The sample consisted of 148 severely traumatized Norwegian youth (M age = 15, SD = 2.2, 79.1% girls) receiving treatment in child mental health clinics. The Clinician Administered PTSD Scale for Children (CAPS) was used to assess level of posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) pre- and post-treatment. One of the questions in CAPS: “How do you think (traumatic event) has affected your life?” formed the basis for our analysis of PTG. Words and phrases indicative of PTG were identified using the Consensual Qualitative Research method.
Pre-treatment, the prevalence rate of PTG was low compared to previous findings, and reports of PTG were not related to levels of PTSS. The main PTG themes identified were: personal growth, relational growth, and changed philosophy of life. A sub-theme of personal growth; greater maturity/wisdom, was the most salient theme identified both pre- and post-treatment. Age was significantly related to reports of PTG; older participants reported more growth. Reports of PTG increased significantly from pre- to post-treatment, but were not related to decrease in PTSS.
The findings suggest that PTG is not only possible for youth, but quite similar to that observed among adults. However, we need to carefully consider whether reports of self-perceived positive change among traumatized youth actually are indicative of growth, or simply indicative of increased vulnerability.