Locus of Control and its Intergenerational Implications for Early Childhood Skill Formation


  • We are extremely grateful to all the families who took part in this study, the midwives for their help in recruiting them, and the whole ALSPAC team, which includes interviewers, computer and laboratory technicians, clerical workers, research scientists, volunteers, managers, receptionists and nurses. The UK Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust (grant ref: 092731) and the University of Bristol provide core support for ALSPAC. We also thank the US National Institute on Aging (grant R01AG040640) and the Economic and Social Research Council for their generous financial support. We also thank Esteban Aucejo, Marco Caliendo, Andrew Clark, Laure De Preux, Richard Layard, Steffen Pischke, participants at the RES conference and workshops at the University of Leuven, University of Melbourne and University of Surrey for providing useful comments on the draft. Usual disclaimers apply.


This article builds upon Cunha's (2015) subjective rationality model in which parents have a subjective belief about the impact of their investment on their children's early skill formation. We propose that this subjective belief is determined partly by locus of control (LOC), i.e. the extent to which individuals believe that their actions can influence future outcomes. Consistent with the theory, we show that maternal LOC measured at the 12th week of gestation strongly predicts maternal attitudes towards parenting style and actual time investments. We also utilise maternal LOC to improve the specification typically used to estimate skill production function parameters.