Moral elevation and compassionate goals predict posttraumatic growth in the context of a college shooting


After a mass shooting, community members may experience not only distress, but also feeling uplifted or morally elevated by others’ prosocial responses to the trauma. Those experiencing elevation may be more likely to strive to support others (compassionate goals) and to endorse posttraumatic growth (PTG). However, the role of elevation in PTG, and the relative contribution of compassionate goals (both from and toward others), remains unknown. Students, faculty, and staff (N = 385) completed measures four months after a campus shooting, and a subset repeated measures at eight months (n = 82). As expected, compassionate goals toward others incrementally predicted higher PTG beyond perceptions of compassionate goals from others. Also, elevation concurrently and prospectively predicted higher PTG. Lastly, elevation mediated effects of others’ compassionate goals on PTG, as hypothesized (95% CI = 2.59 to 5.43). These findings have implications for understanding the social and emotional processes that facilitate PTG.

The Journal of Positive Psychology
Adam P. McGuire
Adam P. McGuire
Assistant Professor of Psychology