Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Posttraumatic growth, attachment, coping, social support, emerging adults

Major Advisor

Thomas Blank, Ph.D.

Associate Advisor

Keith Bellizzi, Ph.D., MPH

Associate Advisor

Crystal Park, Ph.D.

Field of Study

Human Development and Family Studies


Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


Research on posttraumatic growth (PTG) has mostly been conducted with individuals who experienced traumatic events during adulthood, and relatively little research has been conducted with survivors of traumatic events experienced during adolescence. In addition to the paucity of research with younger samples, growth – as conceptualized in the theoretical framework on PTG – can also arise from non-traumatic events such as normative life transitions (e.g., entering college); however, the differentiating characteristics of growth that develop from these two paths has not been empirically investigated. The current study explores these different pathways to growth by analyzing data from a group of emerging adults (ages 18-25) who reported experiencing a traumatic event during adolescence (n = 359) and a group of emerging adults recruited from the same sample frame who reported never experiencing a traumatic event (n = 187). This cross-sectional, multigroup study examined a model of PTG which included the independent variables of attachment style, coping strategies, and perceived support. Additionally, this study looked at the relationship between PTG and present-day life satisfaction across groups. Results revealed that the control group scored significantly higher on overall PTG, and this difference was most significant in the domain of new possibilities. However, the trauma group did report higher levels of growth in the domain of appreciation for life. Structural equation modeling revealed little difference in the factor structure of the domains of growth or the pathways to growth between groups. However, significant differences were found in the levels of growth in various PTG domains and coping strategies reported across groups, but no such differences were found with attachment or perceived support. Pathways to growth appear to be consistent across both traumatic and non-traumatic events, with coping playing a critical role; however, the nature of the event being reported on and the developmental stage of the survivor at the time of exposure appear to moderate the type of coping strategies used and thus the levels of PTG. Despite these findings, there was no difference in reported present-day life satisfaction between the groups.