Characterological versus behavioral self-blame: inquiries into depression and rape.J Pers Soc Psychol. 1979 Oct; 37(10):1798-809.JP
Two types of self-blame--behavioral and characterological--are distinguished. Behavioral self-blame is control related, involves attributions to a modifiable source (one's behavior), and is associated with a belief in the future avoidability of a negative outcome. Characterological self-blame is esteem related, involves attributions to a relatively nonmodifiable source (one's character), and is associated with a belief in personal deservingness for past negative outcomes. Two studies are reported that bear on this self-blame distinction. In the first study, it was found that depressed female college students engaged in more characterologial self-blame than nondepressed female college students, whereas behavioral self-blame did not differ between the two groups; the depressed population was also characterized by greater attributions to chance and decreased beliefs in personal control. Characterological self-blame is proposed as a possible solution to the "paradox in depression." In a second study, rape crisis centers were surveyed. Behavioral self-blame, and not characterological self-blame, emerged as the most common response of rape victims to their victimization, suggesting the victim's desire to maintain a belief in control, particularly the belief in the future avoidability of rape. Implications of this self-blame distinction and potential directions for future research are discussed.