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Measuring Victimhood: Developing a Victim Self-Ascription Scale
Unformatted Document Text:  DRAFT – For permission to cite contact Andy Davies on ## email not listed ## person simply believes ‘these kinds of things happen to me more than most.’ This distinction between so-called ‘behavioral’ and ‘characterological’ attributions in relation to internal attributions has endured well. A meta-analysis by Hall et al. (2003) suggested the evidence was stronger for the maladaptive function of characterological blame than the adaptive function of behavioral blame – but regardless of the precise details, the present state of victimological literature clearly suggests that data on the location of an attribution (internal or external to the victim) will not be enough to understand victim outcomes. The literature on attributions and self-blame has not yet examined the outcomes of concern here, however. It has focused on successful coping outcomes rather than anger, secondary rights or victim self-ascription. Nor has it attempted to conceptualize the nature of ‘victimhood’ in the way that this study attempted. Instead, victimhood is thought of purely in terms of coping itself. Victims are those who must cope – those who don’t cope well, are doubly victims. The question of how attributions will be related to perceptions of victimization as they are styled in this study, then, is still open. The findings presented here suggest that the perceived justice of an event is a key variable in predicting feelings of victimhood – alongside the level of perceived harm. I suggest here that a fruitful area for future investigation will be to consider whether justification is not also a key consideration in understanding the relationship of causal attributions to feelings of victimhood. An insight into this possibility is offered by two contrasting quotations from two participants gathered during phase one of this study. Both were reacting to an identical scenario: an individual contracts tuberculosis from another patient in an emergency room while there caring for a friend. Asked to say how they would Page 22

Authors: Davies, Andrew.
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DRAFT – For permission to cite contact Andy Davies on ## email not listed ##
person simply believes ‘these kinds of things happen to me more than most.’
This distinction between so-called ‘behavioral’ and ‘characterological’ attributions in relation to 
internal attributions has endured well.  A meta-analysis by Hall et al. (2003) suggested the evidence 
was stronger for the maladaptive function of characterological blame than the adaptive function of 
behavioral blame – but regardless of the precise details, the present state of victimological literature 
clearly suggests that data on the location of an attribution (internal or external to the victim) will not be 
enough to understand victim outcomes.
The literature on attributions and self-blame has not yet examined the outcomes of concern here, 
however.  It has focused on successful coping outcomes rather than anger, secondary rights or victim 
self-ascription.  Nor has it attempted to conceptualize the nature of ‘victimhood’ in the way that this 
study attempted.  Instead, victimhood is thought of purely in terms of coping itself.  Victims are those 
who must cope – those who don’t cope well, are doubly victims.  The question of how attributions will 
be related to perceptions of victimization as they are styled in this study, then, is still open.
The findings presented here suggest that the perceived justice of an event is a key variable in predicting 
feelings of victimhood – alongside the level of perceived harm.  I suggest here that a fruitful area for 
future investigation will be to consider whether justification is not also a key consideration in 
understanding the relationship of causal attributions to feelings of victimhood.  An insight into this 
possibility is offered by two contrasting quotations from two participants gathered during phase one of 
this study.  Both were reacting to an identical scenario: an individual contracts tuberculosis from 
another patient in an emergency room while there caring for a friend.  Asked to say how they would 
Page 22


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