Posttraumatic stress disorder and depression in battered women: The mediating role of learned helplessness

Neta Bargai, Gershon Ben-Shakhar, Arieh Y. Shalev

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)267-275
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Family Violence
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jul 2007
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
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.

Copyright 2008 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Battered women
  • Depression
  • Learned helplessness
  • PTSD


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