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Learned helplessness depression: A missing link in the diagnosis and treatment of adolescents in residential settings

1 July 1988


This dissertation proposes that the learned helplessness theory of depression provides a missing link in the diagnosis and treatment of adolescents referred to Residential Treatment Centers. The literature regarding the typical client profile and the current treatment in the field of residential treatment is reviewed. Theories of adolescent depression and learned helplessness are also reviewed and an integration is proposed. The author postulates the theory that learned helplessness offers a framework from which some adolescent depression can be explained and treated. Learned helplessness theory identifies an attributional style that has been shown to correlate with depression in young people. It is proposed that a subgroup of adolescents in residential treatment are suffering from learned helplessness. They attribute their failure to control significant events in their lives to . internal, global and stable factors. This results in motivational, cognitive and emotional deficits which are reflected in age-specific depressive symptoms. The implications of this dissertation indicate that for this subgroup of young people, learned helplessness depression will prove to be a more accurate diagnosis and subsequent attribution therapy a more effective and enduring treatment.


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