Category: Couples / Close Relationships
Patients’ perceived criticism from relatives as well as how upset they become in response to this criticism predicts poor patient outcomes for an array of mental disorders. Little is known about the factors that predict perceived criticism and upset due to criticism, but previous studies suggest attributions of criticism may play an important role. Research also suggests that perceptions of relatives’ warmth may protect against the negative effects of relatives’ criticism in non-White racial groups. The present study examined the relationships among attributions of criticism, warmth, perceived constructive and destructive criticism, and upset due to criticism in a sample of Black and White community participants (N = 272). In the present study, participants completed measures of destructive and constructive criticism from the most influential person in their lives (either a romantic partner or parent) as well as the Attributions of Criticism Scale (ACS), a 21-item questionnaire that assesses participants’ attributions about the intentions driving their romantic partners’/parents’ criticism. Consistent with previous work, psychometric tests showed that the ACS demonstrated a two-factor structure with factors corresponding to positive and negative attributions. These factors were highly internally consistent for both Blacks and Whites (αs > .91). We predicted that positive attributions would be related to more perceived constructive criticism and less upset due to criticism, whereas negative attributions would be related to more perceived destructive criticism and upset. Results showed that positive attributions were indeed associated with more perceived constructive criticism (β = .69, p < .001) and less upset (β = -.20, p = .002), whereas negative attributions were associated with more destructive criticism (β = .71, p < .001) and upset, β = .53, p < .001. Based on previous research, we hypothesized that African Americans would make more positive attributions and fewer negative attributions about criticism than Whites. We also predicted that African Americans would perceive less destructive criticism, more constructive criticism, and greater warmth than Whites. Contrary to prediction, no racial differences in mean levels of attributions, the types of perceived criticism, or warmth emerged (ps > .10). However, Blacks were less upset by criticism than Whites. In a regression predicting upset, a significant interaction of race and warmth emerged (β = .28, p < .001) such that Blacks were less upset by criticism than Whites except when relatives were perceived to be low on warmth. Results support the hypothesis that attributions are related to perceived constructive and destructive criticism as well as upset due to criticism. Our results also suggest that appraisals of relatives’ warmth may buffer against upset for Blacks but not for Whites.