Predictors of posttraumatic growth

  • Amanda Gleeson

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This research portfolio, submitted in part fulfillment for the Doctorate in Clinical Psychology, contains a systematic literature review, and a large-scale research project. Both papers were prepared for submission to peer-reviewed journals. The individual paper abstracts are detailed below.

(i) Abstract of Systematic Review: 
Posttraumatic growth refers to positive psychological changes occurring following exposure to traumatising life events. Attachment styles have been demonstrated to predict post-trauma outcomes. The present review explored the relationship between attachment styles and posttraumatic growth via meta-analytic review of 16 studies, examining the relationship between posttraumatic growth and secure, dismissive, preoccupied, and fearful attachment styles. Four correlational meta-analyses revealed a significant small positive relationship between secure attachment and posttraumatic growth (r= .22, p<.001); a significant small negative relationship between dismissive attachment and posttraumatic growth (r=-.12, p<.001), an extremely weak relationship between preoccupied attachment and posttraumatic growth (r=.01, p=.85), and a significant small positive relationship between fearful attachment and posttraumatic growth (r=.11, p<.05). Findings provide useful information for clinicians regarding the potential impact of attachment style following traumatising exposure, and have implications for psychological assessment, formulation, and intervention goal-setting. 

(ii) Abstract of large-scale research project: 
This study examined a model of predictors of posttraumatic growth in a sample of 85 trauma-exposed adults. It sought to establish the predictive relationship between posttraumatic stress and growth, and whether this was impacted by trauma-related factors (trauma typology, time since most distressing trauma), demographic characteristics (age, gender and number of psychological therapy sessions) and trauma appraisals (betrayal, self-blame, fear, alienation, anger and shame). 
Method: A quantitative survey methodology was employed in this cross-sectional study. Participants were 56 males and 28 females, with a mean age of 48.26 years, recruited from psychological support services in Northern Ireland. Participants had experienced an average of 4.11 traumatising events. 

Hierarchical multiple regression modelling was used to analyse predictors. This demonstrated that the number of psychological therapy sessions participants had attended ( = .33, p = .009) and betrayal-based trauma appraisals ( = .47, p = .001) were positive predictors of posttraumatic growth. Shame-based appraisals negatively predicted posttraumatic growth ( = -.42, p = .020). In the final model, posttraumatic stress, trauma-related factors, age, gender, and four of the six trauma appraisals were non-significant predictors. 

The predictive relationship between posttraumatic stress and growth may be better explained by the number of psychological therapy sessions the participant has had, and appraisals of betrayal and shame.
Date of AwardDec 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SupervisorDonncha Hanna (Supervisor) & David Curran (Supervisor)


  • Posttraumatic Growth
  • Trauma
  • Attachment
  • Adults

Cite this