Academic journal article Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy

Marital Attitude Survey: A Measure of Dysfunctional Attributions and Expectancies

Academic journal article Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy

Marital Attitude Survey: A Measure of Dysfunctional Attributions and Expectancies

Article excerpt

The Marital Attitude Survey (MAS) was designed to assess potentially dysfunctional attributions and expectancies regarding relationship problems. The eight MAS subscales measure attributions regarding one's partner's malicious intent and lack of love, attribution of causality to one's own behavior and personality, attribution of causality to the partner's behavior and personality, perceived ability of the couple to change, and expectancy of change in the relationship. All subscales except the subscale assessing attribution of causality to own behavior exhibited adequate internal consistency and showed evidence of construct validity in relation to measures of marital dysfunction. Multivariate analyses indicated that considering subscales in combination increases the measure's ability to discriminate between clinical and nonclinical samples. The results demonstrate the utility of the MAS as a measure of dysfunctional cognitions associated with marital distress.

The view that cognitions play an important role in the development and maintenance of marital distress (e.g., Berley & Jacobson, 1984; Doherty, 1981a,b; Epstein, 1982; O'Leary & Turkewitz, 1978) has received support from a growing body of empirical studies (see recent reviews by Baucom, 1987; Baucom & Epstein, 1990; Bradbury & Fincham, 1990). By far the majority of theoretical papers and empirical studies on the role of cognition in marital dysfunction have focused on attributions that spouses make about the causes of events occurring in their relationships (cf. Baucom & Epstein, 1990; Bradbury & Fincham, 1990; Thompson & Snyder, 1986). The only other type of cognition that has received notable theoretical and empirical attention in connection with marital distress has been unrealistic beliefs about relationships (Eidelson & Epstein, 1982).

Influenced by Abramson, Seligman, and Teasdale's (1978) reformulated learned helplessness theory of depression, marital researchers most often have investigated spouses' attributions regarding relationship events by asking them to rate the causes of those events in terms of the dimensions of global-specific, stable-unstable, and internal-external. It has been hypothesized that distressed spouses will be more likely than nondistressed spouses to attribute negative acts by their partners to global and stable causes, and to view the causes as residing within their partners (external to the self). Also, it has been hypothesized that distressed spouses will be less likely than nondistressed spouses to attribute positive partner behaviors to global and stable characteristics of the partner. Empirical findings across studies have indicated that distressed and nondistressed couples differ in the expected direction most consistently in their ratings of negative partner behaviors on the global-specific dimension (Baucom, 1987; Baucom & Epstein, 1990; Bradbury & Fincham, 1990).

The focus on attributional dimensions is a firmly established tradition and has produced valuable findings. However, some limitations to this approach have emerged. Theoreticians and researchers (cf. Bradbury & Fincham, 1990) have identified an increasing number of relevant attributional dimensions in addition to those emphasized by learned helplessness theory (e.g., voluntary-involuntary, positive versus negative intent, blameworthiness). As this has occurred, the original goal of developing a parsimonious dimensional scheme for classifying attributions has not been achieved.

Furthermore, it has been proposed that the focus on attributional dimensions rather than the content of attributions may obscure important information contained in individuals' attributions (Baucom, 1987; Baucom, Epstein, Sayers, & Sher, 1989). Attributions that would be classified similarly when viewed in terms of attributional dimensions may have very different effects on marital interaction. For example, the attributions "My wife criticized me because she is a crabby person," and "My wife criticized me because she doesn't love me," would both be classified as attributing causality to global, stable, internal characteristics of the partner, but the former would be likely to elicit anger, frustration, and/or resignation, whereas the latter might be more likely to elicit sadness or depression. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.