Construing Benefits from Adversity: Adaptotional Significance and Disposltional Underpinnings


  • Many of the published and unpublished findings reported in this article come from studies funded by National Institute of Arthritis, Musculoskeletal, and Skin Diseases Grant AR-20621 to the University of Connecticut Multipurpose Arthritis Center. We are grateful for the collaboration of Susan Urrows and Micha Abeles and for the assistance of Pamela Higgins and Debra Begin with data collection and management. We are also indebted to Jeff Siegel of National Technology Services for his help in programming the electronic diaries described in this article and to Saul Shiffman for his assistance with protocol development. Finally, we appreciate the assistance of Jerry Suls, Shelley Taylor, and James Coyne in revising an earlier version of the manuscript.

Address correspondence to Glenn Affleck, Department of Community Medicine MC-6205, University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington, CT 06030. E-mail:


ABSTRACT The discovery of benefits from living with adversity has been implicated in psychological well-being in numerous investigations, is pivotal to several prominent theories of cognitive adaptation to threat, and can be predicted by personality differences. This article summarizes the prevalence and adaptive significance of finding benefits from major medical problems, locates the place of benefit-finding in stress and coping theories, and examines how it may be shaped by specific psychological dispositions such as optimism and hope and by broader personality traits such as Extraversion and Openness to Experience. The distinction between beliefs about benefits from adversity (benefit-finding) and the use of such knowledge as a deliberate strategy of coping with the problem (benefit-reminding) is underscored and illustrated by daily process research on coping with chronic pain.