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Maternal locus of control in pregnancy and reading and spelling abilities of the offspring: A longitudinal birth cohort study

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Article number3094
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
DateAccepted/In press - 31 Dec 2019
DatePublished (current) - 22 Jan 2020


Maternal locus of control (LOC) as measured in pregnancy has been shown to be associated with parenting attitudes and behaviors as well as with children’s comprehension of mathematical and scientific concepts. The present study evaluates whether the child’s emergent literacy skills are similarly associated with maternal LOC: i.e. do children of prenatally externally-oriented mothers perform less well on literacy tasks compared with their peers whose mothers are prenatally internally-oriented. Prenatal measures collected within a UK birth cohort (ALSPAC) including a maternal LOC measure together with behavior and lifestyle details were analyzed. Later in childhood, offspring at ages 7 and 9 were tested by ALSPAC for spelling, phoneme awareness, reading comprehension, speed and accuracy.

All achievement test scores showed a deficit among children of prenatally externally-oriented mothers as compared to children of internally controlled women. Further analysis found that differences in diet, lifestyle and mother/child activities mediated approximately 60% of the deficit between children of external and internal mothers. A sensitivity analysis using national reading test results demonstrated similar results with these children. If further research confirms a causal relationship, programs to increase internality in adolescent girls or newly pregnant women may result in long-term benefits to their future offspring.

    Structured keywords

  • Bristol Population Health Science Institute

    Research areas

  • maternal locus of control, Literacy, reading, spelling, maternal parenting, longitudinal cohort study, ALSPAC

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    Licence: CC BY


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