Culture, Class, and
Learned Helplessness:
Recognizing Our Own Issues
and Frustrations
presented by
Keith A. Bailey, Ph.D.
Keith Bailey Consulting
[email protected]
Copyright © 2006 by Keith A. Bailey
How many times have you
heard, thought, or said:
 “Why
won’t they just try harder?”
 “He’s just given up?”
 “She just doesn’t want to be helped!”
 “Why should I keep helping them when
they won’t help themselves?”
This leads to:
We will think about:
 Culture
 Class
 Middle-class
 Learned helplessness
 Recognizing our issues and frustrations
 What we can do
What makes up a Culture?
Socio-economic Background
 Education
 Salary
 Job
How do we assess people by
Credit lines
 Disposable income
 Vacations
 When to start work
or retire
 How many
 How safe is it
paychecks they are
from homelessness
 Physical and mental
(Kliman & Madsen)
 Ethnicity
 Religion
 Sexual orientation
 Where they live
 Business Owning
 Professional/
 Working Class
 Underclass
(Kliman & Madsen)
The Middle Class Mindset
 Just
World Theory
 “You
 The
get what you deserve.”
American Dream
 “If
you just work hard enough, you can be
anything you want to be.”
 An
Internal Locus of Control
Learned Helplessness
 There
 “I’ll
 No
Is No Justice
get a bad deal no matter what I do.”
 “Why
work at it; it’s not going to get any
 External
Locus of Control
Learned Helplessness
 Seligman’s
experiments with dogs
Learned Helplessness
 Motivational
 Cognitive Deficit
 Emotional Deficit
Children and
Learned Helplessness
 Abuse
 Can
associate old events with new
 Attribution of failure made to self rather
than the circumstances
 Personal helplessness
 Universal helplessness
 Learned
helplessness can lead to
Learned helplessness
leads to
Helplessness can be
 Seligman’s
 We
dogs …
… the rest of the story.
can help our children and families
unlearn helplessness by helping them to
succeed and gain control in their lives.
But first …
 …we
have to remember that our own
class background will color our view of
those with whom we work
But first …
 …we
have to understand our mindsets
as opposed to theirs … and be
sympathetic (understanding) or even
empathetic (sharing of feelings).
 “…we
must … fit our understanding to
[children and] families rather than fitting
[children and] families to our
(Kliman & Madsen)
“The poor and lower classes, because of
their lack of resources and power, often
are unable to manage stressful events
will, and thus remain highly vulnerable
as they depend on the coping strategies
of passive acceptance or fatalism
simply because
these are all they have.”
(Pauline Boss)
Then …
 … we have to deal with our frustrations and
not give up on them, too.
Vent to a peer or supervisor
 Be patient and persistent
 Problem solve
 Be patient
 Seek guidance
 Be persistent
 Pray or meditate …
 …to develop the patience of a saint
But …
don’t give up.
Because they need …
Help and Hope
 Regain
[or gain] self-esteem in self or
family member and pride in themselves
or in the family as a team
 Regain
control over what happens to
themselves or to the family members,
individually and as a group.
(Pauline Boss)
Help and Hope
 Make
some bit of sense out of what
happened by finding some meaning in
what happened.
 Share
with others while actively working
to prevent it from happening again.
(Pauline Boss)
Help and Hope
 Set
them up to succeed
 Point
out and praise every success,
no matter how small.
What are your successes in
helping others to succeed?
You are the
embodiment of hope
for someone.
Boss, P. (1988). Family stress manamement. Newbury Park, CA:
Sage Press.
Kliman, J. & Madsen, W. (1999). Social class and the family life
cycle. In B. Carter & M McGoldrick (Eds.), The expanded family
life cycle: Individual, family and social perspectives (pp. 88105). Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
Martin E.P. Seligman, et al. Learned helplessness: A theory for the
age of personal control.

Culture, Class, and Learned Helplessness: