Stress -related *growth among college students after the World Trade Center attacks

Lois Schatz, Pace University


This study examined how self-reports of individuals' exposure (physical and emotional) to the World Trade Center Disaster and the personality variable of Dispositional Optimism (DO) were related to their perceptions of growth as a result of the event. In addition, the study also addressed adaptive coping strategies as mediating variables between optimism, exposure and growth. Data collection began five months after September 11, 2001. Information was collected from an online survey that included a Demographic Survey, an Exposure Questionnaire (EQ), the NEO Five Factor Inventory (NEO-I), the Stress-Related Growth Scale (SRGS-R), the Life Orientation Tests-Revised (LOT-R), and the Cope Questionnaire (COPE). The sample consisted of 274 undergraduate students from New York City and Pleasantville campuses of Pace University. Multiple regression analyses were used to examine the relationships among degree of exposure, DO, adaptive coping strategies and self-reported growth. Results indicated that DO and adaptive coping strategies significantly predicted self-reported growth in the positive direction and that physical exposure also predicted specific areas of self-reported growth, but in the negative direction. Emotional exposure did not predict growth. Some evidence was found for the mediating role of coping in the optimism-growth and exposure-growth relationships. An important implication of this study is that those individuals who tend to see negative events in a positive light and who use adaptive coping strategies report more growth from a negative life event compared to those who were not optimistic and did not use such coping strategies. Therefore in developing therapeutic interventions, it may be important to consider ways to help individuals view a negative life event from a more optimistic viewpoint and implement adaptive coping strategies. Interventions could focus on the issue of religion and spirituality, increasing the repertoire of problem solving and support seeking skills and the cognitive reinterpretation of negative life experiences in positive ways, in an effort to facilitate perceived growth. Enhancing these coping strategies might facilitate successful integration of the negative experience, thereby allowing the individual to move on with their life and prevent the development of pathological responses to trauma.

Subject Area

Psychotherapy|Educational psychology

Recommended Citation

Schatz, Lois, "Stress -related *growth among college students after the World Trade Center attacks" (2004). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI3114305.



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