Traumatic events and meaning in life: exploring variations in three age cohorts
The purpose of this study is to examine the relationship between traumatic events that arise across the lifecourse and a sense of meaning in later life. In the process, three important issues are evaluated. First, analyses are performed to see if traumatic events at six different points in the lifecourse are associated with a sense of meaning in life. Second, an effort is made to see if current emotional support helps reduce the deleterious effects of trauma on meaning, and whether current levels of negative inter-personal contacts exacerbate the effects of trauma on meaning in life. Third, the relationship between trauma and meaning is assessed in three age cohorts: the young-old, the old-old and oldest-old. Findings from a nationwide United States survey reveal that trauma arising between the ages of 18 and 30 years is associated with a diminished sense of meaning in life, and that current emotional support reduces the effects of trauma on meaning, whereas negative inter-personal contacts tend to intensify the pernicious effects of trauma on meaning in life. Further analyses suggest that the relationships among trauma, emotional support, and negative inter-personal contacts emerge primarily in the oldest-old cohort.(Accepted March 17 2005)
Key Words: trauma; emotional support; negative inter-personal contacts; meaning in life.
c1 Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, School of Public Health, University of Michigan, 1420 Washington Heights, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2029, USA. e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org