Types of trauma-related blame following interpersonal trauma

Catherine M. Reich, Kelly McKnight, Stephanie A. Sacks, Naseem Farahid, Tanya Mulzon, Grace Pegel, Jeremy Jamieson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Objective: The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) now includes traumarelated blame as a symptom of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD Criterion D3; American Psychiatric Association, 2013). To date, most blame research has utilized quantitative scales, primarily for selfblame, with little attention to other forms of blame. The aims of this study were to (a) identify the common blame types reported by interpersonal trauma survivors through open-ended statements, and (b) explore how well these blame types converge with the Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Checklist for DSM–5 (PCL-5) screener’s blame item and total scores. Method: Using a mixed-method design, interpersonal trauma survivors (N = 132) completed the Life Events Checklist and the PCL-5. They also provided a written statement indicating why they believe their traumatic event occurred, which was later coded into types of blame by three independent raters. Results: Five blame types emerged from survivors’ statements: self, perpetrator, other, global, and circumstance. However, in most cases the presence or absence of each of the blame types was not reliably associated with posttraumatic distress. Conclusion: The findings suggest that trauma-related blame attributions are more nuanced than is typically measured and that factors such as the degree of distress caused by a particular blame attribution, or how believable the thought is to the survivor, might be more clinically meaningful than the specific content of the belief.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)287-294
Number of pages8
JournalPsychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 23 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We have no conflicts of interest to disclose. This study was made possible by support from the University of Minnesota Duluth, Department of Psychology, Internal Project Funding

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 American Psychological Association


  • PTSD
  • blame
  • cognition
  • interpersonal violence
  • trauma


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