Development and validation of measures of self- and other-blaming personality tendencies
Mittelstaedt, Walter H.
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Conventional clinical wisdom maintains that people vary with respect to their tendencies to make self- and/or other-blame judgments in response to negative life events. The theories that have been developed to explain this variability, however, are currently limited by a number of theoretical and methodological difficulties. First, some inferential theories have minimized the influences of crosssituational consistencies in blaming judgments. Second, others have attended to this source of variability but have not developed adequate personality measures of blaming tendencies. Third, dynamic and interpersonal theories have implicitly assumed consistency of blame reactions but have not assessed these tendencies independent of other internally- or externally-directed hostile behaviour and affects. In this dissertation a sanctioning theory of blame (Wollert, Heinrich, Wood, and Werner, 1983) is discussed as an alternative to social inference and dynamic/interpersonal theories. A model of the operation of sanctions of self- and other-blame following negative events is introduced. It is then argued that before this model can adequately be tested, measures of blaming tendencies must be developed. Three studies are reported in which measures of blaming tendencies were developed and validated. In the first study, homogeneous scales of self- and other-blame were selected from pools of statements representing these domains. The items were included in the scales based on high correlation with their own domain and lack of correlation with other domains. In the second study, convergent and discriminant validity of the self- and other-blame scales were demonstrated by comparing the responses of a group of psychiatric patients to the ratings of their therapists. In the third study, applicants for admission to a professional school completed the blame scales, along with several other measures, prior to receiving notification of the outcome of their applications and immediately following this notification. Hypotheses were tested regarding the predictability of blame, causal attributions, hostility, and mood. Although some predictions of sanctioning theory regarding mood reactions were not met, further support for the validity of the self- and other-blame scales was obtained from this study. The results of the three studies are discussed in the light of sanctioning theory. It is argued that the development of these self- and other-blame scales using psychometric methods provides a sound basis for future tests of the theory.