Graduation Year

2011

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Granting Department

Communication

Major Professor

Kenneth N. Cissna

Keywords

Coping, Emotional Support, Interpersonal Communication, Natural Disasters, Recovery

Abstract

This study employed a qualitative approach to explore the factors that contribute to positive change and growth following a natural disaster. The qualitative methodology included narrative interviews and family group interviews that were conducted with six families in Florida that had experienced two or three hurricanes within six weeks in 2004. Narrative analysis and thematic analysis were used to discover what factors contributed to participants experiencing positive growth.

Participants described the experience of surviving and coping with the hurricane. Participants reported that preparation before a hurricane was a three-part process that involved physical, mental, and emotional preparation. Four actions were referred to as helpful to stay positive during a hurricane: (a) drawing on family, friends, and neighbors for continual emotional support; (b) keeping occupied with a fun activity; (c) leaning on religious faith; (d) and listening to up-to-date information. Families described nine sources of support that enabled them to cope after the hurricane: (a) the government, (b) charitable organizations, (c) homeowner's insurance, (d) family, (e) friends, (f) religious faith, (g) stories, (h) life perspective, and (i) music.

Participants reported eight factors that encouraged adversarial growth. Communicating emotional support within relationships was the most commonly cited factor in recovery and growth after a hurricane, followed by worldview, appreciation, religious faith, patience, self-reliance, teamwork, and creativity.

A holistic approach to disaster planning that includes consideration of those elements that contribute to positive growth for the survivor is recommended. Further research is needed to understand how to facilitate adversarial growth among disaster survivors through emotional support and interpersonal networks.

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