Exposure to socioeconomic adversity in early life and risk of depression at 18 years: The mediating role of locus of control

Iryna Culpin, Lexine A Stapinski, Omur Miles, Ricardo Araya, Carol J Joinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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Previous studies have linked exposure to early socioeconomic adversity to depression, but the mechanisms of this association are not well understood. Locus of control (LoC), an individual's control-related beliefs, has been implicated as a possible mechanism, however, longitudinal evidence to support this is lacking.


The study sample comprised 8803 participants from a UK cohort, the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC). Indicators of early socioeconomic adversity were collected from the antenatal period to 5 years and modelled as a latent factor. Depression was assessed using the Clinical Interview Schedule-Revised (CIS-R) at 18 years. LoC was assessed with the Nowicki–Strickland Internal–External (CNSIE) scale at 16 years.


Using structural equation modelling, we found that 34% of the total estimated association between early socioeconomic adversity and depression at 18 years was explained by external LoC at 16 years. There was weak evidence of a direct pathway from early socioeconomic adversity to depression after accounting for the indirect effect via external locus of control. Socioeconomic adversity was associated with more external LoC, which, in turn, was associated with depression.


Attrition may have led to an underestimation of the direct and indirect effect sizes in the complete case analysis.


Results suggest that external LoC in adolescence is one of the factors mediating the link between early adversity and depression at 18 years. Cognitive interventions that seek to modify maladaptive control beliefs in adolescence may be effective in reducing risk of depression following early life adversity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)269-278
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Early online date20 May 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2015

Bibliographical note

Date of Acceptance: 12/05/2015


  • Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC)
  • Early childhood
  • Socioeconomic activity
  • Depression
  • Locus of control


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