Previous literature on growth after major life events has primarily focused on negative experiences and operationalized growth with measures which rely on the post-hoc self-perception of change. Since this method is prone to many biases, two questions have become increasingly controversial: Is there genuine growth after major life events and does growth require suffering? The present meta-analysis is the first synthesis of longitudinal research on the effects of life events on at least one subdomain of psychological well-being, posttraumatic, or postecstatic growth. With 364 effect sizes from 154 independent samples (total N = 98,436) in 122 longitudinal studies, it was the largest and most comprehensive study on personal growth since the beginning of research in this field.
A positive trend has been found for self-esteem, positive relationships, and mastery in prospective studies after both positive and negative events. We found no general evidence for the widespread conviction that bad is stronger than good and that negative life events have a stronger effect than positive ones. No genuine growth was found for meaning and spirituality. Overall, the meta-analysis provides a systematic overview of the state of life event research and delineates important guidelines for future research on genuine growth.