This research assesses whether personality traits are related to personal growth following a stressful event and whether personal growth predicts better quality of life. Virtually all information regarding personal growth comes from studies of people who have previously experienced a traumatic event, with retrospective reports of growth. This study is unique in examining the effects of personality on growth in an experimental situation that manipulates illness cognition. Participants were 220 undergraduates (mean age = 26.08), attending Kent State University at Trumbull. Participants completed a packet of questionnaires that assessed their personality traits and current standing on growth domains. Two weeks later, they returned to the lab and underwent a stressful event, whereby they completed a (fictitious) saliva test to decipher future potential pancreatic issues. Partial correlations indicated some personality traits relate to more personal growth for both men and women, including more openness, extraversion and agreeableness (r’s range from .31 to .71; all p’s < .05). Analyses also revealed that for men, more growth predicted better mental health and more positive affect; for women, more growth predicted better physical health, better mental health, and more positive affect (betas range from .32 to .67, all p’s < .01). The current findings suggest that personality traits likely contribute to growth, resulting in a positive impact on quality of life for both men and women. Overall, these findings add to the developing field of positive psychology where researchers strive to establish and clarify the antecedents and consequences of personal growth.
Dr. Patricia Tomich