Sarah Reiland

Date Approved


Degree Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department or School


Committee Member

Dean Lauterbach, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Ellen Koch, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Norman Gordon, Ph.D.


The learned helplessness model (Seligman, 1975) and its various revisions suggest that both dispositional attributional style and event-specific attributions may influence people’s responses to events. Attribution theory has been applied to the search for risk and resiliency factors in trauma survivors, but few studies have compared dispositional attributional style with traumaspecific attributions in relation to posttraumatic stress symptoms. In addition, studies of attributions and PTSD fail to take into account the importance to the individual of the events about which attributions are made. The importance of the situation is a key component of the hopelessness model. Attributions for causes of events that are highly important to the individual and whose outcomes are perceived to be highly negative are predicted to be more significant in influencing a person’s response than attributions for events that are considered to be less important and whose outcomes are perceived to be less negative (Abramson, Metalsky, & Alloy, 1989). This study compared dispositional attributional style for relatively commonplace events, attributional style for hypothetical traumatic events, and attributions for experienced traumatic events in order to determine the relationship between attributions and PTSD symptoms. Results indicated that attributions for experienced traumas were most predictive of PTSD symptoms, and the globality dimension of all attribution categories was consistently predictive of PTSD, even after controlling for depression. This study provides support for theory linking attributions with PTSD symptoms.

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