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Pedron, Sara; Schmaderer, Katharina; Murawski, Monika and Schwettmann, Lars (2021): The association between childhood socioeconomic status and adult health behavior: The role of locus of control. In: Social Science Research, Vol. 95, 102521

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The socioeconomic environment in childhood is a powerful determinant for health behavior in adulthood, subsequently influencing health outcomes. However, the underlying mechanisms are insufficiently understood. This study assesses locus of control (LOC) as a mediator linking childhood socioeconomic status (SES) with health behavior (smoking, regular alcohol consumption, unhealthy diet and low physical activity). Drawing on a representative sample from Germany (SOEP), we investigated these relations using structural equations modelling. Results show that externally oriented LOC explains up to 6% of the relationship between childhood SES and health behavior in adulthood, independently from adult SES. Stratification indicates that these results hold in women but not in men, in younger and middle-aged individuals but not in older ones. Hence, control beliefs play a modest yet significant role in shaping the socioeconomic gradient in health behavior and might have far-reaching consequences on how morbidity and mortality arise and persist across generations.

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