Causal Attributions for Problematic Family Interactions: A Qualitative, Cultural Comparison of Western Samoa, American Samoa, and the United States

Kris H. Poasa, Brent Mallinckrodt, Lisa A. Suzuki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


A mixed quantitative and qualitative research design compared 23 U.S. college students to 25 students from Western Samoa and 25 from American Samoa, with regard to differences in cultural beliefs and attributions. Survey responses suggested that Samoan students endorsed significantly more vertical, collective and vertical, individualistic cultural attitudes than U.S. students. Qualitative analysis of narrative responses to four vignettes depicting family conflicts suggested cultural differences in patterns of attribution of blame and responsibility for resolving the conflicts. U.S. students emphasized stable, internal, global attributions to character flaws. Samoan students emphasized more easily changed, situation-specific attributions; nonlinear, multifaceted judgments of blame; deference to hierarchy in group relationships; and context-oriented resolutions that avoid individual confrontation and emphasize preservation of relationships.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)32-60
Number of pages29
JournalThe Counseling Psychologist
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2000


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology

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