Distress-maintaining style of attribution refers to the tendency of unhappy couples to attribute their partner’s good acts to external factors and bad acts to internal factors.

In psychology, the distress-maintaining style of attribution refers to a pattern of thinking in which individuals attribute negative events or experiences to internal, stable, and global factors. This type of attribution can contribute to the maintenance of distress and negative emotions, as individuals may feel helpless or powerless to change the situation if they believe the cause of the problem is within themselves and unlikely to change.

Examples of distress-maintaining attributions include:

  1. A student who receives a low grade on an exam believing that they are not smart enough to do well in school.

  2. A person who is rejected after asking someone out on a date assuming that they are unattractive or unlikable.

  3. An employee who is passed over for a promotion concluding that they are not competent enough for the job.

  4. A person who experiences a breakup believing that they are unlovable and destined to be alone.

  5. An individual who experiences a health issue or chronic pain assuming that they have a weakness or defect in their body.

These types of attributions can contribute to feelings of low self-esteem, helplessness, and hopelessness, which can further perpetuate distress and negative emotions.

Similar constructs to the distress-maintaining style of attribution in psychology include:

  1. Learned helplessness: Learned helplessness is a phenomenon in which individuals come to believe that they have no control over their environment and that their actions do not lead to desired outcomes. This can result in feelings of powerlessness and can contribute to the maintenance of distress and negative emotions.

  2. Pessimistic explanatory style: Pessimistic explanatory style refers to a pattern of thinking in which individuals explain negative events or experiences as being caused by internal, stable, and global factors. This type of thinking is associated with increased risk for depression and other negative outcomes.

  3. Self-blame: Self-blame involves attributing negative events or experiences to one's own actions or characteristics, rather than external factors. This can contribute to feelings of guilt, shame, and low self-esteem.

  4. Negative self-talk: Negative self-talk involves a pattern of negative or critical self-talk, which can contribute to feelings of low self-esteem and negative emotions.

In conclusion, the distress-maintaining style of attribution is a pattern of thinking in which individuals attribute negative events or experiences to internal, stable, and global factors. This type of attribution can contribute to the maintenance of distress and negative emotions, as individuals may feel helpless or powerless to change the situation if they believe the cause of the problem is within themselves and unlikely to change. Understanding related constructs such as learned helplessness, pessimistic explanatory style, self-blame, and negative self-talk can provide further insight into the nature and impact of the distress-maintaining style of attribution on individuals and their well-being.

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