Freie Universität Berlin
Does growth require suffering? Positive personality changes following major life events with high emotional valence.
Degree: PhD, FB Erziehungswissenschaft und Psychologie, 2017, Freie Universität Berlin
“What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” This famous notion of the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche emphasizes a deep conviction concerning the development of human nature (Joseph, 2011). It highlights the idea that our worst experiences in life might have a silver lining and - after the initial suffering they cause - result in long-term benefits.
The phenomenon, that potentially traumatic life events can result in personal growth, has gained broad scientific attention in the last few years. Tedeschi and Calhoun (2004) described the term posttraumatic growth as beneficial psychological changes that occur as a result of struggling with highly challenging life situations. Going further, the pioneering work of Roepke (2013) has suggested that not only our worst, but also our best experiences might result in personal growth. While posttraumatic growth has been extensively studied in previous research, growth after positive experiences has rarely ever been addressed in existing literature. Thus, one critical question has not been answered: Does growth require suffering?
In spite of the growing number of publications, a lot of previous research has suffered from severe methodological shortcomings. First, most studies focused exclusively on negative events as possible catalysts for growth and neglected the possibility of personality changes following positive experiences. Additionally, the question of specific mechanisms that lead to personal growth has rarely been addressed in previous publications (Park & Helgeson, 2006). Finally, most studies relied on the retrospective self-perception of change, instead of using external indicators or longitudinal data, as suggested by leading experts in the field (Jayawickreme & Blackie, 2016). This dissertation has aimed to address these shortcomings and contribute to the scientific body investigating growth following life’s best and worst experiences.
The goal of Study 1 was to estimate the impact of a broad array of life events in a cross-cultural design, in order to quantify the experience of major life events and to compare the influence of positive and negative experiences. Participants from the USA (n = 555) and India (n = 599) were provided with a revised version of the Social Readjustment Rating Scale (Holmes & Rahe, 1967). The results indicate that US American participants perceived negative events as more impactful, while Indian participants rated events with positive valence as more important. Study 1 showed that the negativity bias and the belief that negative events have a greater impact on our lives (Baumeister, Bratslavsky, Finkenauer, & Vohs; 2001) are not universal, but in part a cultural artifact.
Study 2 aimed to identify general key factors which promote posttraumatic and postecstatic growth. Based on previous research, I suggested a process model that includes three factors facilitating personal growth after positive and negative events, namely meaning-making, supportive relationships, and positive emotions. The results of US…
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APA (6th Edition):
Mangelsdorf, J. (2017). Does growth require suffering? Positive personality changes following major life events with high emotional valence. (Doctoral Dissertation). Freie Universität Berlin. Retrieved from http://edocs.fu-berlin.de/diss/receive/FUDISS_thesis_000000105976
Chicago Manual of Style (16th Edition):
Mangelsdorf, Judith. “Does growth require suffering? Positive personality changes following major life events with high emotional valence.” 2017. Doctoral Dissertation, Freie Universität Berlin. Accessed March 23, 2018.
MLA Handbook (7th Edition):
Mangelsdorf, Judith. “Does growth require suffering? Positive personality changes following major life events with high emotional valence.” 2017. Web. 23 Mar 2018.
Mangelsdorf J. Does growth require suffering? Positive personality changes following major life events with high emotional valence. [Internet] [Doctoral dissertation]. Freie Universität Berlin; 2017. [cited 2018 Mar 23].
Available from: http://edocs.fu-berlin.de/diss/receive/FUDISS_thesis_000000105976.
Council of Science Editors:
Mangelsdorf J. Does growth require suffering? Positive personality changes following major life events with high emotional valence. [Doctoral Dissertation]. Freie Universität Berlin; 2017. Available from: http://edocs.fu-berlin.de/diss/receive/FUDISS_thesis_000000105976