Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Bernard Chirico

Second Advisor

Dr. Edith S. Ott

Third Advisor

Dr. Alfred J. Finch, Jr.


The present study investigated the predictive value of locus of control and internal-external attribution as they relate to learned helplessness in children. Forty four females and twenty seven males enrolled in the fifth and sixth grades of a private elementary school served as subjects. Subjects were group administered the Nowicki Strickland Locus of Control Scale for Children and the KASTAN Attribution Rating Scale. They were then exposed to a guessing task designed to induce helplessness, and subsequently tested on a persistence task. It was expected that subjects would differ in persistence time based upon their internal-external locus of control orientation, and their internal-external attributional style. It was also hypothesized that locus of control and attribution are orthogonal constructs. Finally, it was expected that locus of control and attribution would be equally valuable predictors of helplessness. Contrary to the experimental hypothesis, the analysis of persistence time revealed no significant differences based upon locus of control orientation or attributional dimension. The research hypothesis of the investigated variables being orthogonal was also not supported, as a correlation procedure revealed a significant relationship. Locus of control was not found to be a predictor of persistence time, however the hypothesis that internal-external attributional style predicts helplessness was confirmed by a regression analysis. Characteristics of the present subjects and task simplicity were offered as possible reasons for the failure to replicate previous research findings; however, the finding of internal-external attribution as a predictor of helplessness lends support to the reformulated model of learned helplessness. Treatment implications for helpless children and future research directions were discussed.

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