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J Pers Soc Psychol. 1989 Mar;56(3):471-7.

Explanatory style across the life span: evidence for stability over 52 years.

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Department of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia 19104.


Analyzed explanatory style across the life span. 30 Ss whose average age was 72 responded to questions about their current life and provided diaries or letters written in their youth, an average of 52 years earlier. A blind content analysis of explanatory style derived from these 2 sources revealed that explanatory style for negative events was stable throughout adult life (r = .54, p less than .002). In contrast, there appeared to be no stability of explanatory style for positive events between the same 2 time periods. These results suggest that explanatory style for negative events may persist across the life span and may constitute an enduring risk factor for depression, low achievement, and physical illness.

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