One of the myriad consequences of war is displacement and refugee-ism. People become refugees when they no longer feel safe in their country of origin. Before, during, and after the journey towards safety, refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) endure several challenging circumstances which stretch their normal abilities to cope. In their efforts to cope, these people report several mental health challenges like sleeplessness, hypervigilance, anxiety, and depression. The reported mental health challenges are normal in this population; however, when they persist, they result in posttraumatic stress disorder. Surprisingly, some also report obtaining psychological growth due to their challenging circumstances. To examine the interplay of posttraumatic stress disorder and psychological growth in this population, the study was grounded on the cognitive theory of trauma and the broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. Thus, the relationship among posttraumatic growth, religious commitment, and optimism within adult Liberian former refugees and IDPs traumatized by war-related events became the focus of the investigation. The grounding theories provided four hypotheses that explored the relationship among the constructs, as well as seven exploratory research questions that identified differences among participants. Through purposeful and snowball sampling methods, five hundred participants were selected as the sample; 444 returned the study package. Participants were adult Liberian former refugees and IDPs who could read and understand English at the 8th grade level, and who lived in Monrovia. Participants completed six instruments – the Posttraumatic Growth Inventory, the Religious Commitment Inventory, the Revised Life Orientation Test, the War Trauma Screening Index, the Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Checklist for DSM-5, and demographic questionnaire. Results of the study indicated that there was a statistically significant correlation between impact of war-related events and posttraumatic stress disorder, with alterations in arousal and reactivity obtaining the strongest correlation. However, the presence of posttraumatic stress disorder for the Liberian sample could be attributed to the recent reaction to the Ebola virus which re-traumatized adult Liberian former refugees and IDPs. Furthermore, there was a statistically significant relationship between all factors of posttraumatic stress disorder and all factors of posttraumatic growth. The relationship between factors of religious commitment and factors of posttraumatic stress disorder was statistically significant for some posttraumatic stress disorder factors and not significant for others. Similarly, relationship between optimism and posttraumatic stress disorder was statistically significant for some and not significant for others. Finally, a structural equation model was conducted to identify latent variables affecting the relationship. Results indicated, as per the hypothesized model, that war events predicted trauma, which in turn predicted posttraumatic growth. However, even though religiousness and optimism could each predict posttraumatic growth, optimism, more than religiousness provided errors that co-varied with errors of trauma, indicating that with the presence of optimism, a person could move from trauma towards growth. Review of related literature situated the current study in the mental health discourse, especially in providing a voice for mental health on the African continent. Detailed methodology was provided, as were results of findings. Finally, summary, conclusions, and recommendations were provided for both mental health workers, counselor educators, and researchers.


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Graduation Date





Jones, Dayle


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Education and Human Performance

Degree Program

Education; Counselor Education









Release Date

August 2016

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)