Learned helplessness and the satisfaction-paradox : a test of concepts and relationships Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/x920g139k

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  • The satisfaction-paradox, defined as the state of being satisfied with objectively unsatisfactory living conditions, represents a dysfunctional state of the poor for both the government and individuals by creating long-term poverty. Traditional rationales classify the reasons for this phenomenon as conscious decisions of individuals or shiftlessness and thereby results in material and social costs associated with this phenomenenon for both the individual and the government. This study undertakes a first step to provide empirical evidence for a constructive explanation of the satisfaction-paradox employing the theory of learned helplessness. A secondary analysis of the Hunger Factors Assessment data set in Oregon (1986, 1988) was performed. The study uses a newly developed theoretical model that incorporates both the quality of life model, from which the satisfaction-paradox evolves, as well as the learned helplessness model, offered as one explanation of the paradox. Criteria from the model were then defined by measures in the data set to identify the group of "learned helpless and satisfied poor". Approximately 10 percent of the Oregon Emergency Food Users have been identified as "learned helpless and satisfied poor". The investigation of their socio-demographic characteristics, in comparison to "not learned helpless and dissatisfied poor", has described them as rather more likely to be female, single, older, employed, home owners or renters, living with others, and long-term residents of Oregon. In these ways they seem to be more settled then the poverty stereotype and more closely resemble typical Oregon residents. However, like others in poverty, they lack income and information (or resource) networks. Discriminant analysis was utilized to make a first step towards early identification of the poor "at risk" of learning helplessness by assessing their socio-demographic characteristics. The resulting function includes these variables: age of respondents, their employment status, their gender, the fact that they receive welfare income, their household equipment, their educational level, the number of income sources, the length of residency, their health status, household size, their homeownership, the fact that they have health insurance and finally, the labor potential of their households. It explains, in total, 48.3 percent of the difference between the two groups at a p-level of 0.01 or less, a Chi-Square of 71.13 (dF = 14) and a Wilk's Lambda of 0.76. Its predictive assignment of learned helpless and satisfied poor was 12 percent higher than a random assignment and 15 percent in the case of the not learned helpless and dissatisfied poor. The model, therefore, seems to be useful in understanding a certain segment of the poor, but needs more development research. A longitudinal, primary data set, including psychological variables and refined operationalization of the learned helplessness concept would bring more detailed insight and practical implications. However, it could be shown that an individual attributing "failure" internally, and having opportunity to experience failure and uncontrollability, can enter the process of learning helplessness regardless of former achievements and value dispositions. Causality models to explain poverty should hence acknowledge both micro- and macro-level effects and thus result in more complex explanations and solutions than current models.
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