Caregiver Attributions for Late-Life Depression and Their Associations with Caregiver Burden

Courtney Allyn Polenick, Lynn M. Martire

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Late-life depression (LLD) has detrimental effects on family caregivers that may be compounded when caregivers believe that depressive behaviors are volitional or within the patient's capacity to control. In this study we examined three person-centered caregiver attributions that place responsibility for LLD on the patient (i.e., character, controllability, and intention), and the impact of such attributions on levels of general caregiver burden and burden specific to patient depressive symptoms. Participants were 212 spouses and adult children of older adults enrolled in a depression treatment study. Over one third of caregivers endorsed character attributions, which significantly predicted greater levels of both general and depression-specific burden. Intention attributions were significantly associated with general burden, but not depression-specific burden. Contrary to our expectation, controllability attributions did not predict either type of burden. Our findings suggest that the assessment of family caregiver attributions for LLD may be useful in identifying caregivers at risk for burden and subsequent health effects, as well as those who may need education and support to provide effective care to a vulnerable population of older adults.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)709-722
Number of pages14
JournalFamily Process
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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