An experimental examination of learned helplessness in older adolescents and young adults with long-standing asthma
Chaney JM, Mullins LL, Uretsky DL,
Pace TM, Werden D, Hartman VL
Department of Psychology,
Oklahoma State University,
Stillwater 74078, USA.
J Pediatr Psychol 1999 Jun; 24(3):259-70


OBJECTIVE: To examine the effects of experimentally induced learned helplessness in older adolescents and young adults with long-standing asthma. METHODS: Thirty-nine participants (18-24 years of age) with histories of long-standing asthma (AS) and an age-matched healthy cohort (HC) (N = 94) received either contingent or noncontingent feedback on an experimental task. Participants' anagram-solving performance was assessed following the experimental procedure. Participants also completed a measure of depression and pretest-posttest measures of mood, expectancy, and attributions related to experimental task performance. RESULTS: The AS participants demonstrated significantly greater problem-solving deficits following response-noncontingent feedback, compared to the HC group. Further, whereas both AS and HC participants made more internal performance attributions when given response-contingent feedback, only AS participants demonstrated a pattern of increased internal attributions (i.e., self-focus) following response-noncontingent failure. In addition, 21% of AS participants met DSM-IV criteria for major depression, compared to only 5% of the HC group. CONCLUSIONS: Individuals with long-standing asthma may be at increased risk for depression and for learned helplessness deficits, specifically impaired problem solving, in response to environmental noncontingency. Results are discussed in terms of both learned helplessness theory and perseverative self-focus conceptualizations of depression. The implications for both short- and long-term management of pediatric asthma are also discussed.
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