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Blame, depression and coping in battered women Porter, Carol Anne


The focus of this study was the interrelation among the causal attributions, affective reactions, and coping effectiveness of battered women. Fifty female residents of a shelter for battered women were interviewed in depth, and shelter counselors rated each woman on a measure of coping effectiveness. Consistent with predictions, both attributions and emotional state were related to coping. The major deviation from the hypothesized relationship, however, was the finding that self-blame attributions were not related to effective coping while another measure, women's perceptions of the degree of contingency between aspects of themselves and their partners' abusive behavior, was highly related to successful adjustment. As predicted, positive emotional state correlated with effective coping. The hypothesized relation between attributions of blame and affective state was not supported. While subjects' perceptions of avoidability were not related to coping as predicted, it was found that both perceived contingency and a decision not to return to the abusive situation were positively correlated with perceptions of the abuse as unavoidable. Finally, several variables distinguished the group of women who returned from those who did not. Those who returned were characterized by negative affect, a tendency to blame their partners, previous departures from the abusive situation, shorter durations of violence than those who did not return, and were more likely to perceive the abuse as avoidable. The concept of perceived contingency and in particular the difference between this measure and self-blame, is discussed at length because it has implications for both theoretical and applied concerns. The absence of a relation between attributions and affect is also discussed in some detail since an attribution-affect link has received strong support in other psychological research. Problems associated with the definition and measurement of coping are discussed, and finally, the implications of the findings for both attribution theory and research and practice in the area of domestic violence are presented.

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