Skip to main content
Emerging from the CAVE: Attributional Style and the Narrative Study of Identity in Midlife Adults
  • Jonathan M. Adler, Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering
  • Emily C. Kissel, Washington University in St Louis
  • Dan P. McAdams, Northwestern University
Document Type
Publication Date
It has been widely documented that individuals who explain negative life events with a depressogenic attributional style (stable, global attributions) tend to have increased rates of depression and other poor outcomes (e.g., Sweeny, Anderson, & Bailey, 1986). The Content Analysis of Verbatim Explanations (CAVE) is a method of assessing attributional style in spontaneously-generated causal attributions appearing in accounts of real events (Peterson, Schulman, Castellon, & Seligman, 1992). Seventy life story interviews obtained from a diverse community sample of midlife adults were coded for attributional style with the CAVE technique and also for the theme of contamination (scenes in which good events turn to bad outcomes, McAdams, Reynolds, Lewis, Patten, & Bowman, 2001). While depressogenic attributional style and contamination sequences were unrelated to each other, both were shown to independently predict self-reported depression and low life satisfaction. In addition, while the observed relationships between depressogenic attributional style and these selfreport variables were no longer significant after controlling for neuroticism, a similar pattern was not observed for contamination sequences. This study forges possible connections between cognitive theories of depression and the narrative study of adult identity.

© 2006 Springer. This article appeared in Cognitive Therapy and Research Vol 30, No 1, pp 39-51 and may be found here.

The final publication is available here.

Citation Information
Jonathan M. Adler, Emily C. Kissel and Dan P. McAdams. "Emerging from the CAVE: Attributional Style and the Narrative Study of Identity in Midlife Adults" (2006)
Available at: