Mother's attributions for the performance of children with disabilities
Cohen, Elliot Jonathan
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Weiner's (1979, 1990) attribution theory has been supported by research which indicates that the causal dimensions of locus and stability which underlie the attributions which people typically make following positive and negative events have implications for future achievement motivation as well as affective consequences. Theories suggest and research confirms that parents typically make favorably biased attributions for their child's behaviors. However, literature also suggests that children with developmental disabilities might be exceptions to this powerful perceptual tendency. Since children are likely to adopt parental attributions, these children may be at risk for suffering negative consequences. The purpose of this study was to assess and compare the attributions made by mothers of children who receive services at a developmental disability clinic (DD) of a major urban hospital (N = 60) with those of a normal control group (N = 60). Mothers participated in an interview in which they were asked to make attributions for real and hypothetical positive/successful and negative/failure performance and behavior of their child and to rate these according to the dimensions of locus and stability on the Causal Dimension Scale (Russell, 1982) and several other rating scale measures. The first hypothesis stated that the DD mothers would not make the favorable types of attributions for their child's actions. That is, positive behavior/performance was hypothesized to result in more external and unstable attributions, as opposed to negative events which would be perceived as more internal and stable. This, is as compared to the expectation of the reverse pattern for the Normal group. The second hypothesis stated that within the DD group, severity of disorder would be associated with greater magnitude of the unfavorable finding. The third hypothesis stated that the attributions made by biological mothers would be more favorable than the attributions of non-biological mothers. There was strong support for the first hypothesis and general support for the second hypothesis. The third hypothesis was not well supported, though this may be due to the small sample size when comparing the two groups. Demographic variables were also explored.