Growing from experience: an exploratory study of posttraumatic growth in adolescent refugees

Author(s): Marieke SLEIJPEN, Joris HAAGEN, Trudy MOOREN, and Rolf J. KLEBER




The aim of this study was to explore perceived posttraumatic growth (PTG) and its associations with potentially traumatic events (PTEs), dispositional optimism, perceived social support, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, and satisfaction with life (SWL) among adolescent refugees and asylum seekers.


A cross-sectional design was employed including 111 refugees, aged 12–17, that were recruited from asylum seeker centres throughout the Netherlands. Measurements included the revised Posttraumatic Growth Inventory for Children, Children’s Impact of Event Scale, Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support, The Life Orientation Test, and the Satisfaction with Life Scale.


Participants reported mean PTG scores (20.2) indicating an average response of some perceived change, while reporting high levels of PTSD symptoms (30.6). PTG and PTSD symptoms were not related with each other (r=0.07, p=0.50). PTG was positively associated with dispositional optimism (r=0.41, p<0.01) and social support (r=0.43, p<0.01). A hierarchical regression analysis demonstrated that dispositional optimism (β=0.33; p<0.05) and social support (β=0.27; p<0.05) positively predicted PTG, explaining 22% of the PTG variance above demographic variables and PTEs. PTG was also positively related with SWL (r=0.37, p<0.01).


Perceived PTG and PTSD symptoms appear to be independent constructs, which co-occur in adolescent refugees and asylum seekers. The relationship between PTG and mental health remains inconclusive; PTG was positively related to SWL and not associated with PTSD symptoms. Longitudinal research is required to determine causality between PTG and mental health in this refugee population confronted with many traumatic experiences and challenging migration tasks.

Keywords: asylum seekers, posttraumatic growth, posttraumatic stress, refugees, trauma, youth

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