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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2015  |  Volume : 20  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 16-21

Locus of control and its relationship with mental health and adjustment among adolescent females

1 Department of Psychology, University of Rajasthan, Jaipur, Rajasthan, India
2 Department of Amity Institute of Behavioral and Allied Sciences, Amity University, Jaipur, Rajasthan, India

Date of Web Publication8-Sep-2015

Correspondence Address:
Madhu Jain
Department of Psychology, University of Rajasthan, Jaipur - 302 004, Rajasthan
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0971-8990.164803

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Objective: There exists a plethora of researches which have identified the role of Locus of Control in maintaining sound mental health and adjustment. The present study examined the relationship of Locus of Control with Mental Health & overall Adjustment among adolescent females. Method: The participants consisted of 50 adolescent females. Mental Health Battery designed by Singh, Gupta (2000), Rotter's Locus of Control Scale (1966) & Adjustment Inventory for College Students by Sinha & Singh (1995) were administered. Findings: The findings of the study revealed that adolescent females who possess internal locus of control showed better mental health & overall adjustment pattern which includes home, social, emotional, educational domains and health adjustment domain than those who possess external locus of control. Conclusion: The study highlights the pervasive influence of internal & external locus of control on mental health & adjustment among adolescent females.

Keywords: Adjustment, adolescent females, locus of control, mental health

How to cite this article:
Jain M, Singh S. Locus of control and its relationship with mental health and adjustment among adolescent females. J Mental Health Hum Behav 2015;20:16-21

How to cite this URL:
Jain M, Singh S. Locus of control and its relationship with mental health and adjustment among adolescent females. J Mental Health Hum Behav [serial online] 2015 [cited 2023 Jun 5];20:16-21. Available from: https://www.jmhhb.org/text.asp?2015/20/1/16/164803

  Introduction Top

The transition to college is marked by complex challenges in academic, personal-emotional, and social adjustment (SA). Adolescents experience demands for coping skills and adaptations to an unprecedented rate of social change, multiple pressures, temptations, and perceived barriers to which they are compelled to respond and simultaneously to maintain a sense of self with intact boundaries and an emerging sense of presence and focus in the adult environment. [1] One psychological construct that may be useful in accounting for individual differences in the ability to adjust to university life is the locus of control. Locus of control is a personality construct based on Rotter's [2] social learning theory and refers to a person's attribution tendency regarding the cause or control of events, [3] and to the generalized expectancy that reinforcements are under personal control (Phares, 1976). [4] People who are prototypical externals do not perceive a reliable contingency between their behaviors and their outcomes. [5] These individuals generally believe that the rewards and punishments they incur vary with capricious, unstable forces such as luck or with the behaviors of powerful others. People who are prototypical internals perceive a reliable contingency between their behaviors and their outcomes.

Adolescents are often moved by external factors such as reward systems, grades evaluations, or the opinions they fear others might have of them. Nevertheless, adolescents frequently are motivated from within by interests, curiosity, and abiding values. These intrinsic motivations are not necessarily externally rewarded or supported but nonetheless they can sustain passions, creativity, and sustained efforts which are well-functioning attitudes. The interplay between the extrinsic forces acting on persons and the intrinsic motives and needs inherent in human nature is the territory of self-determination theory. [6]

A sequence of adjustment begins when a need is felt and ends when it is satisfied. Chickering and Schlossberg (1995) point out that students who are leaving high school, attending college full-time, and living on campus tend to experience the most dramatic adjustment. [7] Specific types of collegiate adjustment involve changes in roles, relationships, academic demands, and social demands.

Jeffery et al. [8] in their study found that the relationship between psychological factors and academic outcomes were strongest among first-generation students. Further, it was found that for the majority of the interactions with locus of control, first-generation status acted as a sensitizing factor that amplified both the positive and negative effects of locus of control. Regarding academic outcomes, in particular, internal locus of control strongly predicts better college adjustment among freshmen women [9] and is moderately associated with a higher grade point average (GPA). [10] Perceived academic control, a construct related to internal locus of control is associated with better college adjustment [11] and higher GPA [12] and has been found to be a better predictor of college grades than has self-esteem. Pascarella et al. [13] report numerous significant interactions between generational status and locus of control for academic success.

Fitch (1970) has reported a low but significant positive rank-order correlation between locus of control and self-esteem. Low self-esteem subjects tended to score as externals. [14]  Warehime and Foulds (1971) found a significant relationship between internality and self-actualization among college students since self-actualization is often construed as an indicator of personal adjustment, those results indicated that internal students had higher self-actualization than external students. More externality is associated with more problems in adjustment (Joe, 1971 and Phares, 1976). [15],[16]

When faced with adjustment problems adolescents often resort to maladaptive or unhealthy coping strategies to combat stress which in turn can make them more vulnerable to disorders and mental abnormalities. Before the second half of the 20 th century, mental health was considered as the absence of mental disease, but now it has been described in a more positive connotation, not merely as the absence of mental illness. Mental health has been mentioned as the ability of a person to balance one's desires and aspirations, to cope with life stresses, and to make the psychosocial adjustment. [17] Laddel (1950) has reported a sound mental health plays a pivotal role in promoting adequate adjustment to the environment. Mental health is the adjustment of human beings to the world and each other with a maximum of effectiveness and happiness. It is the ability to maintain an even temper, an alert intelligence, socially considerate behavior, and a happy disposition.

Mental health is about how a person thinks, feels, and acts when faced with life's situations. Mental health is how people look at themselves, their lives, and the other people in their lives, evaluate their challenges and problems and explore choices. This includes handling stress, relating to other people, and making decisions. Mentally healthy children and adolescents enjoy a positive quality of life; function well at home, in school, and in their communities; and are free of disabling symptoms of psychopathology. [18]

Adolescents are widely considered by the psychological establishment to be prone to recklessness and risk-taking behaviors, which can lead to substance abuse, car accidents, unsafe sex, and youth crime. These can be due to faulty adjustment pattern. There is a relationship among family environment, home adjustment, and academic achievement in adolescents. Family environment affects the adjustment and academic performance. Relationship with parents and peers can help in molding an individual's total personality. Though sometimes conflicts may arise and lead to maladjustments. In a study looking at depressed female adolescents who had attempted suicide, their attributional style was found to be a factor associated with irrational and depressed thinking. Specifically, the belief that all of one's positive traits were the result of chance happenings or the efforts of other people was found to be a characteristic thought process among the depressed portion of the sample. [19] Other studies have replicated this link between depression and an external attributional style for females. [20] Numerous researches have been done regarding various aspects of mental health and locus of control showing significant correlations between locus of control and the aspects of psychopathology. [21]

Given these findings, the present study explores the locus of control within an exclusively female sample, as this construct influences the behavior of female adolescents in various important ways. Studies on adolescents have found that their locus of control affects their mental health, and adolescent mental health is the best predictor of general mental health. Findings also suggest that there is a significant, positive, moderate relationship between the general health and locus of control scores. It can be assumed that adolescents might score low on mental health, which may expose them to adjustment problems, and thus they may score low on adjustment. On the other hand, if an adolescent has an internal locus of control, he/she may show good mental health and may score well on adjustment.

  Methods Top


The participants of the study were 50 adolescent girls chosen purposively, studying in different courses in Amity University Rajasthan, belonging to the upper middle class. The mean age of the sample was 19.5 years, and standard deviation (SD) was 1.37. Of 50, 25 with an internal locus of control and 25 with an external locus of control were included in the sample. Those having a neutral score on the locus of control (12) were excluded from the study and to reach the desired sample an appropriate number were included to replace such cases.


Rotter's locus of control

The test was developed by Julian Rotter. The test-retest reliability of the test ranged from 0.49 to 0.83. The test consists of 29 statements containing two options "a" and "b" each. The subject chooses amongst each of these statements, whichever he/she feels is more appropriate at the moment. A score of one is given to each statement as mentioned in the key, and the total score is obtained. A high score indicates an external locus of control and a low score indicates an internal locus of control. A score, which lies between 1 and 11, indicates the internal locus of control and 13-29 indicates the external locus of control. The median value, that is, 12 was taken as the cut-off score.

Mental health battery

The mental health battery (MHB) was developed by Singh and Gupta (2000). [22] It intends to assess the status of mental health of persons in the age range of 13-22 years. The test-retest reliability of MHB for all the six dimensions ranges between 0.767 and 0.876. The concurrent validity ranges between 0.673 and 0.823. This battery consists of six tests and has 130 questions in total, which were selected dimension-wise. The answers of items in each part are tallied with the answers given in the scoring key and given a score of + 1. If they don't tally, no score is given.

Adjustment inventory for college students

The adjustment inventory has been designed by Sinha and Singh (1995) for use with students of India. [23] The test seeks to segregate normal from poorly adjusted college students of all grades with respect to five areas of adjustment (home, health, social, emotional, educational). The test is helpful in screening poorly adjusted students who may need further psycho-diagnostic study and counseling. The inventory has been prepared in Hindi as well as in English and it has 102 items (home = 16, health = 16, social = 19, emotional = 31 and educational = 21). The test-retest reliability of the test is. 93, and in item analysis, validity coefficients were determined for each item by bi-serial correlation method and only those items were retained which yielded bi-serial correlation with the criteria, that is, total score and area score, significant at 0.001 level.

Statistical analysis

Mean and SD have been calculated for all variables. A t-test was applied to see whether there exist any significant differences in adjustment and mental health among those who possess internal and external locus of control. The median value was considered as a cut-off score for internality and externality. [24]

  Results and Discussion Top

The present study purports to examine the effect of locus of control on mental health and adjustment in adolescent females. During adolescence, a number of dramatic physical and cognitive changes occur. Since their personality is in the process of taking shape, adolescents are likely to develop an internal or external locus of control along with other psychological characteristics.

Students find ways to make this transition constructively and adapt to college, whereas others feel overwhelmed and unable to effectively meet the demands of their new roles. [25] A growing body of research suggests that psychological functioning is an important factor in predicting psychosocial adjustment to college. [26],[27],[28],[29],[30]

Adolescent girls who have shown an external locus of control thus have a tendency to attribute their success or failure to events or circumstances that are not under their voluntary control. As shown in [Table 1], this affects their mental health adversely, as they have scored low on mental health, as compared to those having an internal locus of control (t = 3.725, P < 0.05, 0.01). Adolescent psychiatric disorders have become more frequent and occur at an earlier age during their life span. [31] Despite this, child and adolescent psychiatry is still not gaining much interest [32] although behavioral problems among children and adolescents are on the increase in the developing countries. [32] Early-onset depression often persists, recurs and continues into adulthood, indicating that depression in youth may also predict more severe illness in adult life. Moreover, depression in children and adolescents is associated with increased risk of suicidal behaviors.
Table 1: Mental health of subjects with internal and external locus of control mental health

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As demonstrated by several research findings, if adjustment level of adolescents is not appropriate, then it may keep them from achieving optimum mental health. Abraham studied the relationship of psychosocial with mental health status. The results revealed that adjustment and other psychosocial factors (need for love, need for belongingness, need for acceptance etc.,) were related to the mental health status of the students.

A strong mental health consists of emotional stability, overall adjustment, autonomy, security, and a positive self-concept, which has been demonstrated by those showing an external locus of control. Locus of control correlates positively with the ability to cope with stress and negatively with various aspects of psychopathology including depression, anxiety, hostility, somatization, psychoticism, and interpersonal problems. In other words, these studies show that persons with a high internal locus of control are much more capable of coping with their problems than persons with a high external locus of control. Argan et al. [32] also reported the importance of self-esteem which is influenced by the locus of control in academic achievement, social functioning, and psychopathology among adolescents. It was also hypothesized that adolescent girls having an internal locus of control will differ significantly with regard to mental health as compared to those showing the external locus of control and vice versa. This hypothesis has been supported by our findings (t = 3.725, P < 0.05, 0.01) as shown in [Table 1].

Good mental health includes emotional stability. The individual experiences subjective stable feelings. These can have positive as well as negative values for the individual. Those with an internal locus of control have autonomy, that is, a stage of independence and self-determination in thinking. They experience less anxiety and insecurity, have a high sense of safety, confidence, freedom from fear, apprehension with respect to fulfilling one's present or future needs. He/she has a positive self-concept. Individual's attitudes and knowledge towards himself is good and also evaluates his/her achievements. The individual possess the good mental ability, and this helps the person in thinking rationally and in behaving purposefully in his/her environment.

It was hypothesized that adolescent females having an internal locus of control will differ significantly with regard to overall adjustment as compared to those who show an external locus of control. As seen in [Table 2], the analysis of data revealed that girls who have scored poorly on adjustment also show an external locus of control (t = 19.07, P < 0.05, 0.01). They show a greater belief in the fact that their life events are due to circumstances which they cannot control. As a result of which their overall adjustment pattern is not very effective.
Table 2: The overall adjustment of adolescent females with internal and external locus of control overall adjustment

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The results demonstrate that those who have shown an internal locus of control have better adjustment patterns and those who have an external locus of control have shown a significant difference with regard to adjustment, scoring poorly on adjustment as hypothesized.

Everyone has to make adjustments in the day-to-day lives, according to situational demands. Positive adjustment patterns help individuals in maintaining a healthy psychological state of mind. Adjustment includes domains such as home, health, social, emotional, and educational adjustments. As indicated by the results, there exists a linear relationship between locus of control and personal adjustment. [Table 3] shows those who possess external locus of control have scored poorly in the domain of home adjustment as compared to those having an internal locus of control (t = 9.163, P < 0.05, 0.01). Individuals with an internal locus of control tend to be well-adjusted toward their home surroundings.
Table 3: Different areas of adjustment of adolescent females with internal and external locus of control

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As demonstrated in [Table 3], in the health domain of adjustment, the score was (t = 3.624, P < 0.05, 0.01) which show that there is a significant difference between those with internal and external locus of control. The individuals who have good SA level are usually low and submissive; on the other hand, those with poor SA show aggressive behavior. Females with an internal locus of control have shown a positive relation with regard to SA as compared to those having an external locus of control (t = 9.738, P < 0.05, 0.01), as can be seen in [Table 3]. This shows that there is a significant difference between those with internal and external locus of control. Health beliefs that influence lifestyle behavior are complex but are usually acquired during childhood and adolescence. [33] Information preference is positively associated with decisional preference among individuals who believe their health is less dependent on influential others, that is, those who have internal rather than external health consciousness, or simply those not having external health locus of control. [34]

Results as demonstrated in [Table 3], indicate towards the fact that those having an internal locus of control are emotionally well-adjusted than those with an external locus of control (t = 11.776, P < 0.05, 0.01). There is a significant difference between the two groups. Those with an external locus of control are indicative of unstable emotional patterns and behaviors while those with an internal locus of control are more emotionally stable. Individuals who have an internal locus of control also show a keen interest in the educational activities. Those with an external locus of control, on the other hand, might be poorly adjusted towards their co-curricular programs (t = 14.407, P < 0.05, 0.01). There is a significant difference between the two groups. Research has shown that high school and college students with an internal locus of control have higher levels of career decision self-efficacy, higher career aspirations, greater career decidedness, and less career choice anxiety. [35],[36],[37] The mediating role of locus of control in the relation of career optimism and self-esteem to adaptability also adds to previous research by McArdle et al. [38] Hirschi, [39] and Patton Bartrum, and Creed. [40]

Hence, the findings support the hypothesis that adolescent females having an internal locus of control will differ significantly with regard to overall adjustment as compared to those with an external locus of control and vice versa.

  Conclusion Top

Hence, on the basis of results obtained, we can conclude that there is a significant difference between those who possess internal locus of control and those who show external locus of control with regard to locus of control, mental health, and overall adjustment. Internal locus of control helps individuals in maintaining good mental health and also plays a key role in helping them adjust well to the surrounding environment. The hypothesis that adolescent girls having an internal locus of control will differ significantly with regard to mental health as compared to those showing the external locus of control, and vice versa is supported by our findings. The hypothesis that adolescent girls having an internal locus of control will differ significantly with regard to adjustment as compared to those showing the external locus of control, and vice versa is supported by our findings.

The overall mental health scores were used in this study; for a more comprehensive analysis. An instrument which provides independent scores on various dimensions of mental health can be used in further studies on the same subject.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

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  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3]

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