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Modeling the Post-9/11 Meaning-Laden Paradox: From Deep Connection and Deep Struggle to Posttraumatic Stress and Growth

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The prospective study follows college students after the 9/11 attacks. Based on evidence and trauma-related theories, and guided by reports on positive and negative reactions and meaning-related actions among Americans after 9/11, we explored the seemingly contradictory, yet meaning-related pathways to posttraumatic growth (PTG) and posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms (PTGD), indicating the sense of deep interconnectedness and deep conflict. The final model showed that 9/11 emotional turmoil triggered processes of assimilation, as indicated in pathways between prayer coping and perceived spiritual and social support, and of accommodation, as indicated in the pathway of spiritual struggle. Both pathways were directly associated with PTG in the follow-up. Perceived spiritual and social support contributed to lower levels of PTSD symptoms, whereas spiritual struggle had an opposite impact on symptoms; both effects were mediated through optimism but in opposite directions. The study suggests the interplay of complex crisis-related phenomena following meaning-laden collective trauma that presented existential challenges, involving coping, optimism, deep conflict, and deep interconnectedness.


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