Beck Hopelessness Scale

Purpose: Designed to measure negative attitudes about the future.

Population: Ages 17 and over.

Score: A total scale score.

Time: (5-10) minutes.

Author: Aaron T. Beck.

Publisher: The Psychological Corporation.

Description: The Beck Hopelessness Scale (BHS) is a 20-item scale for measuring negative attitudes about the future. Beck originally developed this scale in order to predict who would commit suicide and who would not. The conceptual basis for the scale derives from the writings of the social psychologist Ezra Stotland.

Scoring: Scoring is straightforward; one simply adds up each of the items marked in the direction keyed for "hopelessness." Using the scoring template, one counts the number of blackened circles that show up under the circles on the template. The user bases his or her interpretation on the total scale score. The manual contains general cutoff guidelines, although the author recommends that cut-off scores should be based upon clinical decisions.

Reliability: The manual reports KR-20 coefficients (measures of the scale's internal consistency) ranging from .82 to .93. The manual states that when 21 patients with mixed diagnoses were tested at the Center for Cognitive Therapy both during an intake evaluation and 1 week later, before beginning their therapy, the correlation between their scores on the two occasions was .69. In another sample of patients from the Center for Cognitive Therapy (N = 99), the test-retest reliability over a 6-week span was .66. Both of these test-retest coefficients are statistically significant.

Validity: Concurrent validity. Beck examined the relationship between clinical ratings of hopelessness and BHS scores in two samples: a) 23 outpatients in a general medical practice and b) 62 hospitalized patients who had recently attempted suicide. In the general practice sample, the correlation between the BHS and the ratings of hopelessness was .74; in the suicide-attempt sample, it was .62.

Norms: The normative sample consisted of 294 psychiatric inpatients who had made recent suicide attempts. This sample included 125 men and 169 women. Of the total sample, 150 were white, 139 were black, and 5 belonged to other racial groups. The average age was 29.9 years. On average, the participants had finished 10.85 years of school. As to marital status, 41.5% were single, 17.3% were married, 31.6% were separated or divorced, 2.7% were widowed. and the rest were unmarried but living together or of unknown status.

Suggested Uses: The BHS is recommended for measuring extent of negative attitudes in clinical and research settings.