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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Depressive attributional style and depression following childbirth Manly, Patricia Colleen


The reformulated learned helplessness model posits that individuals who make internal, stable and global attributions for undesired outcomes are more likely than others to become depressed when faced with important life events that are perceived as uncontrollable. Seligman, Abramson, Semmel and von Baeyer (1979) found significant correlations between attributional style and concurrent measures of depression in a sample of college undergraduates. The purpose of the present study was to address two questions arising from the Seligman et al. study within the context of the event of childbirth. The first question was whether the relationship between depressive attributional style and concurrent depression found in college undergraduates could be extended to women anticipating the birth of their first child. The second question was whether depressive attributional style would have predictive utility with this group, that is, whether women's prenatal attributional style would be predictive of depression in the first week postpartum. The results provide neglible support for the notion of depressive attributional style as defined by the reformulated learned helplessness hypothesis. Although this study was not designed to test hypotheses based upon any other model of depression, the findings were consistent with Beck's (1967) formulation. Several alternative explanations for the discrepancy between the present findings and those reported by Seligman et al. are discussed. Notably, 17% of this relatively homogeneous sample of primiparous women reported depression of clinical severity during the first week postpartum.

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