A Developmental Study of Learned Helplessness


Examined susceptibility to learned helplessness among 20 children from each of kindergarten, Grade 1, Grade 3, and Grade 5 classes by exposing groups of Ss to either repeated failure or repeated success on hidden figures problems. Helplessness was measured by Ss' persistence in looking for hidden figures and their capacity to find them following repeated success or failure. It was hypothesized that younger Ss would be less susceptible to helplessness than older ones, due to age-related differences in causal attributions for success and failure. Results confirm the hypothesis in that failure, relative to success, had significantly less influence on the level of helplessness in younger Ss' behavior. It is suggested that the development of attributional capabilities during the preschool and early elementary school years has important ramifications for cognitive theories of motivation.

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Published in Developmental Psychology, v. 16, no. 6, p. 616-624.

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