Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Elsie Dotson, Dorsey Grice, David Shiek

Degree Program

Department of Psychology

Degree Type

Master of Arts


There is a developing trend in psychology to study the healthy personality. Investigations have been conducted which attempt to identify and study meaningful experiences as they occur in a person's life. These studies have focused on both the negative and positive experiences and the consequences of these experiences in the life and personality of persons. One of the researchers in this area, Norman Finkel (1974; 1975), investigated the incidence and pattern of three types of experiences in the lives of college students. The three types of experiences which he investigated were traumas (T), strengthening experiences (S), and traumas that were reconstrued as strengthening experiences )T-S). His results suggested a change in the occurrence of these experiences over the life span. The 103 participants, 28 males and 75 females, used in this study were drawn from: adult Sunday -school classes, graduate extension classes, a regional pastoral association, and a group of vocational counselors. The mean age of the sample was 36.5, with an age range of from 22 to 65 years of age. Data were collected through the use of a questionnaire which instructed the participant to recall traumatic and strengthening experiences. A chi square analysis was used to determine the level of significance among the frequencies of the types of experiences and the differences of the frequency of the age at which the different types of experiences occurred. The patterns of the experiences over the life spans were analyzed through graphic representation. The data indicated that there were no significant differences in the number or types of experiences recalled by males versus females or by persons of different ages. However, when the types of experiences were analyzed separately for each sex, females recalled a significantly greater number of T's than S's or T-S's. Significant interactions were found between types of experiences recalled and the age occurrence. Traumatic experiences were recalled as occurring during the earlier part of life, strengthening experiences as occurring during adolescence, and T-S experiences as occurring later in life. The most frequent consequence of the S experience was to change self perceptions. The T experience appeared to have a greater tendency to effect the perception of and the interpersonal relations with others. The majority of the T-S experiences resulted in a greater awareness, empathy, or appreciation, or in reconstruing the environment or one's behavior more realistically.


Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences

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