Can Societies Experience Post-Traumatic Growth after a Terror Attack? The Influence of Terror Attacks on Political, Institutional, and Social Trust in European Countries

Bertjan Doosje, Jaap van der Veen, Loes Klaver

Abstract


Research shows that people are less likely to have mental health problems after a disaster, if they feel that they have learned from it and grown as a person. This phenomenon that a traumatic experience can have positive consequences is called “posttraumatic growth.” In the current study, we investigate whether inhabitants of countries can also experience post-traumatic growth after a large-scale traumatic experience, namely a terror attack. We examined data from the European Social Survey with 75,805 participants for thirteen European countries at one moment before a terror attack and two after it. If inhabitants of these countries experienced post-traumatic growth in terms of government, then we would expect their political and institutional trust to increase after a terror attack. In terms of post-traumatic growth of community, we expected social trust to increase. Our results suggest that, overall, post-traumatic growth does not occur. Specifically, political trust does not change significantly after a terror attack; institutional trust decreases directly after, only to increase again later. In terms of community, social trust remains largely unaffected after a terror attack. Interestingly, this overall pattern does not occur in all individual countries: in-depth analyses indicate a pattern in line with post-traumatic growth for specific countries. We discuss potential expla - nations.

Keywords


terrorism, post-traumatic growth, trust

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DOI: 10.4119/UNIBI/ijcv.645

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