Attribution Through the Layperson's Lens: Development and Preliminary Validation of an Inclusive, International Measure of Beliefs About the Causes of Mental Illness.


Journal Article

Attributions, or beliefs about the causes of mental illness, have traditionally been dichotomized based on their locus, controllability, specificity, and stability. However, scholars have introduced an alternative lay beliefs model identifying attributions related to specific biological, social, and spiritual attributions. This research describes the potential benefits of this alternative model and outlines the validation of a comprehensive, international measure of lay beliefs, the Mental Illness Attribution Questionnaire (MIAQ). Validation included piloting, qualitative rating, confirmatory factor analysis, and evaluation of internal consistency, convergent validity, and test-retest reliability with a sample of 680 U.S.-based international students representing 94 nations. Scales measured attributions related to supernatural forces, social stress, lifestyle, health, substance use, heredity, and personal weakness. This structure was tested across 3 conditions-schizophrenia, depression, and alcoholism-demonstrating strong psychometric properties. The lay beliefs model appears to closely reflect the manner in which laypersons attribute cause for mental health problems, making it a natural fit for community-based research. Further, its validation with 2 international samples supports its utility in diverse populations. Together, the results support the MIAQ as a valid and reliable measure of mental illness attribution with potential for examining help-seeking and stigmatizing behavior across cultures.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Knettel, BA

Published Date

  • January 2019

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 101 / 1

Start / End Page

  • 32 - 43

PubMed ID

  • 28594584

Pubmed Central ID

  • 28594584

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1532-7752

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0022-3891

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1080/00223891.2017.1329738


  • eng