Date of Award

2017

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Psychology

First Advisor

Dianne L. Chambless

Abstract

Perceived criticism from loved ones is a predictor of poor clinical outcomes for patients with a range of psychological disorders. Previous research indicates that attributions of criticism, the explanations individuals make about the intentions underlying relatives’ criticism, may play a role in the perception of criticism. The goal of the present research was to explore the relationship between attributions of criticism and perceived criticism in undergraduate, community, and clinical samples. In Chapter 1, we examined the longitudinal relationship between attributions and perceived constructive and destructive criticism in a sample of undergraduates. Results showed that positive attributions predicted increases in perceived constructive criticism, whereas negative attributions predicted increases in perceived destructive criticism over time. Conversely, destructive criticism predicted increases in negative attributions and decreases in positive attributions over time. In Chapter 2, we examined the relationships among attributions, perceived constructive and destructive criticism, upset due to criticism, and warmth in a sample of Black and White community participants and tested for differences across race. Results proved consistent across race: Positive attributions were associated with greater perceived constructive criticism and less upset, whereas negative attributions were associated with greater perceived destructive criticism and upset. Warmth was related to greater perceived constructive criticism, less destructive criticism, and less upset. Blacks were less upset by relatives’ criticism than Whites if they perceived their relative to be warm. In Chapter 3, we examined the relationships among attributions, perceived criticism, and upset due to criticism among individuals with anxiety disorders and those without psychopathology. Negative attributions were associated with greater global perceived criticism and upset due to criticism. Negative attributions also contributed to greater perceived criticism and upset over and above the effect of observer-rated criticism during a problem-solving interaction. Positive attributions were not significantly related to any perceived criticism or upset measure. These patterns were consistent across clinical and normal control groups. Taken together, results suggest that attributions of criticism play an important role in the perception of criticism and point to attributions as a potential target of interventions to reduce perceived criticism and upset and ultimately improve clinical outcomes for patients with psychological disorders.

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