Methods: Secondary data analyses were utilized in the current study, using data from a four-wave study that examined social reactions to sexual assault disclosure (2013-2016). Participants included 228 women who experienced sexual assault within the past year was analyzed in the study. Data cleaning and preparation took place in SPSS; descriptive statistics were conducted to examine PTG across the four time points. Growth Mixture Model (GMM) analyses were utilized to identify distinct PTG trajectories (across four time points spanning 12 months) among sexual assault survivors. An unconditional GMM of PTG was specified by comparing model fit statistics, comparing one to four class trajectories. GMM analyses were conducted in Mplus (version 8.1).
Results: Across the four time points, women experienced average levels of PTG with high variability (T1 Mean = 52.38, SD = 23.37; T4 Mean = 55.96, SD = 26.21). The GMM analyses included testing latent growth models and latent class analyses, both of which demonstrated the best model fit with linear trajectories and three classes. Thus, the three-class model for GMM was selected, with linear trajectories specified (BIC = 5656.75, Entropy = .70). These three classes included: 1) an average-to-high PTG group at baseline (Intercept = 69.36) with maintained PTG across the four time points (Slope = -0.61; n = 131, 61%), 2) a PTG group that showed low PTG at Time 1 (Intercept = 32.65) that increased across the four time points (Slope = 10.56; n = 15, 7%), and 3) a low PTG group (Intercept = 34.45) that stayed low over time (Slope = -2.72; n = 70, 32%).
Conclusions and Implications: This study was among the first to longitudinally examine trajectories of PTG among a sample of female SAS. Findings support the notion that sexual assault trauma may cause more detrimental effects for survivors to experience actual growths following the trauma. For example, although a large number of women reported average to high levels of PTG, they did not report significant growths or changes beyond their initial levels of PTG. Additionally, 1 in 3 women reported low levels of PTG and did not see significant growths over time. Additional resources and long-term supports for this population may be beneficial. Further research is needed to understand what predicts PTG in this population.