Profiles in resilience : successful post-war adaptation in Nazi Holocaust survivors / Joyce Svarc-Hopkins.
The purpose of the current study was to examine a unique group of Holocaust survivors who successfully adapted to their post-war environments despite experiencing severe and prolonged trauma that included starvation, beatings, brutal living conditions, and the murder of close family members. Several years later, they endured another upheaval by immigrating to a foreign country with very limited financial means. The current study sought to dispel the prevalent notion that Holocaust survivors suffer from debilitating mental and physical distress by focusing on their adaptive capacities. There is a large body of empirical evidence about numerous factors that appear to influence the capacity to thrive following extremely aversive circumstances. These dimensions include hardiness, self-enhancement, repressive coping, positive emotions such as optimism and humor, intelligence, social and family support, and religious beliefs. Eleven female and male Holocaust survivors who had endured at least six months in Nazi death concentration camps volunteered to participate in the study. All subjects were physically and socially active, in good physical health, had close family ties, were in stable marriages or had been widowed, were financially prosperous, and all closely observed numerous Jewish traditions to some degree. The subjects completed a series of measures examining PTSD, coping strategies, hardiness, self-enhancement, repressive coping, personal adjustment, social support, religious beliefs, and the Matrix Reasoning subtest from the WAIS-III. They also participated in an extensive personal interview. The subjects were expected not to meet criteria for PTSD and were also predicted to achieve scores consistent with classic profiles of resilience reflective of their stable, active and prosperous lives. As a group, mean scores for PTSD did not reach the criterion for PTSD. However, almost half the individuals scored higher than the cutoff score for PTSD and all subjects demonstrated some symptomatology. Despite the symptoms of distress, the participants nevertheless exhibited patterns of resilience and adaptive coping, illustrating numerous pathways to resilience.
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