Perceived control and learned helplessness among retarded and nonretarded children: A developmental analysis

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Abstract

Learned helplessness is produced by successive failures and by feedback attributing failure to uncontrollable causes. Retarded children appear to encounter both causal factors frequently and may thus be susceptible to helplessness. To test this possibility, children of low (70), average (100), and high (130) IQ at 3 MA levels (5½, 7½, and 9½ yrs) were administered a response-initiation measure, a puzzle-repetition measure of perseverance after failure, and a questionnaire designed to gauge attributions for failure. Teachers also rated Ss on a helplessness scale. Helplessness, as measured by the 2 questionnaires, declined with MA. On the 3 helplessness measures derived from Ss themselves, there was an IQ by MA interaction: The low-IQ group showed more helplessness relative to nonretarded children at the upper MA level than to nonretarded children at the 2 lower levels. Results, although qualified in some respects, are consistent with the view that helplessness can be learned over time by children who repeatedly fail to effect the outcomes that they desire and who learn to attribute failure to factors beyond their control. (31 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

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