Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Depression in Battered Women: The Mediating Role of Learned Helplessness

Abstract

Learned helplessness (LH) may mediate the link between violence exposure and mental disorders in battered women. This study evaluated the contribution of LH to Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and major depression (MDD) in women with prolonged exposure to partner violence in 101 residents of shelters for battered women in Israel. DSM-IV axis-I disorders were assessed by a structured clinical interview. Self-report questionnaires evaluated exposure to violence, symptoms of PTSD and depression, LH, history of child abuse, SES and the extent of male-dominance and prejudice against women in the participants prior socialization background. LH significantly mediated the effect of violence on PTSD and depression symptoms. Male-dominated background contributed to LH. Thus, LH may increase the risk of mental disorders in battered women and should be addressed in interventions designed to reduce the burden of mental illness in this population.

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Acknowledgments

This study was supported in part by the Women’s Health research grant and Paramedical research grant from Hadassah Women’s Zionist Organization of America, and by a scholarship to the first author from the Israel Foundation Trustees and The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

We thank the women and staff at the shelters who took part in the study, and the shelters supervisory forum in the Israeli Ministry of Social Affairs for making this study possible.

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Correspondence to Neta Bargai.

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Bargai, N., Ben-Shakhar, G. & Shalev, A.Y. Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Depression in Battered Women: The Mediating Role of Learned Helplessness. J Fam Viol 22, 267–275 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10896-007-9078-y

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Keywords

  • Learned helplessness
  • PTSD
  • Depression
  • Battered women