Perceived modifiability of self-blame attributions for negative life events : implications for well-being /
Correy, Brenda L.
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Research suggests that self-blame attributions are important in the process of adjustment to negative life events. Much of the research originates from JanofTBulman's (1979) theory regarding behavioural and characterological self-blame. She argued that attributing negative events to one's behaviour is adaptive because behavioural self-blame involves attributions to a modifiable source, which implies that a similar event can be avoided in the future. In contrast, attributing negative events to one's character is believed to be maladaptive because character is seen as relatively stable and unmodifiable. Unfortunately, the empirical literature does not show consistent relations between these two types of self-blame attributions and well-being as predicted by Janoff-Bulman. For this thesis, I proposed that one reason for this inconsistency is that Janoff-Bulman's assumption about the perceived modifiability of behavioural versus characterological causes is incorrect — people often dlo perceive character (as well as behaviour) to be modifiable. Sixty-two participants completed a questionnaire regarding a recent negative life event and its impact on their well-being. Consistent with my argument, I found that both behavioural and characterological self-blame attributions following a negative life event were seen as modifiable. As hypothesized, perceived modifiability of causes v^as related to well-being. For example, overall modifiability was related to greater coping efficacy, less social dysfunction, less severe depression, and greater positive affect; however. contrary to predictions, the relation between perceived modifiability of causes and wellbeing was not mediated by the perception that similar events could be avoided in the future. Individual differences in attributional style were also assessed in this study. An attributional style that tended to be more internal, stable, and specific was related to wellbeing as expected; however, neither the perceived modifiability of blame attributions nor the perceived avoidability of similar future events mediated this relation. Implications for professionals dealing with trauma victims and potential directions for future research are discussed.