National Clearinghouse on Homeless Youth and Families

Perceptions of Learned Helplessness Among Emerging Adults Aging Out of Foster Care

Gomez, R.J.,
Ryan, T.N.,
Norton, C.L.,
Jones, C.,
Galán-Cisneros, P.
Year Published: 2015
Journal Article
Journal Name: 
Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal
Volume: 32

Issue: 6

This journal article describes a participatory action research (PAR) study that questioned whether learned helplessness plays a role in the poor outcomes experienced by emerging adults (ages 18 to 25) who age out of foster care and how policies for this population may impact learned helplessness. Research has consistently documented that emerging adults transitioning from foster care into adulthood experience deficits in achieving milestones associated with successful transition to adulthood. These deficits include difficulties in the areas of health, mental health, education, employment, housing, and relationships. The researchers analyzed data from focus group discussions and semi-structured interviews with homeless emerging adults, including a subset who aged out of foster care, for the presence of learned helplessness. Findings indicate participants who aged out of foster care reported a perception of learned helplessness. These participants discussed concerns about how the child welfare system may inhibit youth in developing self-efficacy, motivation, and the belief that they can affect future events. The researchers concluded that this PAR study offers client-driven feedback for ways the foster care system can better address the developmental needs of emerging adults. (author abstract modified)

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