Symposium Summary 6th World Congress on Positive Psychology 2019

"Coping with my own way": Mediating roles of emotional expression and social support seeking in the associations between individual differences and posttraumatic growth (#176)

Jing JIA 1 , Nelson C. Y. YEUNG 1 2
  1. The Jockey Club School of Public Health and Primary Care, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China
  2. Department of Psychology, University of Houston, Houston, Texas, USA

People’s coping strategies towards traumatic events can be associated with their individual differences (e.g., personality, self-concepts). However, research on how individual differences may affect posttraumatic growth (PTG; positive changes after traumatic events) through coping strategies is limited. We examined if individual differences (optimism, relational-interdependent self-construal (RISC; the tendency a person considers significant others into self-concept)) were associated with PTG, and if those associations were mediated by coping strategies (emotional expression, social support seeking).

Trauma-exposed college students in the US (N=454) completed an online survey measuring their prior traumatic events, individual differences (optimism, RISC), coping strategies (emotional expression, social support seeking), and PTG.

Path analyses indicated that both social support seeking and emotional expression partially mediated between RISC and PTG, such that RISC was associated with higher PTG through increased social support seeking and emotional expression. However, the positive association between optimism and PTG was only partially mediated by increased emotional expression, but not social support seeking.

Our findings suggest that increasing optimism, emotional expression, and social support seeking could enhance PTG. Moreover, priming people’s RISC may increase their emotional expression and social support seeking, which may facilitate PTG. Practitioners should consider individual differences for maximizing intervention’s effectiveness in promoting PTG.