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Maternal Self-Efficacy: Illusory Control and Its Effect on Susceptibility to Learned Helplessness

Wilberta L. Donovan, Lewis A. Leavitt and Reghan O. Walsh
Child Development
Vol. 61, No. 5 (Oct., 1990), pp. 1638-1647
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Society for Research in Child Development
DOI: 10.2307/1130771
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1130771
Page Count: 10
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Maternal Self-Efficacy: Illusory Control and Its Effect on Susceptibility to Learned Helplessness
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Abstract

66 mothers of 5-month-old infants participated in 2 simulated child-care tasks to examine differences in response to the performance demands of child care. Mothers first participated in a task in which they estimated their perception of control over stopping an audiotaped infant cry (illusion of control). 1 week later, they participated in another task to assess their ability to learn effective responses in stopping the cry (susceptibility to learned helplessness). Mothers with a high illusion of control differed from mothers with low or moderate illusory control by showing increased susceptibility to helplessness. Physiologically, mothers with low and moderate illusory control showed attenuated and "attentive" heart-rate responses to the impending cry, respectively. Mothers with high illusory control were "inattentive," with mothers of difficult infants in that group responding "defensively." Our data suggest that high illusion of control may be a maladaptive response to the performance demands of child care.

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