Locus of Control Orientation: Parents, Peers, and Place

Eileen M. Ahlin, Maria João Lobo Antunes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


An internal locus of control contributes to positive youth outcomes such as a general well-being and academic success, while also serving as a protective factor against exposure to community violence and reducing negative behaviors like violence. Despite these benefits, very little is known about antecedents of an internal locus of control orientation. Without an understanding of what factors contribute to the development of an internal locus of control, it is not clear how to best encourage its formation. This study uses data from the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods to examine whether various mesosystem variables (family management strategies, peer interactions, neighborhood context, and individual-level characteristics) are associated with an internal locus of control orientation among 1,076 youth ages 9–19 living in 78 Chicago neighborhoods. Study participants were Hispanic (46 %), African American (34 %), and White (15 %), and 50 % were female. The findings suggest that, while most levels of the mesosystem influence locus of control orientation, family management strategies are more prominent determinants of an internal locus of control than peers, neighborhood context, or individual characteristics. Parental supervision over the time a youth spends at home and family socioeconomic status are consistent predictors of an internal locus of control, while harsh discipline is associated with an external locus of control. The discussion examines the import of various parenting techniques in shaping an internal locus of control and considers future avenues for research to further unpack how antecedents of locus of control can vary across youth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1803-1818
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of youth and adolescence
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 8 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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