Theses Doctoral

Internal-External Locus of Control and Political Participation

Anisfeld, Leon Simon

The relationships and interactions of political participation and personal control are the focus of this study. Factor analyses indicate that both concepts are multi-dimensional in nature, political participation being defined by general and specific types of conventional participation and by general and specific types of radical participation, and the personal control dimension being defined by measures of individual vs. system blame, efficacy, and internal vs. external locus of control. A number of demographic factors are included so as to refine and broaden the results.

The major findings are as follows:

Internals attribute political outcomes to systemic factors, externals to individual effort: general conventional political activity is related to specific forms of conventional political activity and to general radical activity, but not to specific radical activity of boycott; intra-party activity is related to voting and extra-party activity but voting is not related to extra-party activity; lower economic status and external locus of control are related to participation in boycott; males are likely to engage in general radical activity, females in the specific radical boycott action; marrieds and those with more social work experience engaged in extra-party activity; locus of control and economic status are not related; where attribution of outcome is to system and efficacy is high, the score on general radical activity is low; where attribution is to individual effort, score on general radical activity is high when efficacy is high and locus is internal; boycott is engaged in most where economic status is high and locus is external, indicating that incongruity between economic status and locus may motivate participation in radical action. Participation in the boycott was also evident among those of lower economic status, especially where locus was external.

Externality and incongruity between economic status and sense of control thus seem to be motivating factors for engaging in radical political activity.

Internality seems to motive participation in conventional political action, especially where economic status was higher.

The study indicates quite clearly that locus of control must be defined in terms of the context within which the measure is taken, that the very definition of control depends upon the individual's belief that the attributes of a particular context either provide (internal locus of control) or do not provide (external locus of control) the opportunity for effecting outcomes within it. In this study, the contention is put forth that a need for control is a general motivating force for all individuals and that the individual will participate (politically, in this study) within those contexts that afford him the opportunity to believe in his or her sense of control. Where the individual believes that the extant political context offers an opportunity to exercise a belief in personal control, that individual may be said to be internal in locus of control. Where alternate political contexts have to be created or alternate (radical) political activities engaged in so that a sense of personal control is established, the individual engaging in those alternate activities may be said to be external in locus of control.

The various sub-specialties in social work will utilize the results of this study differently. It may be that political activity is affected by locus of control and/or vice versa, thereby making the results differentially useful to the policy planner and organizer and the casework practitioner. For each, as well as for the political and social scientist, the results of this study extend the concept of reward beyond the usual socio-economic one to include the personal control concept.


More About This Work

Academic Units
Social Work
Thesis Advisors
Whiteman, Martin
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 26, 2015