Locus of control as a predictor of students dropping out of high school

Susan R Chacko, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Education is related to health. In cross-sectional data, education level has been associated with physical functioning. Also, lower levels of education have been associated with health behaviors including smoking, alcohol use, and greater body weight. In school, students may benefit from greater exposed to health-related messages, while students who have dropped out may be more susceptible to influences regarding negative health behaviors such as smoking. Improved school retention might improve long-term health outcomes. However, there is limited evidence regarding modifiable factors that predict likelihood of dropping out. Two likely psychosocial measures are locus of control and parent-child academic conversations. In the current study, data from two waves of a population-based longitudinal survey, the National Education Longitudinal Survey, were utilized to evaluate whether these two psychosocial measures could predict likelihood of dropping out, for students (n = 16,749) in tenth grade at 1990, with dropout status determined at 1992, while controlling for recognized sociodemographic predictors including parental income, parental education level, race/ethnicity, and sex. Locus of control was measured with the Pearlin Mastery Scale, and parent-child academic conversations were measured by three questions concerning course selection at school, school activities and events, and things the student studied in class. In a logistic regression model, with the sociodemographic control measures entered in a first step before entry of the psychosocial measures in a second step, this study determined that lower levels of locus of control were associated with greater likelihood of dropping out after two years (odds ratio (OR) = 1.11, 95% confidence interval (CI) 108 to 1.15, p < .001), and two of the three parent-child academic discussion items were associated with greater likelihood of dropping out after two years (OR = 1.69, CI 1.48-1.93, p < .001; OR = 1.22, CI 1.05-1.41, p = .01; OR = 1.01, CI .88-1.15, p = .94). It is possible that interventions aimed at improving locus of control, and aimed at building parent-child academic conversations, could lower the likelihood of students dropping out, and this in turn could yield improved heath behaviors and health status in the child's future.

Subject Area

Secondary education|Public health|Developmental psychology

Recommended Citation

Chacko, Susan R, "Locus of control as a predictor of students dropping out of high school" (2007). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI1447078.