Finding Meaning in the Aftermath of Trauma: Resilience and Posttraumatic Growth in Female Survivors of Intimate Partner Violence
Despite recent interest in resiliency and growth in victims of trauma (Ryff, Singer, Love, & Essex, 1998; Tedeschi & Calhoun, 1996), very few studies exist that document resilient responses to intimate partner violence, and none exist that explore posttraumatic growth in the aftermath of violent relationships. The purpose of this study was to explore resiliency and growth factors in women who were interviewed for the Domestic Violence Project at The University of Montana, which comprises an archival dataset. Participants were 127 women who had been out of a violent relationship for a year or more. As interview questions did not specifically target growth or resilience, relevant resiliency and growth themes were sought using Strauss and Corbin's (1990) grounded theory of qualitative analysis.
Four categories of resilience and growth emerged: 1) resilience during the process of stay-leave decision-making, 2) resilience in the aftermath of a violent relationship,
3) growth that occurred during the process of stay-leave decision-making which may have served as the seeds of posttraumatic growth, and 4) posttraumatic growth. No single pattern emerged to explain women's experiences. Rather, participants reported several different pathways that led to varying degrees of resilience and growth.
Resilience during the process of stay-leave decision-making manifested as returns to baseline levels of confidence, renewed faith in personal strength, and/or motivation to renew "lost" aspects of one's identity. Other forms of growth that influenced stay-leave decision-making consisted of positive changes in relations to others, self-perception, cognitive appraisal of the violent relationship, coping, and intolerance to subsequent abusive behaviors. Participants reported that one or more of these resiliency or growth factors influenced their decisions to leave a violent partner. Resilience in the aftermath of a violent relationship consisted of renewed self-perceptions, return to baseline functioning in relationships, or renewed faith, spirituality, or religious beliefs. Posttraumatic growth occurred in the form of changes in relationships, self-perception, cognitive appraisal of the violent relationship, life goals, coping or behavior, or spiritual/religious beliefs. Findings were incorporated with existing research on resilience and posttraumatic growth and discussed in context of the study's limitations.
Advisor:Christine Fiore, Ph.D.
School:The University of Montana
School Location:USA - Montana
Source Type:Master's Thesis
Date of Publication:02/06/2008