Helplessness in Early Childhood


What is the main research question in this article?

What are the prediction symptoms associated with depression and negative self-worth in early childhood?

Why does this question matter?

The question helps us understand helplessness in early childhood and also how to devise ways to minimize the risks of depression in children.

What is the main finding of one article the authors cite? Who are the authors of that paper?

Helplessness manifests through depressive symptoms and negative feelings of worth among kindergarten children. The authors were Burhan and Dweck.

What were the hypotheses of this paper?

Early development of helplessness has damaging implication for later adjustment, predominantly danger of depression and negative self-esteem.


Participants: How many of each gender? How old were they? 

The total number of participants whose data were complete was 235. One hundred and nineteen participants were boys while the girls were 116. The participants’ age range was between 5-6 years (Kistner et al. 2001).

Procedure: What did the authors do to answer their question?

The researchers conducted an assessment of children’s response to tasks in two sessions by administering puzzles for the children to solve. The puzzle was a jigsaw puzzle of famous imaginary characters or creatures. Each child had four puzzles to settle at a time of 2 minutes per puzzle (Kistner et al. 2001). The first three puzzles were unsolvable while the fourth was solvable. The researcher resorted to the five-face method to depict emotions ranging from very sad to very happy. A composite score was formed to reproduce young children’s propensities to respond weakly to challenges.


What did the authors find?

Based on the research, sex was found not significantly to relate to helplessness. Separate regression analyses (CDI scores, TRF ratings of anxious symptoms and GSW scores) were conducted to assess moderating effects of sex on the prediction of weakness outcome. In each study, sex and dependence merged scores got recorded on the initial step, and on the next level, sex and the communication of helplessness were entered. Sex and the interaction of helplessness did not expressively augment to the estimate of slightly the three result measures. In the nonappearance of controlling effects of sex, statistics for boys and girls were combined for the remaining analyses (Kistner et al. 2001). In another outcome, the intercorrelation of helplessness and self-perception was not significant when concurrently assessed in kindergarten. The results showed that helplessness did not aid as a marker for initial inclinations to report negatively about the person.

Did the findings support the author’s hypotheses? Why or why not?

The discoveries supported the researchers’ hypotheses as they showed that helplessness in nursery suggestively added to the estimate of each of the outcomes. Helplessness in kindergarten correlates with more depressive symptoms on the CDI, pr=.20, p< 05; more negative self-worth, pr=.23, p< 05 and higher teacher ratings of anxious or depressed symptoms, pr=.22, p< 05, five years later (Kistner et al. 2001).


What are some real-world consequences (or “implications”) of these findings?

The study results offer suggestions for further examination of the link between early emergence of helplessness and warrant for future adjustments. The outcome of the study can be better interpreted as evidence for the constancy of weakness rather than a prognostic association between the first emergence of powerlessness and later psychological alterations.

What do you think the authors could have done better? Provide a limitation of this study and a direction for future research.

The study intention of forecasting depressive symptoms and generalizing the conclusions to a clinically depressed populace would be inept. One is to note that the sinister connotation between helplessness in young children and future indications is not adequate to achieve a causal relation. Future research should be based on investigating the moderating properties of a validation-seeking goal on the connection between stress and bleak outcomes for children (Kistner et al. 2001).

How does this work compare to the group article you read and critique?  Briefly compare and contrast these papers, discussing how they are related and how they are different, as well as why both are important to your topic of interest.

Compared to other research articles, I find it hard to comprehend some aspects of the data from this study. There seem to be no criteria guiding, for example, how the teachers were to assess the 112-problem behaviors supposedly exhibited by the children. The requirements to follow up on all the participants throughout the five years of the study is also not elaborated. Similarly, there are a lot of inaccuracies especially concerning the number of participants. There is an initial number of 400 participants yet how it drops to 235 children is not clear (Kistner et al. 2001). Additionally, a total of 237 parents are said to have consented for their children to participate; thus, we are left to assume that the number directly corresponds to that of the children. Later, we have some 124 children who said to have been consented to participate when 12 of the children got dropped for incomplete responses. Therefore, some things are not clear.




Kistner, Janet, Dannah Ziegert, Rafael Castro, and Bruce Robertson. 2001. “Helplessness in Early Childhood: Prediction of Symptom Associated with Depression and Negative Self-Worth.” Merill-Palmer Quarterly, 336-354.