The mid-childhood and adolescent antecedents of women's external locus of control orientation

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Background: External locus of control orientation (ELOC) is a powerful predictor of adverse consequences in regard to health, educational attainment, inter-personal relationships and well-being. Although many cross-sectional studies have been carried out, relatively little is known about antecedent factors influencing the development of ELOC.

Methods: Over 12,000 pregnant women who enrolled in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) in south-west England, had completed a brief version of the Adult Nowicki-Strickland Internal-External LOC scale, together with detailed questions concerning their own parents and childhood. A series of hypothesis-free structured backwards stepwise logistic regression analyses used an exposome approach with ELOC as the outcome.

Results: Significant positive associations were found with smoking of the parents of the surveyed women, including prenatal exposure, and their own onset of regular smoking in mid-childhood (6-11 years). Increased odds of ELOC were also found with the absence of their fathers in early childhood, presence of older siblings, and with being born and brought up in the same area as they resided in at the time surveyed. Protective influences in the surveyed women included positive rating of their mother’s care, having a relatively educated mother, attending boarding school, their own age (the older they were, the less likely were they to have an external orientation), having a mentally ill parent, a sibling hospitalized or a relative die.

Conclusions: There are two conclusions: (i) that not all stressful events contribute to the development of ELOC and it would be essential for models of antecedents of ELOC to take note of this complexity, and (ii) there are consistent (albeit unexpected) findings that highlight associations with cigarette smoke exposure of the woman from fetal life through to when starting to smoke regularly herself in mid-childhood. It is important that these findings are tested in other populations.
Original languageEnglish
Article number53
Number of pages10
JournalWellcome Open Research
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jul 2017


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