Children's Attributions about Family Arguments: Implications for Family Therapy

Heather E. Weston, Paul Boxer, Laurie Heatherington

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

16 Scopus citations


Children's attributions about the causes of family arguments affect both their interpretations of the meaning of and their adjustment to such events. Children's attributions about family arguments are, therefore, of importance in family therapy, especially for therapists who work from a cognitive or constructivist perspective. In an exploratory study, we examined children's attributions about family arguments in two arenas: marital arguments and parent-child arguments. Ninety-two children, aged 5-12, listened to an audio-taped argument and answered a series of structured questions concerning different attributions about the causes of such arguments. Descriptive analyses of the most and least endorsed attributions provided an overall map of the "stories" children tell about the causes of family arguments, and showed that, in general, they are more likely to endorse multiple, interacting causes than internal, blaming attributions. Additionally, children of all ages made somewhat different attributions concerning mothers vs. fathers in marital arguments. Implications for family therapy and suggestions for future clinical research are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)35-49
Number of pages15
JournalFamily Process
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1998
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)

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