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Papers of the Week

Papers: 30 Mar 2024 - 5 April 2024


Eur J Psychotraumatol




Turning pain into strength: prosocial behaviours in coping with trauma.


Xu D, Li Y, Ye Y


Various coping strategies have been shown to alleviate the negative effects of trauma, yet the significance of prosocial behaviour in this realm has been notably underexplored. The present study explored the hypothesis that engaging in prosocial behaviour mitigates the impacts of trauma by promoting a sense of competence and relatedness, post-traumatic growth (PTG), and reconstruction of meaning. Three consecutive studies were conducted with college students to compare differences in consequence of prosocial behaviours between a trauma group and a control group. Study 1 (= 96) used self-reported experiences of traumatic vs non-traumatic events; Study 2 (= 43) used exposure vs. no exposure to video of an earthquake; Study 3 (= 20) used a randomized controlled trial (RCT) of a prosocial-themed intervention vs. no intervention. Outcomes in all studies were assessed by self-report questionnaires. Trauma damaged participants’ sense of competence and meaningfulness. Prosocial behaviour relieved the impact of trauma on meaning, specifically manifested in the individuals’ sense of meaningfulness and their search for meaning. Group interventions with a prosocial theme (based on effect size results) reduced post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and enhanced PTG in victims. The promoting effect on PTG persisted a month later, and its enhancing effect on meaning manifested with a delay. Prosocial behaviour can potentially serve as a beneficial strategy for individuals coping with trauma because it helps enhance meaning and promotes PTG in victims. This conclusion is supported by laboratory experiments and a tentative small-scale intervention study, which provide an innovative perspective for future trauma interventions.