A meta-analytic review of coping with illness: do causal attributions matter?

J Psychosom Res. 2001 Apr;50(4):205-19. doi: 10.1016/s0022-3999(01)00188-x.


Objective: The present meta-analytic review assessed the relations between causal attributions, coping, and psychological adjustment in individuals with physical illnesses or undergoing medical procedures. A theoretical model predicting psychological adjustment was proposed. It was hypothesized that causal attributions would be both directly related to psychological adjustment and indirectly related to psychology adjustment via coping strategies.

Methods: Relevant methodological and statistical information was extracted from 27 target studies. Weighted correlations from 27 studies were used as the unit of analysis to test the theoretical model.

Results: Overall, internal, unstable, and controllable attributions were indirectly associated with positive psychological adjustment through the use of Approach and Emotion-Focused coping (P<.01). In addition, stable and uncontrollable attributions were indirectly associated with negative psychological adjustment through the use of Avoidance coping (P<.01).

Conclusion: These results suggest that attributions guide some motivated cognitions and behaviors within the context of illness, and are related to specific coping strategies. The discussion focuses on the predictive validity of these findings using the proposed theoretical model.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Affect
  • Chronic Disease / psychology*
  • Cognition
  • Emotions
  • Humans
  • Motivation
  • Surgical Procedures, Operative / psychology