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The specificity of children's attributional style

Heil, Jane Elizabeth; (1997) The specificity of children's attributional style. Doctoral thesis (D.Clin.Psy.), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

As the extensive overlap between childhood anxiety and depression has become increasingly apparent, so researchers have begun to question whether those features of cognition previously considered specific to depression, might also be associated with the experience of anxiety. The present study sought to examine whether a relatively pessimistic attributional style is uniquely associated with children's depressive symptomatology, or also demonstrated with other closely related forms of distress. 129 school children aged between eight and eleven years were asked to complete measures of depression, general and social anxiety, together with a questionnaire assessing their attributional style. As expected, self-reported depression was significantly correlated with pessimistic attributional style for both negative and positive events. However, in contrast to the predictions of the reformulated learned helplessness theory, children's symptoms of general and social anxiety were found to be significantly related to more pessimistic attributions for negative and positive events respectively, independent of their concurrent levels of depression. The implications of these findings for current attributional models of distress are explored, and a tentative explanation in terms of Clark and Watson's tripartite theory put forward. Although the primary focus of the present study was the hypothesised specificity of pessimistic attributional style, the relationships amongst children's symptoms were also examined within the context of Clark and Watson's (1991) tripartite theory of anxiety and depression. Although all three forms of distress were significantly intercorrelated, supporting the possibility of a single underlying construct; exploratory factor analysis suggested that such symptoms might best be conceptualised in terms of their relation to the dimensions of negative and positive affectivity.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: D.Clin.Psy.
Title: The specificity of children's attributional style
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
Keywords: Psychology; Attributional style; Children
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10098975
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