Locus of control orientation as a pre-existing schema in adults who are at high risk for child physical abuse
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Research has suggested that physically abusive and high-risk parents have different beliefs regarding their social environment than nonabusive and low-risk parents. For example, three studies have suggested that abusive and high-risk parents report having a more external locus of control orientation than nonabusive and low-risk parents. Although several researchers have hypothesized that cognitive differences between abusive and non-abusive parents pre-date parenting, few studies have systematically examined this assertion. The purpose of the present study was to examine locus o f control orientation and desire for control in a sample of high- and low-risk undergraduate nonparents. Locus o f control orientation was measured by Levenson's I. P, C scales and desire for control orientation was measured by Burger and Cooper?s Desire for Control Scale. It was hypothesized that the high-risk participants would report having a more external locus of control and a higher desire for control than low-risk participants. Participants were classified as high risk or low risk based upon their responses to the Childhood History Questionnaire, the Child Abuse Potential Inventory, and the Social Support Questionnaire. A total of 495 students participated in the study. From this sample, 14 participants who met the criteria for being high risk and 14 participants who met the criteria for being low risk were compared using ANOVA?s. The ABSTRACT risk groups were matched on gender, ethnicity, age, and socio-economic status of their family of origin. The results suggested that high-risk participants were significantly more likely to see powerful others, measured by the I. P. C scales, as a controlling force in their environment but were significantly less likely to report having a desire to control their environment compared to low-risk participants. In regression analyses for the total sample, measures o f external locus o f control, measures o f internal locus o f control, and measures o f desire for control significantly predicted abuse potential scores on the CAP. In conclusion, differences between high- and low-risk participants were in the expected direction with regard to the powerful others scale. With regard to the desire for control scale, differences between the risk groups were in the opposite direction of the study's hypothesis.