The current study aimed to investigate (a) "secondary" posttraumatic growth (PTG) in wives of former prisoners of war (ex-POWs) and its association to husbands' captivity, husbands' posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and husbands' PTSD trajectories; and (b) the bidirectional relationships over time between wives' posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) and PTG.
The study compared 116 wives of Israeli ex-POWs from the 1973 Yom Kippur War with 56 wives of a matched control group of non-POW combat veterans. Wives were divided into groups according to husbands' captivity status, husbands' PTSD status, and husbands' PTSD trajectories; and ANOVAs and MANOVAs were conducted to assess group differences in PTSS and PTG, both cross-sectionally and longitudinally. Autoregressive cross-lag modeling was also used to assess bidirectional relationships between wives' PTSS and PTG over time.
Wives of ex-POWs with PTSD reported significantly higher PTG compared with wives of ex-POWs without PTSD and wives of controls. While PTG and PTSS remained stable over time, importantly, the Time 1 (T1) level of PTG predicted avoidance symptoms at Time 2 (T2); the higher the wives' PTG at T1, the higher their avoidance symptoms at T2, but not vice versa.
These findings support the notion that "secondary PTG" exists. They also strengthen the theory that growth and distress can co-occur. Finally, the finding that PTG predicted subsequent avoidance symptoms suggests that PTG does not prevent the future development of distress.
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