Suicidal Attributional Style

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

William Goggin

Advisor Department



This research was designed to address the question of whether an attributional style exists for those individuals who think about suicide. This investigation is important in that Abramson, Seligman, and Teasdale (1978) have documented the significance of an attributional style in contributing to and maintaining depressive symptoms. The Attributional Style Questionnaire (Peterson, Semmel, von Baeyer, Abramson, Metalsky, & Seligman, 1982), the Zung Self-Rating Depression Scale (Zung, 1965), and the Reasons for Living Inventory (Linehan, Goodstein, Nielsen, & Chiles, 1983) were administered to 143 students at a southern university. Multiple regression procedures were then used to determine whether knowledge of an individual's attributional style adds to the prediction of suicidal ideation beyond its prediction from depression. The results of these analyses showed that certain styles of attribution in depressed individuals were associated with increased suicidal thought. Depressed individuals who attributed the causes of successful events to external and/or unstable causes were more likely to evidence suicidal ideation. Additionally, depressed individuals who attributed little control over the cause of a successful event were also more likely to exhibit suicidal ideation. Significantly, attributions toward failure events were not found to be associated with suicidal thought. These results were interpreted to suggest that the attributional style for one's successes may determine the course and chronicity of depressive symptoms. Depressed individuals who make external and/or unstable attributions for success are more likely to become suicidal. The psychological construct of hopelessness was hypothesized to be the mediating variable between attributional style and increased suicidal ideation.