External Locus of Control Linked to Childhood Overindulgence

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August de Richelieu/Pexels

Source: August de Richelieu/Pexels

In 1954, psychologist Julian B. Rotter proposed the concept of locus of control. He said it contained two ends of a continuum. On one end of the continuum is the internal locus of control. On the other end is external locus of control. Since its inception, a significant body of supporting research has been generated supporting the concept of locus of control.

People with an internal locus of control believe they are in control of their lives and the events they find themselves in. Their abilities and hard work lead them to positive outcomes.

Those with an external locus of control believe they are not in control of their lives. External factors such as other people, luck, fate, and chance are responsible for the things that happen to them. They feel there is little they can do to change the outcome of their lives.

Parental Locus of Control

In 1986, Campis, Lyman, and Prentice-Dunn extended the concept of locus of control to parenting. They created the Parental Locus of Control Scale.

“Parents with external locus of control tend to ascribe their children’s development to forces outside of their control, while parents with internal locus of control credit their children’s development to their own parenting efforts” (Freed and Thompson, 2011, p. 1100).

Parents with an external locus of control feel they can do little to control or influence their child’s behavior and do not feel responsible for it, whereas parents with an internal locus of control feel the opposite. They tend to set expectations for their children and help them meet them.

Overindulging Children

According to the work of Clarke and colleagues, “Overindulging children is giving them too much of what looks good, too soon, and for too long. It is giving them things or experiences that are not appropriate for their age or their interests and talents. It is the process of giving things to children to meet the adult’s needs, not the child’s” (2014). There are three types of childhood overindulgence

  1. Too Much
  2. Overnurturing
  3. Soft Structure

Overindulgent parents inundate their children with resources like material wealth, time, attention, and experiences. Additionally, they often fail to expect responsible behavior that is commensurate with the child’s developmental age. If you were overindulged as a child, what kind of parent would you grow up to be?

The Link Between Parental Locus of Control and Childhood Overindulgence

Phil Nguyen/Pexels

Source: Phil Nguyen/Pexels

Our research hypothesized that children who were overindulged would become parents who have an external locus of control (2003). Parents who have an external locus of control believe that external forces such as luck, chance, or fate influence their children more than anything they, as a parent, can do.

To test the hypothesis, we recruited 348 parents (89.7 percent mothers, 10.3 percent fathers). The participants completed five psychological scales, including the Parental Locus of Control Scale (Campis and colleagues, 1986), the Parental Overindulgence Scale, and the Indicators of Overindulgence Scale (me and my colleagues, 2002). Participants’ scores from the scales were analyzed, and we found a significant positive correlation between childhood overindulgence and external parental locus of control. In other words, the more these parents were overindulged as children, the more out of control they felt as parents.

Parents who were overindulged as children:

  • Hold ineffective parenting beliefs overall
  • Think their child controls their lives
  • Believe they are ineffective parents
  • Believe they have little control over their children
  • Believe in fate or chance when it comes to parenting
  • As predicted, do not believe they are responsible for their children’s behavior.

Locus of Control Essential Reads

Top 10 Parental Locus of Control Beliefs Associated with Childhood Overindulgence

  1. I feel like what happens in my life is mostly determined by my child
  2. My life is chiefly controlled by my child
  3. My child usually gets his or her own way, so why try?
  4. I allow my child to get away with things
  5. It is often easier to let my child have his or her own way than to put up with the tantrum
  6. Neither my child nor myself is responsible for his or her behavior
  7. I have often found that when it comes to my children, what is going to happen will happen
  8. My child influences the number of friends I have
  9. To have my plans work, I make sure they fit in with the desires of my child
  10. When something goes wrong between me and my child, there is little I can do to correct it.

Practice aloha: Do all things with love, grace, and gratitude.

© 2023 David J. Bredehoft.

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