Psychological Reports, 1979, 45, 835-838. @ Psychological Reports 1979
LOCUS OF CONTROL A N D DEPRESSION AMONG PSYCHIATRIC INPATIENTS JACK LEGGETT University of South Florida
ROBERT P. ARCHER1 Florida Mental Health Institute
Summary.-This study examined the relationship between locus of control and two depression measures in a sample of 45 male and 38 female psychiatric inpatients. Correlational analysis showed significant relationships between greater externality and higher depression scores for both depression measures. Also, significant sex differences were identified such that higher magnitude correlation coefficients were found for male patients. N o significant relationships were found between locus of control orientation at admission and changes in depression as a function of treatment. Results were discussed in terms of "learned helplessness" models of depression and traditional cultural sex roles.
The present study examined the relationship between locus of control and two measures of depression among psychiatric inpatients. The locus of control construct has been defined as the degree to which an individual maintains a generalized expectancy to exercise internal or personal control over important reinforcers in their life (internally oriented) or perceives these contingencies as externally controlled (Rotter, 1966). Greater externality has been related to higher levels of psychopathology in reviews by Lefcourt (1976) and Strickland ( 1978). The specific nature of the relationship between locus of control and depression, however, has remained obscure. Significant relationships between greater externality and higher depression levels has been found in investigations of college students (Abramowitz, 1969), psychiatric outpatients (Becker & Lesiak, 1977), alcoholics (Donovan, Radford, Chaney, & O'Leary, 1977), army recruits (Naditch, Gargan, & Michael, 1975), and the aged (Hanes & Wild, 1977). There have, however, been several reports of negative findings between these variables (Evans & Dinning, 1978; Rosenbaum & Raz, 1977). In particular, research by Evans and Dinning (1978) among male and female psychiatric inpatients showed I-E Scale scores were unrelated to Beck Depression Inventory responses. Further, Rotter ( 1975) has contended that both extreme external and internal scores on the I-E Scale may be related to greater psychopathology on measures such as depression. Finally, among studies showing significant relationships benveen externality and greater depression, several researchers have reported stronger associations for male respondents (Fogg, Kohaut, & Gayton, 1977; Hanes & Wild, 1977). 'Requests for reprints may be sent to Robert P. Archer, Ph.D., Florida Mental Healtll Institute, 13301 N. 30th St., Tampa. FL 33612.
J. LEGGETT & R. P. ARCHER
METHOD Subjects Subjects were 45 male and 38 female patients admitted for residential treatment on the Early Intervention Project of the Florida Mental Health Institute. The 83 subjects represented consecutive admissions to the program between March, 1978 and October, 1978. All patients had received less than 4 mo. of total prior hospitalization and approximately 50% were first admissions to residential treatment. Patients were not admitted for treatment with diagnoses of organic brain damage, drug, or alcohol addiction or mental retardation. Approximately 54% of this sample was diagnosed as psychotic by a board eligible staff psychiatrist, 3 1% received neurotic classifications, and 16% were diagnosed as character disordered. The mean age of patients was 26.55 yr., with a mean educational level of 11.95 yr. Mean Verbal and Abstract Shipley Institute for Living Scale raw scores for the sample was 27.32 and 21.85 respectively. There were no significant differences between male and female patients with regard to diagnosis, age, education, or intelligence. Procedure
All patients were administered,the Beck Depression Inventory (Beck, Ward, Mendelson, Mock, & Erbaugh, 1961), the Rotter Locus of Control (I-E) Scale (Rotter, 1966) and the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) Depression Scale (Hathaway & McKinley, 1948) within 72 hours of their admission. Following 6 wk. of treatment in the highly structured behavioral token economy program which employed skills training groups in such areas as communication, assertion and problem solving, all subjects were readministered the depression inventory and MMPI Depression Scale. RESULTS The correlations between I-E Scale scores and MMPI Depression Scale pretest scores were .38 for the total sample, .46 for males, and .29 for females. The difference in the magnitudes of correlation between males and females was significant ( Z = 1.97, p < . O 5 ) . The correlations between scores on the I-E Scale and pretest scores on the Beck inventory were .40 for the total sample, .52 for males and .26 for females. A comparison of these correlation coefficients for males and females was also significant ( Z = 3.23, p < .001). Tests for nonlinearity in the relation between I-E scores and each of the depression scores was performed by polynomial regression including a quadratic term in I-E scores. The F to leave for the quadratic term was nonsignificant for both the MMPI Depression Scale ( F l , s 2 = 3 1 , fi > SO) and the Be& Depression Inventory ( F I , ~ ?= .01,p > 50). t tests for repeated measures were performed on pre- and post-scores for both depression measures. The pretest mean of 29.19 on the W I Depression
LOCUS OF CONTROL AND DEPRESSION
Scale decreased significantly to a posttest mean of 24.73 ( t = 5.52, df = 82, < .001). Similarly, contrasting the Beck pretest mean of 18.82 with the posttest mean score of 15.42 produced a significant difference ( t = 2.10, df = 82, p < .Or). To examine the degree to which pre-I-E Scale scores were associated with changes in depression, correlations were performed between preI-E scores and MMPI Depression Scale change scores ( r = -.12, p > .05) and for I-E and Beck change scores ( r = .04, p > .05).
DISCUSSION Findings from the I-E Scale and both measures of depression clearly indicate significant relationships between greater externality and higher levels of depression. There was no support in the current data for the type of curvilinear relationship suggested by Rotter ( 1975 ) . A conceptualization of depression as a form of "learned helplessness" has recently been formulated and may be explored as a way to account for the present data ( ~ e l i ~ m a 1975). n, Briefly, this view suggests that depression results when the individual ,perceives noncontingency between personal responses and valued outcomes. The individual, having perceived his helplessness, then exhibits the behaviors (or lack of adaptive behaviors) commonly known as depression. Thus, the learned helplessness theory of depression clearly attributes the individual's perceptions of control as central to the experience of depression. Since the direction of causality cannot be inferred from correlational data, however, it is also possible that increased levels of depression may serve to shift the individual's locus of control to a more external orientation. Thus, externality may be a reflection of the individual's feelings of helplessness and pessimism. A point-by-point analysis is needed. Findings from separate correlations between I-E and depression measures by sex of patient, consistent with prior results (Fogg, Kohaut, & Gayton, 1977; Hanes & Wild, 1977), show stronger relationships between externality and depression for males. This observation could be attributable to differences in the traditional cultural sex roles in which males are expected to exercise more personal control over events than females. In this view, therefore, males would be expected to be more strongly distressed by the perception of control by external forces. Finally, while results from both depression measures demonstrated significant reductions in depression as a function of treatment, these changes were essentially unrelated to subjects' locus of control orientation on admission. It is possible, however, that had the locus of control measure been readministered following treatment, changes in I-E orientation might have been correlated with changes in depression. In summary, current results indicate that externality is significantly related to higher levels of depression among psychiatric inpatients. Further, this rela-
tionship is m o r e pronounced a m o n g male clients. Research should e x a m i n e data
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Accepted October 23, 1979.