ERIC Number: ED237207
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1983-May
Reference Count: 0
Learned Helplessness: An Analysis of Failure Avoidance through Maladaptive Persistence. Preliminary Draft.
Swidler, Phyllis Joy; Diener, Carol I.
A study was made to determine whether there exists a group of overpersisting children who are considered mastery-oriented because of their persistence but who actually demonstrate characteristics of learned helplessness. Subjects were 71 females and 84 males from fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-grade classrooms. Children's scores on the Intellectual Achievement Responsibility Scale were used to sort subjects into mastery- and helplessness-oriented groups. Children were given four experimental tasks over a 1-month period. The first task was provided to obtain (1) the child's attributions for his or her failure and previous success, and (2) an expectancy statement for future success. A second task assessing persistence followed in order to identify those children who, in the face of difficulty, give up, persist, or overpersist. The third task allowed children to choose the level of difficulty for a given set of problems. As in the first task, children were requested to state their expectations for future success. The fourth and final task required children to make attributions for their success. Results indicated that an overpersisting group did exist; children in this group displayed characteristics very similar to learned helplessness. Overpersisting children were found to have low expectancies for future success and to explain their successes in terms of external factors. Additionally, maladaptive persisters used nonsense words on an anagram task. It was concluded that future research is needed to determine if maladaptive persisters should be taught how to properly allocate their time, if time limits should be established on all schoolwork, or if parental attitudes toward their children's abilities affect children's behavior to the point that home-based interventions are necessary. (RH)
Publication Type: Reports - Research; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers: Avoidance Behavior; Maladaptive Persistence
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Midwestern Psychological Association (Chicago, IL, May 5-7, 1983).