Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 44, Issue 9, pp 1803–1818 | Cite as

Locus of Control Orientation: Parents, Peers, and Place

  • Eileen M. Ahlin
  • Maria João Lobo Antunes
Empirical Research


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.


Locus of control Family management strategies Peers Neighborhood context Prosocial behavior 



We thank Roger J.R. Levesque and three anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on an earlier version of this article.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest in the research.

Author Contributions

EA conceived of the study, conducted statistical analyses, and participated in drafting the manuscript. JLA interpreted data, conducted statistical analyses, and participated in drafting the manuscript. Both authors contributed equally to the study design, and read and approved the final manuscript.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Criminal Justice Program, School of Public AffairsPenn State HarrisburgMiddletownUSA
  2. 2.Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Criminal JusticeTowson UniversityTowsonUSA

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