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Pacific Sociological Association

Belief in a Just World and Depression
Author(s): Christian Ritter, D. E. Benson and Clint Synder
Source: Sociological Perspectives, Vol. 33, No. 2 (Summer, 1990), pp. 235-252
Published by: University of California Press
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therelationshipofthebeliefthattheworldis a just place. Building Lieberman. he/sheis less likelyto be depressedthanifone does not hold this belief. justworldanddepression. Directall correspondence to:Christian ofSociologyand Anthropology. 235-252 ISSN 0731-1214 BELIEF IN A JUSTWORLD AND DEPRESSION CHRISTIAN RITTER D. Usinga random sample ofnoninstitutionalized wefindthata belief ina justworld anda (N = 283)ofNorthern Ireland.Sociological Perspectives ? 1990PacificSociological Association Copyright Vol. 18 Oct 2014 09:49:18 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . between chronic and stressors justworldmight playin therelationship adultresidents depression. No. andMullan(1981). Kent. ondepression hasa significant overandabovetheeffect justworld effect of andresearch Theoretical mastery. BENSON CLINT SYNDER Kent State University therelationship a belief between in a ABSTRACT:Thispaperexplores on theworkofPearlin.We therefore make the argumentthat the concept of beliefin a just world is an important additionto our understandingofthesocialpsychologyofmentalhealthand thatthisconceptshouldbe incorporated in further studiesofstressfulevents and depression. and depression.weinvestigate therolethata belief ina Menaghan.1. It is furtherargued that this beliefmightaffectthe relationshipbetween sources of stressand depression. areindependent andthata belief ina senseofmastery cognitive structures. effort INTRODUCTION This paper examinestherelationshipbetweenthedegreeto whichindividuals believe thateventsand experiencesthatoccurto otherpeople are somehow deserved (referredto by Lerner[1980]as a beliefin a just world) and In thispaper. we also examinethe natureof depressivesymptomatology.50 on Sat.81.The argumentis made thatifone believesthattheworldis a fairand equitableplace.Ohio 44242 This content downloaded from 164. implications generated bythis questions arediscussed.33. E. 2. Ritter. pp. chronicstressors. Department KentStateUniversity.

possess characteristics A numberof studies have investigatedsome of the correlatesof such a belief:forexample. negativeattitudes towardunderprivileged groups. Number2. To the extentthatpeople believethatthe worldis a just place.As Heider (1958)and Lerner(1980)have argued. 18 Oct 2014 09:49:18 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .1980).g.Lerner1965.mayhave behavioraland cognitiveconsequences. Lernerformulated what has come to be called the "just world hypothesis"or.Lerner1978).irrespective what has happened.50 on Sat." Whatis of commonto thesesituationsis thattheperceiverbelievesthat.or cosmiccapriciousness.therebyproducingless tension and cognitivedissonance. theybelieve "good" people have nice thingshappen to themand "bad" people have nastythingshappen to them. the outcomeis deserved by thatperson and not the resultof chance..been studiedis whetheror notthedegreeto which a person who holds the beliefthatthe world is just is relatedto affective stateswhich.admirationofpoliticalleaders (Rubin and Peplau turn.Zuckermanand Gerbaski1977. In an attemptto explainthisbeliefand the researchon it.1977.Thus. simply. beliefin an activeGod. Smith1985). This content downloaded from 164. "beliefin a just world" (Lerner1970. the physicallydisabled must "deserve" thisconditionbecause ofmistakesor defectstheyor theirparents date.authoritarianism.By the same token.whichLerner(1980)describesas a fundamentaldelusion. 1990 The Belief in a JustWorld have attemptedto explainthetendencyofpeople A numberofresearchers or behavioralqualitiesto those to attribute unusual moral. and a beliefthat the poor deserve theirfate (Furnhamand Gunter1984. This belief.characterological.81.1.thereby potentiallytriggering manyof the antecedentsof depression.Ryan 1971). Perceivingthatperand behavioralconsequences are fundamentally sonal characteristics conthatlifeis nected. that"good deeds" are as likelytoresultin punishmentas in rewards.236 SOCIOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES Volume33. The evidence fromthese studies suggeststhatperceptionsof the world being just and fairhave socializationantecedentsand cognitive and behavioralconsequences. who have experiencedgreat misfortuneor extremelygood fortune(e.Bensonand Mullins1983).thisbeliefmaywellbe partofa desireto constructand maintaincognitivebalance and in so doingbecomes one ofthekeymechanismsinvolvedin maintaining theperson'ssense ofself and its relationshipto externalevents and processes.maintainsthatwhat happens to people is directlyrelatedto whetheror not they whichentitlethemto a particularoutcome. The perceptionofthepersonwitha low beliefin a just worldis thattherelationship betweenpersonalqualitiesand "lifeoutcomes"is essentiallyrandom."miraculously"recoveringfroma severe illnessor winninga lotteryis a rewardforbeing a "good person. Goffman1963.accident.a personwitha highbeliefin a just worldshould perceive more understandable.a fundamentalistreligiousorientation (Rubinand Peplau 1973. Whathas not.whichwould resultin theperson'shavinggenerallylowerlevelsof depressionthanone who does nothold thebeliefthattheworldis just.

areoftenconceptualizedas "coping resources"thatpeople drawupon in thefaceofstressful circumstances. Pearlin1975.Wheaton1980.arguing that stressfulevents and chronicstressorsconvergein the productionof psychological distress. forcesand unforeseenevents. Markovsky1985). consideredthe effectsof chronic. The conceptof mastery(the extentto whichpeople see themselvesas in controloftheforcesthateffecttheirlives) mayalso be relatedto a sense that and outcomesare related. Pearlinet al. a perception that one can affectone's own life outcomes (mastery).The enduringpresenceof role strains erodes a sense ofselfby confronting theindividualwithevidencethatone is notable toaltereventsexperiencedas undesirable. It has been posited elsewhere(Pearlinand Schooler 1978. 1981).50 on Sat. have a thatexternalforcesare in controloftheoutcomesofimportanceto perception humanbeings-may exhibita low sense ofmastery. researchhas consistentlyfound higherscores on the witha sense of"internal Rubinand Peplau"JustWorldScale.thatthereductionofmasteryis thefinalstep in theprocessby which stressorsresultin distress.Forexample." tobe correlated control" as measured by Rotter's"Locus of Control Scale" (cf.Here. his/herown rewardsand punishments. The inclusionofchronicstressorsor relatively continuousproblemsin stress research. buffering Wheaton1983). Lerner are directlylinked 1980:151).Pearlinet al. it is argued thatlifeeventsand resulting role strainsare morelikelyto eventuatein stresswhen the outcomelowers self-esteemand a sense of mastery.the beliefthatone can "determine one's fate" (a perceptionof internalcontrol)is also likelyto be partof this From this followsthe sensethat one can control cognitiveinfrastructure.ongoing stressors(e.(See Shepelak1987fora related personalattributes discussion.Alternatively.Pearlinand Lieberman(1979)empirically demonstrated This content downloaded from 164.BELIEF IN A JUST WORLD AND DEPRESSION 237 In the same vein.81.1. Empiricallyaddressingthe relationshipbetweensense ofmasteryand a beliefthattheworldis justand fairwould help to further illuminatethe processesattendantto psychologicalanguish.Ifone believesthatpersonalqualitiesand effort withoutcomes(a beliefin a just world). 18 Oct 2014 09:49:18 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . suchas mastery.Pearlinand Lieberman1979.1977.g. Chronic Stress and Psychological Well-Being Researchefforts concerningtheeffects ofstressorson mentalhealthhave.has been motivatedby the recognitionthatstressfuleventsmay operatethroughthewidercontextofchronicstressors. thus some of the undesirableconsequencesof stress(Kohn 1972.can maintaina strongperception of and the beliefthattheyare NOT at the mercyof outside personal efficacy. 1981).those who believe thatthereis littlerelationship between such qualities and behavioral consequences and. forsome time. thus.) For example..In stressresearch.componentsoftheself-concept.may not be relatedto the perceptionof whetheror not people "in general" can do so (Stolte 1983.

Lack of resourcesto meet these obligationsacts to increase role strainand.and self-esteem observedassociationsbetweenlifeeventsand distress.1. economic hardship of economichardship increasesthe level ofdepressiveaffect.economichardship. and having young children.self-concept.Pearlinand his associateshave demonstratedthatmuch of the effectofjob disruptionis indirect. and depression. 1981).and between social statusand distress.whichin turnshouldservetoincreasepsychologibeliefin a just world may serve to bufferthe cal distress. 1981.Wheaton1978. therebyproducinga stress-related Role strainsare the primarytypeof chronicstressthathave been considered as mechanismslinkingstressfulevents to adverse reactionssuch as depression.Ross and Huber (1985) findthat economichardshipis increasedby low income.forexample.Exposureto stressfuleventscan increaserole strains. have providedan elaborationthatservesto explain mastery. 18 Oct 2014 09:49:18 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .The centrality in the relationshipbetweenjob disruption.and therelationshipbetweensocioeconomicstatusand depression(Pearlinet al.In the nextsectionof this effects of negative This content downloaded from 164.Pearlinet al.Specifically. subsequently.supportsthepositionthattheabilityto meetfamilyobligationsby havingenough moneyto pay the bills and meet otherhousehold needs.such as job loss and relateddistress.50 on Sat.The relationshipbetween life and psychologicaldistress.Ross and Huber 1985). In assessing the natureof the relationshipbetween job disruptionand depression.indicatorsof low social status.Kessler 1982).Ongoingrole strainscan also increase to the effectof the lifeeventor distress. In turn.Economic individualvulnerability hardship.thereby increasingthe likelihoodof distress. 1990 preexistingstressors.itis important be considerrolestrainsand componentsoftheself.can be events.These elementscan used to clarifythe natureof therelationshipbetweenacute stressors. being young. lowersocialstatusshouldserveto decreasethedegreeto whichpeople view theworldtobe a justplace. thatlifeeventsmay createnew stressorsor intensify response.the above discussionsuggeststhatthe degree to which one believesthattheworldis a fairand equitableplace mayplay an imporeconomichardshipand tantrole in the etiologyof depression.81. low education. chronic stress on well as socioeconomicstatusand distress.238 SOCIOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES Volume33. 1981).Alternatively. Number2.operatingthroughchangesin incomeand economichardship(Pearlin1975.increasespsychologicaldistress. used to explicitlysortout the natureof the relationshipbetween socioeconomic statusand psychologicaldistressthathas been clearlydocumented (Dohrenwendand Dohrenwend1969. The above discussionsuggeststhatin orderto assess theprocessthrough to whichstressorsresultin increasesin psychologicaldistress.has been shown to be an importantmediatingvariable in the relationshipbetweenjob disruptionsand increasesin depression (Pearlinet al. While the models of the stressprocess thatinclude economichardship. is a primaryfactorinterveningbetween the largersocial and economic orderand psychologicalwell-being(Ross and Huber 1985).

at thetimetheresearchwas Irelandhad an unemployment conducted. to theGeneralSocial Survey)withthosefromthepresentsamplesuggeststhat it is fairlyrepresentative of the adult populationof the province. randomsamplewas drawnfrom UsingtheElectoralRegister.3%(Manchester GuardianWeekly1988).BELIEF IN A JUST WORLD AND DEPRESSION 239 paper. moved withouta forwarding address.First.a systematic each oftheelectoralsubdivisionsin theprovince.forwhateverother reason.50 on Sat.and. Whilethis rate of returnis clearlyless than optimal.1.and NorthernIreland elections.were returnedunopened (N = 291).or whose questionnaires.we considertheways in whicha beliefin a justworldmaybe incorporated in models assessing the relationshipbetween stressfulevents and and mentalhealth. circumstances.a comparisonof demographic characteristics fromthe GeneralHousehold Survey(similarin the U.K. Beforethiscan be done.The ElectoralRegister.we determinewhether beliefin a just worldis associatedwithdepressionand whetheritaffectsthe relationshipbetween incomeand economichardshipand depressionover and above the effectof masteryon these relationships.yieldinga usable sample of283. 18 Oct 2014 09:49:18 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Eightofthereplacementquestionnaireswere returnedblank. The sample was drawnfromthe noninstitutionalized adult populationof NorthernIrelandfora numberofreasons. EuropeanAssembly. however.Usingthesame method.a replacementsampleof63 was subsequentlydrawn to replace those people who had died. Purpose The purposeofthisstudyis to determinewhetherthebeliefthattheworld is a just place is relatedto depressionand to determinetheroleitplaysin the relationshipbetweenpotentialsourcesofdepressionand subsequentdepression.Thisprocedureresultedin a sample of805 citizens. theprovincehas had a chronically This content downloaded from 164.Once thisempiricalquestionis answered.Northern rateof18. historically.some measurementissues mustbe information regardedas theleastbiased and adults in NorthernIreland most accurateof any listof noninstitutionalized thatis readilyavailable to the public. Because oftherelativelackofpsychometric ing scales used to measurebeliefin a just world. one of the questionswe address is whetherbeliefin a just worldand masterycan be independently measured. METHODS Sample The listingfromwhichthissample was drawnis the 1987ElectoralRegister of NorthernIreland. The ElectoralRegistercontains the names and addresses of all persons in NorthernIreland who are entitledto vote at UnitedKingdomParliamentary.

Number2. conflict. Darby1986).Forcenturies. (See AppendixA fora listingofthe itemsand theirloadings. 1990 high unemploymentrate (PPRU Monitor1988).were representedby these eleven items. Second.240 SOCIOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES Volume33.feeling"blue" was eliminatedbecause of its lack of meaning outside the United States.83).Mastery was measured using an adaptation of Pearlin and Schooler's(1978) masteryscale. fervor As shown by previousresearch(e. the provincehas experiencedintractable. Rubinand Peplau 1975).The first factor-depressedmood-contained fiveitemswithloadingsover0.2Accordingly.religio-ethnic This struggle(knownin theprovinceand elsewhereas "the troubles"). These items were factoranalyzed in order to determinewhethertheyrepresentedone dimensionin thissample.This should make fora stronger testof the proposed role of the beliefthatthe world is a just place in the stressprocess.concerningwhat itemsare measures ofdepressedmood forbothmen and women.itmightbe expectedthatthepopulationofNorthernIrelandwould displaylevelsofstressgreaterthanthatofmanyothersocieties.g. The resultantscale has a reliabilityof 0.and itsconsequences. 18 Oct 2014 09:49:18 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .Such a milieuwould be especiallylikelyto activatepersonalcopingmechanismsdesignedto reduce NorthernIrelandshouldbe unacceptablyhighlevelsofstrain.obdurate.These itemsresultedin a scale witha high reliability (Cronbach'salpha = 0.) The rangeof thisscale is 0-13.84 (See Appendix A fora listingof the items).81...1.g. For the purposes of this study such a conditionshould facilitatean examinationof the effectsof economichardshipon depressivestatesas discussedabove. These fiveitemswere factoranalyzed and were found to compriseone factoras suggestedby earlierwork. Depressed mood was measuredusinga reducedversionofthe CenterForEpidemiologicalStudiesDepressionScale (CES-D) (Radloff1977).as many writershave observed(e. an especiallygood domain in which to examinethe possible effectsof the variablesproposed here on such distress. This content downloaded from 164. Of thetwelveitemsthey identified. Third.a beliefin a and thus just worldis correlatedwitha fundamentalist religiousorientation the effectsof this variableon psychologicaldistressshould be especially clear. Results of the factoranalysiswithvarimaxrotationindicatedthatfourfactors.thebreadthand depthofreligious inNorthernIrelandis veryhighamongbothCatholicsand Protestants.40.50 on Sat. Mastery. Measures Depression. It is thisscale thatwas used as the measureof depressed mood in these analysis.with eigenvaluesover unity. Data were collectedforelevenoftwentyitemsin theoriginalscale following the findingsofRoss and Mirowsky(1984).has affectedthelivesofthecitizensofNorthernIrelandin ways not experiencedby mostpeople in theworld.

RESULTS The analysiswas conductedin threestages."By and largepeople deserve what theyget." and "People who meetwithmisfortune have oftenbroughtit on themselves.and age. The ten itemsforwhichdata were not collected are concernedwith conditionswhich are clearlylimitedto particularsituationsand were foundto formfactorsnotrelatedto thecentral conceptofbeliefin a justworld." Fourfactorsresultedfromthefactoranalysisofthetenitemsforwhichwe collecteddata. employment status.Hylandand Dann (1987)foundthatthecore itemforbeliefin a just world. "Basicallythe world is a just place.4 EconomicHardship.This estimationalso determinedwhetherthis beliefmediates the relationship This content downloaded from 164.81.Maritalstatus was also coded as a dummyvariablewiththosemarriedat thetimegettinga score of 1. Females were assigned to the "1" categoryof gender.people deserve what theyget.50 on Sat.therelationship betweenmasteryand beliefin a just worldwas determined. or pay bills in the last twelvemonths. The scale measures the degree to which the respondentwas not able to affordfood."By and large. (1981). indicatinghardship." (about $75 at the timeof the study)to "more than?400 per week" (about $720). the reliability the original20-item Only one publishedstudyexistswhichfactor-analyzed scale using undergraduatestudentsin Britain(Hylandand Dann 1987).maritalstatus.1.Verylittlepsychometric and scalabilityof Rubinand Peplau's (1975) just world scale.(See AppendixA forthecontentoftheitemsthatcomprise these scales.63). Employmentstatuswas coded as a dummyvariablewith those employedat the timeof the study (full-timeor part-time)being assigned to the "1" category.Age was measuredin years.gender. This measure consists of fouritems that forma scale with an alpha of 0.withhigh scores clothes. Incomewas measuredwitha 10-point itemrangingfrom. theadditiveeffectofbeliefin a justworldon depressionwas estimated. The resultsof thisstudysuggestthatthe Rubinand Peplau instrument consists offourdimensionsand theauthorsconcludebycallingformoreworkon the measurementof the concept.In were collectedon ten of the originaltwentyitems(see AppendixA).In the second."less than?40 per week.) The othervariablesincluded in the analysis were income.BELIEF IN A JUSTWORLD AND DEPRESSION 241 workhas been done to assess Beliefina JustWorld. 18 Oct 2014 09:49:18 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .Economic hardship was measured using a measure adapted by Ross and Huber (1985) fromPearlinet al. The primaryfactorcontainedthe core beliefin a just world itemalong withthe itemsthatstated.89." These threeitems forma scale with an acceptable level of reliability (alpha = 0." loaded mosthighlyon the second factor.along with.In an attemptto further assess the measurementpropertiesof beliefin a just world.

539 0.101)' (-0.305 (-0.210)" -0.189 (-0.097 (-0.159)' (-0.136 -0.548 0.035) (-0.01level Significant at the0.055) 0.097 (-0.201 -0.083) ( 0.001level Significant This content downloaded from 164.150) ( 0.070 -0.202 -0.068 (-0. This resultindicatesthata sense ofpersonalefficacy is independentofthedegreeto whichindividuals feel thatrewardsare allottedon the basis of personal worth.142) -0. Number2.328) -0.81.073) (-0. Each TABLE 1 Hierarchical RegressionofDemographic Variables.316 -0.008 (-0. and Beliefin a JustWorld(BJW)on Depression coefficients are reportedwithinparentheses) (standardized Equations Income Working Married Female Age Hardship Mastery BJW -0.In the thirdstage thepurposeoftheanalysiswas to determinewhetherindividualswho have a relativelyhighbeliefin a just worldare morelikelyto be depressedwhen theyexperienceeconomichardship.164)' ( 0.theroleofthisbeliefin therelationshipbetween incomeand economichardshipdistressprocessis likelyto be different from thatof mastery.071) -0. Belief in a JustWorld and Mastery towhatwas predicted.196 (-0.280 (-0.278 0.041) 0.034) -0.Since these variablesare independent.156) 0.302 (-0.943 (-0.1.191)" (-0.10level at the0.The Pearsonproduct-moment correlation betweenthese scales is 0.022 1 2 (-0.410 0.thereis essentiallyno correlation Contrary between beliefin a just worldand mastery.50 on Sat. 18 Oct 2014 09:49:18 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .454 0.906 ( 0.011 0.117) (-0.015 0.332)f -0. Additive Effects The data presentedin Table 1 are the resultof a series of hierarchical regressionequationspredictingdepressed mood.103) -0.622 0.980 -0.060) ( 0.012 (see AppendixB). This analysisis designed to determinethe role of beliefin a just world in the stressprocess.121 ( 0.Hardship.991 0.035 0.094 (-0.Mastery.171)' -1.122) 0.012 + Significant at the0.242 SOCIOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES Volume33.150 IncrementalR2 4 3 -0.120) -0.221) R AdjustedR2 0.670 -0. 1990 betweenincomeand economichardshipand depression.185 0.05level Significant at the0.691 (-0.093 0.049) (-0.120)+ -0.290 0.

81.The additionof masteryservesto further reducethe relationship betweenincomeand depressionas well as to reduce the effectof economic hardshipon depressionby 28 percent(from0. The natureof thisand otherrelationships.2 percent(contributing about 10 percent ofthetotalvarianceexplained).136). The resultsindicatethat this variableis significantly (albeitweakly) relatedto depression (p = -0.221.awaits further assessment withthe use of longitudinaldata not available to us at the time.This findingis consistentwithour hypothesis thatindividualswho believethattheworldis a fairplace are less likelyto be depressed. and age. As expected.The impactof economichardshipdrops by an additional8 percentwith the inclusionof beliefin a just world.1. masteryis added in the thirdstep.p < 0.those withhigherlevels of incomeand those employedare the least depressed. Masterywas added to the model in equation3 and was foundto have a significant impacton depression(p = .it is includedfirstin orderto requireany effecton depressionto be the net of mastery.189 to 0.50 on Sat. In the second equation.05).economic hardshiphas a positiveeffect on depression(p = 0.p < 0. Variablesare includedin orderof their positionin the theoretically implicitcausal sequence. economichardshipmediatesthe effectof low incomeon depression.3 percentto the amountofvarianceexplained in depression (representingan increase of 50 percentin total explained variance).0.mastery. The inclusionof masteryadds an additional9.Moreover.0. and beliefin a just world is added in the finalstep (equation4). The findingsshown in Table 1 address the degree to which economic stress. the overallvariance in depression explained is increasedby 3. This reductionrepresentsa reductionof52 percentin thesteepnessoftheslope ofdepressionon income. In the second step of the analysiseconomichardshipis added to the model.BELIEF IN A JUST WORLD AND DEPRESSION 243 equationcontainsmeasuresofincome.witheconomichardshipadded.The resultsofthefirstequationindicatethatincomeand employmentstatusare significantly relatedto depression.0.therebyproviding some suggestiveevidencethatmasterymediatespartoftherelationship between these variables and depression given the proposed model.beliefin a just worldis added to the equation.5 percentrepresentingan additional23 percentin total explained variance. maritalstatus. Comparisonsoftheunstandardizedcoefficients in step3 with thosein step4 indicatethatinclusionofbeliefin a just worldreducespartof the relationshipbetweeneconomichardshipand depression.201 to .097).328.Comparisonof the unstandardizedcoefficients in equation1 withthosein equation2 indicatesthattheinclusionofeconomichardshipreducesthe effectof incomeon depression(from.gender. This content downloaded from 164.and self-esteem affectdepressionand theeffectsofmastery and beliefin a just world in mediatingthe impactof potentialsources of depression.employment.of course. p < 0.001).001). While masteryis not assumed to be causallypriorto beliefin a just world. Adding this variableto the equation increasesthe overallvarianceby 1. 18 Oct 2014 09:49:18 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .122. In the finalequation.

and economic marital status by predictor.1. while thosewho experienceeconomic hardshipare less likelyto believe it.020 not in reduced equation Significantat the 0. These relationships.relatedto lowerlevelsofdepression.134)Mastery -0.150 ( thebeliefthattheworldis a fairplace is significantly is the strongest Mastery considered.205 .293 0.Comparisonofthesaturatedmodelswiththereducedmodelsrevealed in conclusionsreached (data not shown).043 ( 0.112 0.777 (-0.01 level Significantat the 0.Of particularinterestis the findingthat this beliefis lower for those who experiencehigh levels of economichardshipand is. The findingspresentedin Table 2 are the resultsof reduced regression equations.224)::: 0.186)* -0. These no substantivedifferences data indicatethatbeliefin a just worldpredictsdepressionand is relatedto age and degreeofeconomichardship.129)- Mastery Dependent BJW Dependent Hardship Dependent -0.510 ( 0.Belief in a justworldis indeeda componentin thestressprocess.Older respondentsare morelikelyto believethatthe worldis a just place. 1.001 level -Variable This content downloaded from 164.SOCIOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES Volume33. 18 Oct 2014 09:49:18 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions 0. 1.346 0. These resultsdemonstratethatbeliefin a just worldmediatesa portionof therelationshipbetweenage and economichardshipand depression.05 level Significantat the 0. in turn.463 0. Number2.175)* -0.10 eliminatedfromthe equationsiftheywere significant level. are graphicallydepictedin Figure1.510 (-0.81.145 (-0..456).313 (-0.50 on Sat.341) - R AdjustedR2 0. 1990 244 The resultsof the finalequation presentedin Table 1 indicatethatwhile relatedto depression.167 0.212 (-0.236)* -0.135)' Married -1.103 (-0.This TABLE 2 PathModelin Figure2 (standardized EquationsforRestricted ReducedRegression in parentheses) coefficients coefficients followunstandardized Equations Depression Dependent Income Working -0.556 0.201) Age Hardship well as the otherspresentedin Table 2.followed process.241).043 (-0.578 ( 0. a in the stress in world just assess theadditiveroleofbelief further determineitsrolein theassumed causal pathanalysiswas used to explicitly framework. is among the weakest of predictors In order to hardship.Variableswere at less than the 0. The models were reduced in orderto preservedegrees of freedom in the equationsand to providemorestableestimates.201)*** BJW -0.220 (-0.mediatingpartof the effectof economichardshipon depression.

The first columnofTable3 containstheresultsoftheadditivemodelpredicting depressed mood. This content downloaded from 164.Mastery.245 BELIEF IN A JUSTWORLD AND DEPRESSION Worrkin Income .however.The resultsoftheanalysis also show thatbeliefin a just world is relatedto depressionand that its inclusionin the model affectsthe relationshipbetweeneconomichardship and depression.241 -. To this point. mastery.and depression.0.0.theinterestis in determining whetherindividualswho believe thatthe worldis a just place are more likelyto be depressed when theyencounterthe chronicstressof economic hardship.models containinginteraction termsare considered. mediatesmoreoftheeffect ofeconomichardship( .38 = 0.81.1.The resultsof this equation indicatethatindividualswho experienceeconomichardshipare less likelyto have high levels of depression if they have high levels of mastery.In thenextstageoftheanalysis.Whiletheseresultsindicatethata highsense ofmasterybuffersthe impactof economichardship.09) than does beliefin a just world (-0.135 - j1 * ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~y Figure1 Restricted AdditivePathModelofDepression(standardized regression coefficients) set of relationshipsis similarto the set thatinvolves economichardship.12 = 0.02). the analysis has clearlydemonstratedthat masteryand beliefin a justworldare independentperceptions.To determinewhetherthisbeliefmoderatestheeffectofeconomic hardship.whereeconomichardshipis negativelyrelatedto masteryand masteryis negativelyrelatedto depression. The second equation includesan interactivetermforthe conditionaleffectof economichardship and mastery.the resultsof the thirdequation suggestthat beliefin a just world does not moderatethisrelationship. InteractiveEffects Table3 containstheresultsoftheinteractive modelspredicting depression.24* .13* -0.50 on Sat. 18 Oct 2014 09:49:18 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .

062 0.560 0.014 -0.010 0.011 0.132) (-0.The predictedrole of the beliefin a just worldin theserelationshipsis theoreticallyderivedand empiricallyassessed withpopulation-baseddata. it is an attemptto situatethe beliefthatthe world is a just place is that withinsocialprocessesusinga reasonablylargeadultsample.religious particularly and stressin the province.50 on Sat.097 3 2 1 (-0.Mastery.214 -0.083) (-O. 'EquationNumber1 is an additivemodel.130)+ (-0.320) (-0.196 -0.294 -0.874 0.071) (-0.613 0.These data are relationships well suited. Number2.Bothantecedents and potentialconsequencesof thisbeliefare examined.943 0.076) (-0.246 SOCIOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES Volume33.064 0.046) (-0.757 -0.747) ( is limitedin several ways and any conclusionsdrawnfromthisresearchmustbe made in lightof First.068 -0.Beliefin ofDemographic Regression Hierarchical coefficients Variableson Depression(standardized a JustWorld(BJW)and Interaction are reportedwithinparentheses) Equations Income Working Married Female Age Hardship Mastery BJW HAR*MAST HAR*BJW R AdjustedR -0.001level Significant DISCUSSION This studyis an initialattemptto empiricallyassess whetherbelievingin a justworldis relatedtodepressionand todeterminethenatureoftherelationship betweenpotentialsourcesof distressand subsequentdepression.81.156) (-0.01level Significant at the0.305 -0. 1990 TABLE3 Variables.034) (-0.015) (-0.132) 0.043 (-0.080 -0.thisis a studyofadultresidentsofNorthernIreland.whileequations2 and 3 areinteractive + Significant at the0.659)**' -0.564 0. Althoughthis studyhas a numberof strengths.691 -0.290 0.004 models.052) ( 0.332) (-0.066 -0.033) (-0. we do notknow ifthereportedrelationshipsinvolvingbeliefin a just world This content downloaded from 164.142) (-0.05level Signi'ficant at the0.060 -0.120)+ (-0.062) ( 0.054) -0.122) -0.250)(-0. given the degree of economichardship.189 -0.290 R Incremental (-0.Anotherstrengthof thisstudy fundamentalism.014 (-0.137) ( 0.749 -0.069) (-0.Hardship.121 -0.041) ( 0. theselimitations.008 0.265 -0.145) ( 0.641 -0.10level at the0. Analysis of these data provides for a preliminaryassessment of these usingquestionnairedata fromNorthernIreland.350 0. 18 Oct 2014 09:49:18 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .1.825 0.

Such researchshould be done using a varietyof sample populations. 18 Oct 2014 09:49:18 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . to our underDespite these drawbacks.this awaits future world should operate differently assessment. however.bothacute and chronic. data on the scale measuringbeliefin The relativepaucityofpsychometric a just world.futureresearchon the stressprocessshould considerthe degree to whicha beliefin a just worldis involvedin theproductionofa varietyof consequences.the measurementof this conceptneeds to be improved. Second. Clearly.and elaboration. at least two explanationsforthisfindingseem apparent.we are limitedby thelackoflongitudinal data.and the factthatmeasureofbeliefin a just worldused in thisstudy has a conventionally acceptablebut somewhatlow alpha (0. This possibilityhas not yetbeen systematically examinedby assessing possible conditionaleffects fordifferent acuteand maybe thatpeople in thissituationhave neverhad a beliefthatthe worldis a just place because theyhave always experiencedeconomichardship and have neverknownitsabsence.thefactthatthefactoranalysison the scale done forthisstudy produceddifferent configurations fromthosereportedby Hylandand Dann (1987). itmaybe because an earlier sense of a just world has been eroded by experiencingeconomichardship. all suggest thatmore work should be performedto clarifyand focusthe conceptand refineits measurement. (4) just economic not moderatethe relationshipbetween hardshipand depression.this studymakes a contribution standingof the beliefin a just world as well as to the social psychologyof mentalhealth. has a greaterimpacton depression among individualswho stronglyhold thebeliefthatthe worldis a fair This content downloaded from 164. For example. The findingsuggestingthata beliefin a just worldis lowerforindividuals who experiencethe ongoingstrainsof economichardshipand is positively associatedwithage. althoughour measure of beliefin a just world meets conventionalstandards for adequate reliability. between (3) beliefina justworldaffects and and and belief in a world does economichardship age depression.are likelyto affecta beliefin a just world.further assessment.The majorfindingsof this study are: (1) the conceptsof masteryand beliefin a just world are statistically independent.attentionshould be focusedon what types of stressors.our responserateis somewhatlow. This questionneeds to be addressedwithlongitudinaldata thatare sensitive to when and how acute stressorsare experiencedduringthe lifecourse. First.Third.BELIEF IN A JUST WORLD AND DEPRESSION 247 hold elsewhere.Second.Thus. bears further scrutiny.We believe thatthe relationship betweenbeliefin a just worldand age mayreflecta cohorteffectand not an aging effect. Finally.(2) beliefin a just world is negativelycorrelated therelationship withdepressiveaffect.50 on Sat.81.thatone acute stressor.job loss.Bensonand Ritter(1990)have found. While we have no reason to believe thatbeliefin a just in other countries.This initialresearchhas resultedin fourmajorfindingsthat awaitreplication.63).1. Perhapsacute stressorsmayhave moreofan impacton depressionforthose individualswho have a highbeliefin a just world.

Loadingsarepresented forthe Itemsmarkedwithan asterisk(*) itemsthatloaded 0. I feltlonely(0.Suchresearchshould helpto illuminate thewaysin whichbeliefin a justworldis relatedto and withdifferent and on howa variety ofstructural interacts typesofstressors and socialpsychological conditions are relatedto a varietyof self-concept processes.443.myappetitewas poor. f. I have littlecontroloverthethingsthathappento me (0.865. e. Uudgedon a fourpointscalefrom"Never"to "Mostofthetime.7654). however.4172). *b. d.] Mastery *a. I couldn'tsleep verywell. therefore. Bothself-consistency theory (Swann1983)andidentity theory (Stryker 1980. beliefin a justworlddoes notappear buta rather tobe a "copingresource" globalideologyoperating muchlikean whichdoes havean effect on levelsofdepres"implicit personality theory" thedynamics oftheserelationships sion. S. I was botheredby thingsthatusuallydon'tbotherme (0.81. I feltthateverything *f.afterthedestabilizing event(s)has passed. a corecomponent ofone's senseofself. k. I couldn'tseemto do whathad to be done.i.248 SOCIOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES Volume33. I did notfeellikeeating.Mean = 2.'sperception ofa consistent andunderstandable worldis threatened. Itemsand ResponseCategories areincludedinfinalscale.Ifa viewthattheworldis a just placeis a central partofoneormoreimportant identities andis.7860).7876). thereby erasingthedepressive response.7778).50 on Sat. 1990 andequitableplace. 18 Oct 2014 09:49:18 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Thereis reallyno wayI can solvesomeoftheproblemsI have (0.thatsuchan eventmightnoterode one's "faith"thattheworldis a justplace. I feltdepressed(0.Thisconsequence flowsfrom thespeculation thatwhen "bad" thingsdo happento "good"people.Unlikea senseofmastery. b. c. j I feltsad (0. (continued) This content downloaded from 164. c. = 2. I feltfearful (0.D.6712). forMajorVariables AppendixA.Investigating shouldhelptodeterminetherolesucha beliefstructure (and othersuchstructures) playsin a behavioral wide rangeof socialpsychological phenomenawithattendant consequences havingsocialstructural implications.thepersonwillprocesstheinformationso thatthejustworldviewis reaffirmed. I did tooka lotofeffort.7101). I talkedless thanusual. Number2.Alphaforscaleincluding itemsa."Range = 0-13. leadingtothefeeling thatlifeconsequenceshave not turnedout as expectedthereby leadingto depression.825. Depressive Symptoms Duringthepastweek: *a. Callero1985)wouldpredict. j = 0. g.40 or higheron Factor1. *i.1. I had troublekeepingmymindon whatI was doing.

Mean Uudgedon a fourpointscale.0477 -.070.1816 BJM 1.Alphaforscaleincludingitemsa through in theJustWorld Belief he has.0142 . f. Good deeds oftengo unnoticedand unrewarded.2047 .J 9.0000 .490. "Never"to"Very ona four often.i = 0.2262 -.S.2898 Hardship 1.0611 .1439 -.1303 -.630.0000 . I oftenfeelhelplessin dealingwiththeproblemsoflife(0.8704). *b.0564 .1033 oftendid it happenthatyou DID NOT have enough moneyto: *a.8680).h.S.] 3.4141 ." Range= 0-15.Mean= 3.2528 -.S.0930 -.3363 1.2474 -. Afford thekindof foodthatyou thoughtyourhouseholdshouldhave (0.from"Strongly e = 0. d. Basically.1610 . (continued) c.0000 -.1223 -. PearsonProduct-Moment Used in Analysis Variables IncomeWorking Married Sex Age Hardship Mastery BIW Depress Income 1. have oftenbroughtiton themselves(0. = 3. I've foundthata personrarelydeservesthereputation fora guiltypersonto getofffreein NorthemIreland b. a.D.theworldis a justplace (0.0000 -." Range= 0-12.0000 .1477 -.121.3346 -.0000 -.D.0124 -.1641 .2081 -. Byand large. *h. c.891.4057 .MeanJudged itemsg. j.603. = 3.4327 Mastery 1.0481 .2535 Working Married 1.2548 .8023).836. Peoplewho get"lucky"have usuallyeamed theirgood fortune.from "Strongly agree"to"Strongly disagree.1 6. *d.579. Afford *C. *i.Alphaforscaleincluding items a through Correlation Matrixof AppendixB."Range= 0-15. *g.2069 .0000 -. It is a commonoccurrence courts. *e.1249 . ona sixpointscale.8924).7180). agree"to"Strongly disagree. Peoplewho meetwithmisfortune It is oftenimpossiblefora personto receivea fairtrialin NorthemIreland.7918).249 BELIEFIN A JUSTWORLDAND DPREsSION Appendix A.7743). Afford furniture or householdequipmentthatneeds to be replaced(0.0671 -.Alphaforscaleincluding Economic Hardship Duringthepast 12 months. thekindofclothesyou thoughtyourhouseholdshouldhave (0.341. pointscale.1. SometimesI feelI'm beingpushedaroundin life(0.0000 -.1622 Age 1.50 on Sat.4264 -. Manypeople suffer throughabsolutelyno faultoftheirown.8926). thingsin my life *d. Payyourbills(0.2608 Sex 1.0524 . Thereis not muchI can do to changemanyof the important (0. e.7890).people deservewhattheyget(0.D. 18 Oct 2014 09:49:18 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .0000 Depress This content downloaded from 164.1518 1.5308).from Uudged d = 0. It is rareforan innocentman to be wronglysentto jail.81.

D. Central Sociological burgh. Heider. 3. and Christian Ritter.3%andunderrepresents those over55 byan averageof2. Gunter.g.andEugeneWenninger forcomments on earlierdrafts.JobLoss and Depression. Englewood Cliffs. DavidPugh. New York:Wiley. Whilenotdenyingthatlevelsofstress are verylikelyto be higherin Northern Irelandthanmostotherplacesintheworld. Dohrenwend. and BarbaraS. 1990 Anearlier verAcknowledgments: at sionofthispaperwas presented the annual meetingof the North PittsAssociation.Fritz." SocialPsychology Quarterly 50: 322-337.ourmeanand standarddeviationare not unlikethose foundin earlierefforts. 2.and B."British Journal ofSocial 23:256-269.Adrian.Intimidation andtheControlofViolence inNorthern Ireland.Peter. of the populationis affected.3%.onlya smallpercentage ofthepopulationin a fewareashavehad most suchdirectexposure. Psychology Goffman. thepresentsample overrepresents peopleunder55byan averageof1.and PeterDann. Number2. "Beliefin a JustWorld. 1969.NY: SyracuseUniversity Press.1958.Michael.ThePsychology ofInterRelations. Hobfoll. andElizabeth Mullins.John. Callero.April1988. Benson. 1987.250 SOCIOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES Volume33.BruceP.1984.579(range= 0-15) witha standarddeviationof3.1990.We do notfindthatargument for compelling itassumesthatthelevel tworeasons. Detroit.ifnotall.1963.D.Asidefromimages obtainedfromthe media over primarily thepast20 years. overrepresents assumesthatsuchactivity affectsthe actions of the variables in thisresearchin "unusual" ways.As noted above. overrepresentstheunemployed by 4.Wewishtothank Stanford StevanE.81.finally.overrepresentsmenby 3%...1. "The Developmentofa BeliefIn a Just World"Paperpresentedat theannual meetingsof theAmericanSociological Association. NorthemIrelandhas verylowlevels of othertypesofinterpersonal violencesuch as rapeand armedassault. Dohrenwend. We knowofno evidenceto substantiate such a claim. Darby. 18 Oct 2014 09:49:18 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Itmaybe arguedthattheturmoil and in theprovstrife historically experienced ince reducesthepossibility of generalizingfromthesedatatoothersocieties.Syracuse. REFERENCES Benson.1985. This content downloaded from 164.and.50 on Sat. "JustWorldBeliefsand AttitudesTowardThe Poor.2%.603.1986. personal Hyland. The samplemeanforthismeasureof beliefin a justworldwas 6.Second."Role IdentitySalience."Sociological Focus(InPress).SocialStatus andPsychological Disorder. Whileourmeasureis "cleaner"thanthat used in previousresearch. this is a highlydubious conjecture. NJ:PrenticeHall.E. NOTES 1." British Journal ofSocialPsychology 26:73-77.E.being"frisked" ateror changingone's routeto a destination to avoid "trouble")createdby the presenceofsocialcontrol forcesattendant Itshouldalsobe notedthat totheconflict.. ofturbulence is suchthatmost.. Erving.The condition associatedwiththecreationoftensionis the alterationof the habitsof dailylife whenentering a the(e. New York:Wiley. Stigma:Noteson theManagement ofSpoiled Identity. Furnham. Withrespecttoage. FactorAnalysisoftheJust "Exploratory WorldScaleUsingBritish Undergraduates. 4. suchstress formostpeopleintheprovince is not likelyto be theresultof personal exposureto violence.2% and underrepresents Protestantsbyabout1%.1983. Gregory.First.

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"Stress. __ ."The Sociogenesis Disorder:Reexamining ofPsychological the Causal Issues with Longitudinal Review43: Sociological Data.and K. Personal Coping chologicalDisorder:An Attributional andSocialBehavofHealth Journal Theory.252 SOCIOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES Volume33." American 383-403. "The Sociogenesis of Psy- __ .50 on Sat. 1980.and Psychiatric Models."Educational 37:159-175.Blair. Number2. 18 Oct 2014 09:49:18 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Gerbaski. 1990 Wheaton.Myron.1978.81." ior21:100-124." ofInteractive AnInvestigation 24: ofHealthand SocialBehavior Journal 208-227. Symptoms: Resources. Zuckerman. 1977.1. Measurement This content downloaded from 164. 1983."DimensionsoftheI-E Scaleand TheirRelationship to OtherPersonality andPsychological Measures.