Background: Prior research has indicated that posttraumatic growth (PTG) often co-occurs with symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, it is yet unclear what longitudinal patterns of posttraumatic symptom levels may predict the development of PTG. Methods: World Trade Center (WTC) rescue and recovery workers (2038 police and 2103 non-traditional responders) were assessed an average of 3, 6, 8, and 12 years post-9/11/2001. Responders’ WTC-related PTSD symptoms were characterized by No/Low Symptom, Worsening/Subtly Worsening, Steeply Worsening (only for non-traditional responders), Improving, and Chronic trajectories. PTSD symptom trajectories were examined as predictors of PTG, which was assessed using total scores on the Posttraumatic Growth Inventory-Short Form. Results: Across both occupational groups, being female, older, Hispanic, and experiencing more post-9/11 traumatic events were independently associated with self-reported PTG. Among police responders, a greater number of WTC exposures and supportive family members while working at the WTC site were linked to higher PTG. Among non-traditional responders, Black race/ethnicity, less education, fewer pre-9/11 traumatic events, and the presence of support while working at the WTC site were additionally linked to higher PTG. Only the moderate PTSD symptom trajectories (ie, worsening and improving) for police responders and all symptomatic trajectories for non-traditional responders were associated with higher levels of PTG. Conclusions: Symptomatic 12-year trajectories of PTSD symptoms and certain sociodemographic characteristics, stressor exposures, and supportive resources were associated with PTG in traditional and non-traditional WTC responders. Results provide insight into subgroups of WTC responders who may benefit from PTG-promoting interventions, as well as potentially modifiable targets to help foster PTG in this population.
- World Trade Center
- posttraumatic growth
- posttraumatic stress disorder