Lay Beliefs About Psychological and Social Problems Among Adolescents: Motivational and Cognitive Antecedents


  • The authors thank the editor of this journal and the two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments on earlier versions of the manuscript.

Sylvia Chen, Department of Applied Social Sciences, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hung Hom, Kowloon, Hong Kong. E-mail:


This study attempted to apply theoretical concepts from personality and social psychology to understand the nomological network informing clinical models held by laypersons. Personal values and social axioms predicted the lay beliefs of Chinese adolescents about the causes and cures of 2 psychological problems (agoraphobia and schizophrenia) and 2 social problems (child abuse and corruption). Using path analyses, we developed a model of lay beliefs for each specific problem, and found that social problems were perceived to be caused by social-personal factors, whereas psychological problems varied in their perceived etiology, with agoraphobia perceived to be caused by the environmental/hereditary factor and schizophrenia by the social-personal factor. Clinical methods were perceived to be the important curative factor in overcoming most problems.