible existence of unidentified domains. In addition, according to the model most widely used to describe the PTG phenomenon, growth necessitates some level of distress. Distress and suicidality remain common experiences among college students, yet the effects of these, particularly suicidality, on growth potential remain unclear. While a burgeoning area of research, existing knowledge of PTG indicates that college life may be characterized by maximized potential for personal growth. Moreover, researchers have suggested PTG may relate positively to outcomes including perceived comprehensibility, manageability, and meaningfulness of life; resourcing of social support and helpers; and appreciation for life. Researchers have called for exploratory analyses of PTG. The current study aimed to address persistent gaps in the literature through the analysis of data gathered from a national, multisite sample of diverse higher education students. The current study employed both qualitative and quantitative methodologies, including content analysis and binary logistic regression analyses. Seventeen domains of growth were identified, and the relationship among demographic variables, distress and suicidality, and growth were tested to ascertain each independent variable’s effect on the likelihood of endorsing growth in each domain. Findings from this study illuminate the current understanding of growth among college students and have implications for prevention and outreach efforts promoting well-being among this population.