chapter  5
28 Pages

The Role of Causal Attributions in the Prediction of Depression

Although the concept of explanatory or attributional style has been extended to a broad range of human behavior, as evidenced by this volume, its roots are in the reformulated learned helplessness theory of depression (Abramson, Seligman, & Teasdale, 1 978). The development of that theory is described in chapter l of this volume; it is important here only to note that there are several l inks in the chain of the theory, from uncontrollable or negative outcomes, to the types of casual explanations that a person makes for such outcomes, to expectations of future controllabil ity or lack of control over outcomes, to the symptoms of de­ pression. The theory also proposes that individuals differ systematically in their propensity to make internal, stable, and global causal attributions for negative outcomes, referred to as a pessimistic or depressogenic explanatory style. This theory has generated a vast body of research but, unfortunately , much of it has concerned simply whether there is a link between the types of attributions that an individual makes and their depressive symptoms. Research has often ignored the other variables in the model and, therefore, has not tested it adequately . Over the past decade, however, these studies have become increasingly sophisticated , generally moving from concurrent to prospective designs, and from examining only the bivariate relations between attributions and depression to more complex, diathesis-stress designs that also incorporate the occurrence of negative outcomes and their interaction with explanatory style.