Children’s Sense of Control as a Determinant of Adult Health: Causation, Mediation, and Spuriousness

Katsuya Oi, Duane F. Alwin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Previous research suggests higher levels of education instill a greater sense of internal control that promotes health in adulthood. We propose that the sense of control has its origins in early childhood and that prior research has possibly misattributed a mediational role to sense of control in adulthood. Using a conceptual framework that includes these early influences, we employ data from the 1970 British Cohort Study (N = 9,855), examining the extent to which the association between education and adult health is spurious due to these early childhood factors. We find that the internal sense of control as assessed in childhood and adolescence has profound influences on both education and health in early adulthood and that a substantial portion of the latter association is spurious. We conclude that the sense of control is an important health-related factor originating early in life, influencing both health and education later in adulthood.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)198-216
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Health and Social Behavior
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • British Cohort Study
  • early childhood
  • education
  • health
  • sense of control

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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