Locus of control : daily variability within a stressful context

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Ryon, Holly Smith

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Research has established locus of control as a strong trait-level predictor of health and well-being and indicates that individuals with a greater sense of internal control benefit from healthier outcomes across a broad range of domains. To date, however, little research has investigated the potential malleability and state-level functioning of locus of control. Drawing from social learning theories, it was predicted that locus of control would vary on a daily basis and further that this variation would be influenced by daily hassles and anxiety. Additionally, an individual’s trait-level of internal locus of control was expected to moderate this association. The current study consists of 58 couples expecting their first child. Couples were asked to independently complete three weeks of daily diaries during their third trimester. Diaries assessed daily feelings of control, anxiety, and number of hassles encountered. Once reliable daily variation of locus of control was established, within-person analyses revealed a negative relationship such that on a day when an individual reported more anxiety or more hassles, that individual also reported feeling less control than on an average day. Further analyses revealed that an individual’s trait-level of internal control influenced this association such that, overall, those individuals with a higher trait-level of internality maintained higher levels of daily control in the face of hassles and anxiety. These findings extend prior research by providing a better understanding of locus of control and suggest important implications for efforts aimed at improving health and well-being.



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