Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Mary Lou Kelley


Black Americans exhibit significantly more aggressive behaviors than do white Americans and these aggressive acts are most likely to be directed toward other blacks, frequently in response to relatively trivial matters (Bell, 1987; Curtis, 1974). Aggression most often occurs in areas of high population density, poverty, and low social status, suggesting that socioeconomic status is an important variable in aggressive behavior (Centerwall, 1984; Willie, 1983). Attribution refers to the perception or inference of causes of self or others' behavior. Attributional theory, which is concerned with the consequences of attributions rather than the attributions themselves (Kelley & Michela, 1980), has been applied to the understanding of interpersonal conflict (Fincham, Beach, & Nelson, 1987; Grace, 1989) and aggressive behavior (Dodge, 1980). Research indicates (Bradbury & Fincham, 1990) that negative behaviors of others in interpersonal conflicts, generally, are viewed as being more global, selfishly motivated, blameworthy, negatively intentional, and not due to situational factors. Based upon this research, the present study examined adolescents' attributional style when faced with anger-provoking situations. The study evaluated how attributional style might relate to the variables of race and socioeconomic status. It was proposed that lower SES adolescents would report a more negative attributional style and greater frequency, intensity, and acceptance of anger-provoking situations than higher SES adolescents and there would be no differences between the racial groups. Contrary to these predictions, differences were not found between SES groups on these variables. However, white adolescents reported significantly more negative global attributions than black adolescents. A race by sex interaction was found, with black females reporting significantly more negative attributions for anger than other black and white adolescents. The prediction that aggressive adolescents would have a more negative attributional style and report higher frequency, intensity, and acceptance of anger-provoking situations than their nonaggressive peers was supported. Implications for future research and applications are discussed.