Does event centrality mediate the effect of peritraumatic reactions on post-traumatic growth in survivors of a terrorist attack?

European Journal of Psychotraumatology

Kristin Alve Glad, Nikolai Olavi Czajkowski , Grete Dyb & Gertrud S. Hafstad


Background: While self-reported post-traumatic growth (PTG) has been documented after a wide variety of potentially traumatic experiences, we need more knowledge on the mechanisms behind PTG to gain a better understanding of this phenomenon.

Objective: We aimed to investigate the hypothesized mechanism of perceived event centrality as a mediator on the pathway between peritraumatic reactions and later PTG.

Method: In total, 204 survivors of the 2011 massacre on Utoya island, participated 4-5 months (T1), 14-15 months (T2), and 30-32 months (T3) post-terror. We applied counterfactually based causal mediation analysis to explore the potential mediating role of survivors’ perceived centrality (T2) in linking their peritraumatic reactions (T1) and self-reported PTG (T3).

Results: The vast majority of the survivors reported experiencing some positive changes post-terror, and we found a positive, significant association between survivor’s peritraumatic reactions, perceived event centrality and self-reported growth. However, we did not find that centrality significantly mediated the longitudinal association between peritraumatic reactions and later PTG.

Conclusion: Reports of PTG are common post-terror, and peritraumatic reactions and perceptions of centrality may help explain individual differences in trauma survivors’ level of PTG. Perceived event centrality about one year post-trauma does not appear to explain the relationship between initial reactions to trauma and subsequent PTG.

Keywords: posttraumatic growth; peritraumatic reactions; event centrality; trauma survivors; terrorist attack

Received 24 Jan 2020, Accepted 30 Apr 2020, Published online: 20 Jul 2020

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