Are the early childhood antecedents of men's external locus of control similar to those of their female partners?

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Background: The concept of locus of control of reinforcement was introduced by Julian Rotter and has been the focus of intense research for nearly half a century.  Surprisingly little research has been directed at clarifying antecedents of locus of control (LOC) orientations in adult men apart from a few small studies. We previously identified a number of independent antecedents associated with women’s LOC, including features of their parents and early childhood. This raised the question as to whether these factors were also associated with the development of LOC in men.
Methods: To identify antecedents of LOC orientations in a representative population of women we previously analysed information concerning characteristics of their parents and their own childhood experiences using pregnant women taking part in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC).  Here we use the same design to determine whether their male partners have similar antecedents of LOC orientation. As previously, we use a hypothesis-free exposome technique using all available information on the parents and childhood of the individuals.
Results: We show that men had many of the same antecedent characteristics as the women – in particular, their mother’s year of birth and father’s social group, being exposed to cigarette smoke prenatally, starting to smoke regularly before the age of 11, and having a friend die were all associated with being external. Associations of internality common to both were warm maternal care, being breast fed, being born in an area other than that where they currently live, attending boarding school and having a parent admitted to hospital.
Conclusions: In general, the antecedents of male external and internal personalities have many similarities to those of women, thus providing some features to inform the possible theoretical background as to how LOC might develop over time.
Original languageEnglish
Article number28
Number of pages19
JournalWellcome Open Research
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2018


  • Locus of Control
  • men
  • childhood
  • prenatal smoking
  • parental influences
  • breast feeding
  • maternal warmth


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