Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Counseling Psychology & Community Services


The study explored mother-daughter relationships within the attributional relationship paradigm. Literature on mother-daughter relationships has been contradictory in characterizing the relationship as either mutually satisfying and fulfilling or as a source of considerable turmoil.

The study addressed: would the relationships between satisfaction and attributions found in other close relationships also be obtained in adult mother-daughter relationships; do mothers and daughters differ in level of satisfaction with the relationship or in the nature of the attributions made; is age related to satisfaction or attributions?

Women were asked to describe positive and negative interactions under real and hypothetical conditions, with their mothers and daughters. 76 female students completed questionnaires about their mothers; 40 of the students’ mothers responded regarding their daughters, and 19 of the mothers responded regarding their mothers. The women indicated a cause for the four interactions and completed a modified version of the Causal Dimension Scale (CDS; Russell, 1982) asking for ratings of locus, stability, controllability, globality and responsibility attributions. They also rated how positive or negative they felt the interactions were and completed a Satisfaction Scale regarding their relationship.

This study replicated several of the findings of the attributional research on close relationships: causes of positive interactions were seen as more internal to oneself, more stable, more controllable and more global than the causes of negative interactions. No effect was found for hypothetical versus real interactions on attributions. Satisfaction was related to perceiving the cause of positive interactions as internal, controllable, and stable. Satisfaction was related to seeing the cause of negative interactions as temporary, specific, and one’s own responsibility.

Mothers and daughters were generally satisfied with their relationship, mothers more so than daughters. Although they did not differ on locus, stability, controllability, or globalily attributions, an interaction effect was found for roie x valence x condition for responsibility attributions. Mothers and daughters disagreed on the cause of interactions and who was responsible for the interactions being positive or negative.

Age was not found to be related to satisfaction or attribution variables.