Spontaneous attributions in happy and unhappy dating relationships

Faye Grigg, Garth J O Fletcher*, Julie Fitness

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


This study examined the relation between causal attributions and happiness in dating relationships. Forty subjects (20 men and 20 women) in long-term relationships were asked to imagine 20 hypothetical relationship behaviours that varied in terms of valency and self or partner initiation. Subjects then completed a spontaneous attribution probe by stating what they would think and feel in response to each behaviour, and these verbal protocols were taped. Causal attributions that were produced as part of these protocols were later coded as relationship enhancementor distress-maintenance attributions. Causal judgements were also later directly elicited for each behaviour on eight causal dimensions. Replicating previous research with married couples, results from both the spontaneous attribution probe and the causal scales suggested that happy partners produce attributions that enhance relationship quality whereas unhappy partners produce attributions that maintain their current levels of distress. Several implications for our findings are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-68
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Social and Personal Relationships
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1989
Externally publishedYes


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