Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PhD)


Center for Psychological Studies

First Advisor

Steven N Gold

Second Advisor

Craig Marker

Third Advisor

Scott Poland


attribution style, presenting symptoms, readiness to change, sexual abuse, stage of change


The purpose of this study was to gain a better understanding of the effect that attribution style and presenting symptoms has on the self-reported readiness to change of female survivors of childhood sexual abuse. The aim was to demonstrate that the stages of change are a useful concept in understanding how to approach treatment with female child sexual abuse survivors seeking psychotherapy.

One factor that influences the effectiveness of psychotherapy is a client's degree of motivation. The concept of "stage of change" has been used as a measure of client motivation. Stage of change consists of four basic stages; precontemplative, contemplative, action, and maintenance. Prior research has demonstrated that assisting clients in transitioning from a lower to a higher stage of change early in psychotherapy can improve outcomes. Assigning clients a "readiness to change" score is a simple method of categorizing their stage of change.

There are many variables that could impact a client's readiness to change. The two selected for this study were attributional style and presenting symptoms. The statistical analysis consisted of using correlation to determine the strength of the relationship between readiness to change, overall attribution styles, and presenting symptoms. Multiple regression was used to see how much of the variance in readiness to change could be accounted for by different levels of attributions or symptomatology.

No correlation was found between readiness to change and the other variables, although internal attribution style, external attribution style, and symptomatology were all correlated with each other. Likewise, the different levels of attribution and symptomatology did not account for a significant amount of variance in readiness to change. A secondary analysis into the relationship between total attributions endorsed and symptomatology provided evidence that individuals who make more attributions report significantly more presenting symptoms than individuals who make fewer attributions.

The conclusions drawn from this study focus on the importance of utilizing client motivation in the initial sessions of therapy, and propose that focusing on reducing the number of attributions made could be more beneficial to clients than helping them move from one attribution style to another.

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