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Rich kids feel more control over their lives, study finds

Your parent’s income may have a determining factor in how much control you feel over your life later on, according to a new study.

Dara Shifrer, a sociology professor at Portland State University, conducted the research and found that the higher a family’s income, the greater a child’s internal locus of control was.

Her findings were recently published in the journal Society and Mental Health.

Locus of control is the degree to which people feel control or agency over their lives. For example, someone with a low locus of control may constantly feel at the mercy of fate or other people. Those who do feel control over their lives understand that their future is mostly their own making.

Shifrer’s research explains the role that wealth plays in internal control as children from higher income families typically have a higher education, better access to healthcare, and more successful careers.

For her research, Shifrer collected data from the National Education Longitudinal Study from 1988 through 1990.

Survey responses from 16,450 eighth graders in the United States were reviewed for the study, and Shifrer focused on different measures of socioeconomic status to better understand which had the greatest influence on locus of control.

Some of the measurements of socioeconomic status included family income, parent’s occupation, parents race, and education.

Having a higher family income was linked to an internal locus of control for the children because there were more opportunities afforded them.

According to Shifrer, parents with higher income discussed school more with their children, there were more resources and books in the home, the children typically got better grades and felt safer at school compared to families with low socioeconomic status.

“We know income shapes the way people parent, shapes the peers that kids have, shapes the schools they attend,” said Shifrer. “It’s not just kids’ perception — their lives are a little bit more out of control when they’re poor.”

What’s unfortunate is that the children who most need to feel control over their lives lack a crucial foundation to do so.

The research could aid in future studies that examine the influencing factors behind child development.

By Kay Vandette, Staff Writer

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