Locus of control refers a person’s perception of control or responsibility for his own life and actions. People who view the world as the primary contributor to their life situations and believe forces outside of themselves are responsible for their misfortunes or success subscribe to an exterior locus of control. Those who view their life and destiny as a result of their own doing subscribe to an interior locus of control.
Interior locus of control develops slowly throughout the life span. Young children blame others for their own shortcomings or errors and see the world as a controlling force that dictates their lives and happiness. A vague understanding of their own power begins to form in the early elementary years, but wanes rapidly during adolescence. Teenagers are notorious for attributing control of their own lives to the outside world and often perceive themselves as powerless victims of their circumstances. Rebellion, common during the adolescent years, may reflect their struggle with developing an interior locus of control. By the twenties, healthy individuals begin to transition to an interior locus of control as their primary focus and reach a better understanding of how they control the world around them.
Children and adults with ADHD, learning disabilities or other behavior altering conditions seem doomed to viewing the world as the controlling force in their lives. Refusal to accept responsibility for their own actions, making excuses for their own behavior and blaming other people and circumstances for their failures or difficulties reflects their primary view of an exterior locus of control.
Responsible adults adopt an interior locus of control and make the necessary changes to alter life circumstances and to reach personal goals. Those with an interior locus of control achieve more in less time because they view their efforts as vital to achieving goals and assume the responsibility of their own lives. The transition from exterior locus of control to interior locus of control poses difficulties for some individuals who have learned to see the world as the primary contributor to their future. Lack of confidence or poorly developed life skills may interfere with their ability to view the world or themselves from another point of view.
Well-meaning adults anxious to shield their children from the harsh realities of the outside world may shelter their children and hinder their ability to develop an interior locus of control. Assuming the teacher is always wrong, that other children are always at fault and that life has shortchanged them encourages children to view themselves as powerless beings unable to exert any control over their own lives or happiness. Conversely, overly dominate and restrictive parenting practices may curtail the child’s choices forcing him to accept the controlling hand of parents and other adults with little room for individual choices and decisions. The child may feel powerless to change his own life and remain focused on the world as the exterior locus of control.
Developing an interior locus of control requires maturity and a healthy balanced life allowing the individual to make decisions and experience the rewards of positive choices as well as suffer the consequences of poor choices.