Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology

, Volume 31, Issue 6, pp 309–315 | Cite as

Lay beliefs about the causes of mental disorders: a new methodological approach

  • H. Matschinger
  • M. C. Angermeyer
Original Paper


So far, researchers have, for the most part, used lists of Likert-scaled items in their quantitative analysis of lay beliefs about the causes of mental disorders. With the help of factor analyses they have then sought to identify the independent dimensions of the attitudinal space. In contrast, it is the aim of multiple unidimensional unfolding, which shall be presented in this paper, to establish a latent dimension of the order of preference regarding the causes offered as an explanation for the development of mental disorders. Using data from a representative survey examining the attitude of the general public of the new “Länder” of the Federal Republic of Germany towards mental disorders, which was conducted during 1993, it can be shown that 11 of the 15 causal factors offered may be arranged along an unfolding scale. The centre of the scale was characterized by the item “God's will or fate”. Psychosocial stress factors constituted one pole of the scaie, personality disorders, the other. In between we found both external and biological influences over which the afflicted individuals had no control. Analogies to the concept of locus of control are discussed.


Public Health Quantitative Analysis Mental Disorder General Public Causal Factor 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • H. Matschinger
    • 1
  • M. C. Angermeyer
    • 1
  1. 1.Psychiatric ClinicUniversity of LeipzigLeipzigGermany

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