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FYI. CfP: Rethinking resilience and post-traumatic growth. Special issue of American Psychologist

Call for papers: Rethinking resilience and posttraumatic growth: The promise of multidisciplinary perspectives in understanding adaptive responses to adversity

Submission deadlines

  • Letter of intent deadline: August 31, 2022
  • Full-length manuscript submission deadline: January 31, 2023

Guest editors

  • Frank J. Infurna, Arizona State University
  • Eranda Jayawickreme, Wake Forest University
  • Brianna Woods-Jaeger, Emory University
  • Alyson K. Zalta, University of California, Irvine

Advisory editor: Lillian Comas-Díaz, associate editor, American Psychologist

Background and rationale

The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the catastrophic consequences that the experience of adversity has on numerous outcomes across the lifespan from infancy to old age, including but not limited to health and well-being, social relationship functionality and quality, the home/work dynamic, and confronting social isolation from and bereavement of family and friends. This generational event has coincided with other seismic responses to adversity in society, such as the Black Lives Matter and #MeToo movements, as well as increased attention to natural disasters (e.g., climate change). Such adverse events have short- and long-term impacts, both good and bad.

The resilience (Infurna & Luthar, 2018; Luthar et al., 2000) and posttraumatic growth (PTG) (Jayawickreme & Blackie, 2014) literatures intersect in this regard, providing conceptual and methodological frameworks to study positive adaptation and risk and protective factors following adversity. However, these frameworks and literatures have also been critiqued on both methodological and theoretical grounds (e.g., Infurna & Jayawickreme, 2021; Jayawickreme, Infurna, et al., 2021; Tennen & Affleck, 2009).

Resilience and PTG research have been instrumental in documenting the human capacity to adapt to adversity. Given the appeal, various narratives have emerged with regard to how likely resilience and PTG are to occur. Research originating in developmental psychology has documented the ordinariness of resilience (Masten, 2001), which is analogous to longstanding research on PTG, which claims that perceptions of growth following adversity and trauma is widely reported (Tedeschi et al., 2018).

Conversely, recent research has highlighted conceptual and methodological limitations of this research (Infurna & Jayawickreme, 2019), which together highlight numerous unanswered questions regarding the nature of resilience and PTG. One theme that cuts across these narratives is that the degree to which resilience and PTG arise is dependent on whether individuals and communities have the psychological and social resources to rely upon that can lead to such a transformation (Hobfoll et al., 2015; Luthar et al., 2000).

The overarching objective of this special issue is to rethink our understanding of resilience and PTG by targeting five key areas that are underdeveloped and warrant further attention at the theoretical/conceptual and empirical level. The credibility of current resilience and PTG research acrossthe lifespan has been questioned on both theoretical and methodological grounds (e.g., the statistical assumptions influence the degree to which persons display resilience, and the drawbacks of using retrospective assessments of perceived growth; Infurna & Jayawickreme, 2019).

We therefore anticipate articles that critique current perspectives on resilience and PTG, provide novel theoretical and empirical insights, and highlight the possibilities and challenges of interventions with attention to when adversity transpires across the lifespan.

Research examining the relevance and importance of resilience and PTG in the context of marginalized communities has been severely lacking. Leading resilience frameworks that explore individual, contextual and cultural differences are not well-integrated with PTG theory and research. Therefore, an emphasis would be to examine the intersection of our current understanding of resilience/PTG and issues related to social injustices across race, ethnicity, gender, and other marginalized social identities.

Resilience and PTG in the context of broader societal challenges will emphasize articles that span key events, such as natural disasters, systemic racism, and military deployment. For many of these broader societal challenges, the resulting trauma and adversity is ongoing, but has yet to be included in much of the resilience and PTG literature. Thus, anticipated articles will cover how what constitutes resilience/PTG differs depending on the type of adversity, its impact on daily life, its time scale and chronicity, and the accessibility and availability of resources to promote positive outcomes.

Clarifying the ecological influences that impact resilience and PTG represents another important (and hitherto underexamined) question. For example, specific cultural narratives of resilience and PTG(e.g., redemption; McLean & Syed, 2015) highlight specific outcomes associated with being resilient and experiencing growth. However, such broad narratives may be experienced as oppressive or inconsistent with lived experience by different communities (BIPOC; people living with disabilities; specific religious communities). A more nuanced and inclusive comprehension of resilience and PTG therefore requires both an understanding of how master narratives can negatively impact different communities, as well as how those communities think about and value specific positive outcomes in response to adversity.

We also want to acknowledge and examine key pathways for enhancing resilience and PTG in response to adversity and trauma through intervention. The likelihood of resilience and PTG rests on the resources that individuals and communities have available to them, such as psychological and social (among others). In this regard, can empirical findings be harnessed to enhance resilience and PTG? If so, how specifically can empirical findings be translated to develop interventions, does this differ based on age in the lifespan, context, the type of adversity, and culture? Efforts to push people to grow after trauma may be controversial (Roepke et al., 2021), suggesting that attention needs to be placed on what are the benefits and drawbacks of such interventions? Additionally, interventions for resilience have been individually focused despite our knowledge that communal factors greatly impact the likelihood of resilience and PTG.
Special issue aims

This special issue of the American Psychologist aims to highlight theoretical and empirical advances toward resilience and posttraumatic growth (PTG) through a multidisciplinary lens.

The goals of this special issue are (a) to draw together research and theory from resilience and PTG to promote a deeper and more systematic understanding of the short- and long-term impacts of adversity, (b) to bring together a collection of articles from diverse disciplines of psychology, including but not limited to clinical, cultural, developmental, health, social/personality, and quantitative, as well as related interdisciplinary fields of social work and public health and (c) to promote a more rigorous approach in this research enterprise going forward.

We are interested in manuscripts that present new theoretical/conceptual frameworks or empirical papers that make significant contributions to theoretical/conceptual thinking for studying resilience and PTG, emphasize and explore the intersection of resilience/PTG across race, ethnicity, gender, nations, and other marginalized groups, and discuss innovative methodological and intervention advancements in the study of resilience and PTG.

The proposed special issue promises to showcase innovative conceptual/theoretical and empirical research across disciplines that answer key questions concerning resilience and PTG through the incorporation of multidisciplinary perspectives across psychology and related disciplines.
Submission details

Authors interested in contributing a manuscript for this special issue are asked to submit a letter of intent by August 31, 2022.

Letters of intent should include the following: (1) tentative title; (2) brief description of the proposed submission (500 words max) that also includes a justification of how it contributes to the aims of the special issue; and (3) author affiliations and contact information for the corresponding author. Letters should be emailed to one of the four coguest editors with subject line “AP Special Issue on Resilience and PTG”.

Decisions on proposals and invitations to submit full manuscripts will be emailed to potential contributors by September 15, 2022.

Full manuscripts should comply with American Psychologist’s submission guidelines (including manuscript length) which can be found on the American Psychologist home page.

Manuscripts should be submitted electronically via the journal’s manuscript submission portal by January 31, 2023.

This special issue of American Psychologist will bring together creative and rigorous theoretical/conceptual and empirical papers from multiple disciplines and methodologies to illustrate the opportunities and challenges of multi-disciplinary perspectives to studying resilience and PTG. We encourage submissions from early-career scholars and those from underrepresented groups.
Eranda Jayawickreme, Ph.D
Wake Forest University
PO Box 7778
Winston-Salem, NC 27109
336-758-6192 (phone)
717-341-9710 (cell)
336-758-4733 (fax)

Harold W. Tribble Professor of Psychology
Director, Growth Initiative Lab
Senior Research Fellow, Program for Leadership and Character
Associate Editor, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: PPID
Associate Editor, Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being

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