Annals of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 39, Issue 1, pp 1-3

First online:

Introduction to Special Series: The Great Debate—Evaluating the Health Implications of Positive Psychology

  • Suzanne M. MillerAffiliated withDivision of Population Science, Psychosocial and Biobehavioral Program, Behavioral Research Core Facility, Behavioral Center of Excellence in Breast Cancer, Fox Chase Cancer Center
  • , Allen C. ShermanAffiliated withBehavioral Medicine, Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Email author 
  • , Alan J. ChristensenAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Iowa

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In recent years, investigators have focused increased attention on positive psychology constructs and their associations with health outcomes, such as morbidity, mortality, and adaptation to illness. The database regarding some of these concepts and models has grown appreciably, but work in this area has been subject to controversy.


This special series of papers offers contrasting perspectives regarding research on positive psychology and health. Both proponents and critics were invited to review recent developments concerning a number of positive constructs that have been evaluated in the oncology literature and in health research, more generally.


Papers are presented in the format of a debate. Significant advances are reviewed by one set of investigators, Drs, Lisa G. Aspinwall and Richard G. Tedeschi, while shortcomings and concerns are highlighted by another set of investigators, Drs. James C. Coyne and Howard Tennen. Each of these review papers is followed by a rebuttal by the opposing side. A commentary on the exchange is provided by Dr. Sherri Sheinfeld Gorin.


These papers address a range of important considerations regarding conceptualization of constructs, methodological rigor, dissemination of findings, and implications for practice.


The critiques and recommendations offered in these papers may help inform future efforts in this area, as the field continues to evolve.


Positive psychology Health Cancer Posttraumatic growth Benefit-finding Optimism Sense of coherence