Date of Graduation
College of Education and Human Services
Counseling, Rehabilitation Counseling & Counseling Psychology
Paul R Hernandez
This study explored a new application of Weiner's Attributional Model to suicide bereavement, and how friends and coworkers respond in their emotions and prosocial behavior. This is a comprehensive theoretical model addressing how people respond to negative events occurring in the lives of others. Its premise is the influence of attributions on the behavior, affect, and cognitive processes of the helper. The model's broad underpinnings are that attributions for challenging behavior can in turn produce a crucial effect on helping behavior. Previous qualitative research on suicide survivors has suggested that attitudes and beliefs towards suicide survivors by those in the griever's social network are indeed important (Begley & Quayle, 2007; Feigelman, Jordan, & Gorman, 2009; Norford, 2005; Saunders, 1981).;Using eight hypothetical scenarios in a three-factor between-subjects design, contextual factors describing a loss were manipulated. Three independent variables were manipulated in vignettes of this study including, stability status, controllable status, and relationship status. Each of the three independent variables assumed one of two values in the vignettes: the precipitant had either 'battled with cancer' or 'died by suicide' (uncontrollable versus controllable), the stability of the occurrence was either 'very unexpected' or 'battled for many years' (unstable versus stable), and the type of relationship was either a 'friend' or 'coworker'. The effects of controllability, stability, and type of relationship on the seven dependent measures (4 emotional responses, 1 optimism response, and 2 helping behavior responses) were examined.;Participants from urgent care and emergency room settings in a mid-Atlantic state were recruited by the use of trained student research assistants. Participants ranged in age from 18 to 67 (M = 39, SD = 18.01). Those who participated gave their consent to complete a survey that included a short vignette to read, and demographics and survey instruments measuring their emotion responses (Emotional Response Scale; Weiner, 1980), intent to help (Intent to Help Scale; Barton, 2001), level of optimism (Life Orientation Test-Revised; Scheier, Carver, & Bridges, 1994), and level of social desirability (Social Desirability Scale-17; Stober, 1999).;The results show an impact on the outcome variables of optimism, social intervention, problem intervention, pity, and sympathy. The strongest results occurred with the outcome variable of optimism, where a three-way interaction was found with a moderate effect size. In short, when the loss occurred by suicide, where depression had been battled for many years (and was, for the sake of the study, "expected"), friends generally had lower levels of optimism. When the loss occurred by cancer, "expectedness" had no effect on optimism. The dependent variables of social intervention and problem intervention also produced meaningful results. Applications to therapy interventions and suggestions for future research in the area are discussed.
Weir, Christine, "Perceptions of the Bereaved: Attributions, Emotions, and Prosocial Behavior" (2016). Graduate Theses, Dissertations, and Problem Reports. 6934.