Date of Award


Document Type

Doctoral Research Project

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)



First Advisor

Vida L. Tyc, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Heidi Hatfield Edwards, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Scott A. Gustafson, Ph.D., ABPP

Fourth Advisor

Robert A. Taylor


Disabilities acquired in adulthood are often unexpected and disruptive because a loss of functioning can affect one’s ability to maintain employment, pursue their interests, and participate in social activity without assistance or accommodation. This is especially true for those who experience a life-altering injury or develop a chronic health condition between the ages of 18 and 64, as they likely have not planned for the financial and social adjustments that life with a disability involves. However, factors such as post-traumatic growth can reveal the extent to which someone experiences personal growth and improvement in the wake of a traumatic and disruptive event, such as injury or illness. While much of the research examining post-traumatic growth has focused on cancer patients, this study examined post-traumatic growth in individuals with a disability acquired in adulthood and evaluated how factors such as resilience and functional outcomes affect levels of post-traumatic growth. Factors such as how the disability was acquired, how long the individual has been disabled, and quality of their interpersonal relationships and how they affect functional outcomes were also examined.

The study sample consisted of 86 individuals, 18-64 years of age, who acquired a disability in adulthood. Results from this study demonstrated that gender was a significant predictor of functional outcomes in that being female was associated with lower functional outcomes. The influence of resilience on post-traumatic growth was found to be dependent on the individual’s functional status. Participants with high resilience and high functional outcomes reported higher post-traumatic growth than those with high resilience and low functional outcomes. Participants with low resilience had similar post-traumatic growth regardless of functional outcomes. These findings suggest that greater resilience does not always contribute to higher post-traumatic growth. The proportion of participants with acquired disability in our sample who reported little to no growth was higher than the proportion of cancer survivors with similarly low growth, suggesting that there may be differences in adjustment to trauma between the two groups. Because this study addressed well-studied variables in a new population, this research provides a better understanding of the relationship between resilience and functional outcomes in post-traumatic growth for adults with acquired disability to inform treatment approaches in rehabilitative psychology. Allowing time and space for patients to process potentially traumatic aspects of illness, injury, and the experience of recovery may help improve engagement in rehabilitation and adjustment to the challenges that lie ahead.