Attributions and Outcomes: Hurtful Communication in Families
Unformatted Document Text:
Attributions and Outcomes
dramatically underestimated recipients’ reactions to the messages and also underestimated the
negative effects the hurtful messages had on the relationship. Additionally, recipients of hurtful
messages viewed senders as more hostile than senders believed themselves to be. Likewise,
recipients thought senders liked them less than senders claimed they did, and recipients felt more
rejected by senders than senders realized. Senders also claimed they apologized more than
recipients claimed they did, and recipients indicated that senders acted “unconcerned” and “did
nothing” much more than senders indicated they did. In short, recipients perceived that the
hurtful message had a more negative effect on their relationships than senders suspected, and this
was the case both temporarily and in the long term (Leary et al., 1998).
According to Betancourt (1990), the fundamental attribution error predisposes people to
attribute others’ negative behaviors to internal causes and their own negative behaviors to
external causes. As such, receivers should perceive the cause of hurtful messages to be
internally motivated and therefore under the control of the sender (i.e., intentional); whereas
senders of hurtful messages should perceive their own behavior as externally motivated and
therefore beyond their control (i.e., unintentional).
H 1: Senders who direct a hurtful message at a family member will perceive the message
as less intentional than recipients who receive a hurtful message from a family member.
Cramer (2000) reported that individuals who felt they were intentionally hurt reported
lower levels of relationship satisfaction than individuals who felt they were hurt by accident.
Since receivers should perceive hurtful messages to be more intentional than senders, receivers
should also report lower levels of relationship satisfaction than by senders (Cramer, 2000).
Therefore, the following hypothesis was proposed: