Date of Award

Winter 1996

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)



Committee Director

Neill Watson

Committee Member

J. Patrick Dorgan

Committee Member

Joy P. Kannarkat

Committee Member

Michael P. Nichols

Committee Member

Kelly G. Shaver


Differences in circularity of attributions of causality, responsibility, intentionality and blame for clinical problems by therapists of psychodynamic, behavioral and systems orientations, a psychiatrist group, and an attorney control group were investigated using the Circularity-Linearity Attribution Scale (CLAS). Respondents' judgments about the sufficiency of a single cause for the problem, circular conceptualization of the problem, and linear conceptualization of the presented problems were also solicited. Responses were compared for two problems, schizophrenia and domestic violence. It was hypothesized that the systems-oriented therapists' attributions would be more circular than those of other therapist groups on all dependent variables. It was also hypothesized that there would be an interaction between professional group and problem type, with systems therapists making relatively more circular attributions of causality across problems, and psychiatrists making relatively more linear attributions of causality for schizophrenia than for domestic violence.

Circularity-Linearity Attribution scores for the groups were analyzed using a series of non-parametric statistical tests because the data did not meet assumptions for significant differences were found between attributions for the two problems by the total sample with domestic violence ranked more circularly on attributions of causality and sufficiency of a single cause, and domestic violence ranked more linearly on attributions of moral responsibility and blame. When attributions were analyzed within groups for the two problems, attorneys attributed moral responsibility and blame more linearly for domestic violence.

A significant difference was found between males and females in the psychodynamic therapist group on one dependent variable. On circular conceptualization of the problem, the female psychodynamic therapists rated the schizophrenia problem as better represented by the circular conceptualization diagram than the males in that group.

Limitations of the study were cited. Results were discussed in terms of implications for systems theory and utility of the CLAS.


A Dissertation Submitted to the Faculties of The College of William and Mary, Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk State University, and Old Dominion University in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology through the Virginia Consortium Program in Clinical Psychology.


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