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Thirty-Third Annual Meeting of the Society for Research in Psychopathology

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166. The Role of Accommodative Processing in the Link Between Life Challenges and Authenticity

Evidence indicates that difficult life events can become central to one’s identity, negatively coloring one’s views of the world and oneself. Notably, centrality is considered to be a double-edged sword, as centrality is associated not only with psychopathology (e.g., posttraumatic stress disorder [PTSD]), but also with perceived personal growth. Further, research suggests that the impact of centrality on psychological functioning may depend on the way in which a traumatic event is incorporated into one’s identity. For example, incorporating beliefs from a difficult experience into a new worldview—termed “accommodative processing”—is associated with perceived resilience, and experiencing new meaning in life following a trauma is associated with decreased PTSD symptoms. The current lab-based study investigated whether and how centrality and accommodative processing relate to authenticity—a construct consistently associated with emotional well-being. Sixty-seven 18-to 25-year-old participants completed a verbal narrative of a personal life challenge and a battery of questionnaires assessing centrality and authenticity. Findings indicated that events considered central to one’s identity were more likely to be accommodatively processed. Furthermore, individuals who accommodatively processed their challenge reported higher levels of authenticity. This project lays the groundwork for research on the relationship between life challenges and authenticity in clinical populations.

Sienna Nielsen
Harvard University

Chelsea Boccagno
Harvard University

Jill Hooley
Harvard University

 


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