I made my way through the hallways, whilst nervously looking around me at the people passing by. I hate being new. Between having to make new friends and adjust to a different school setting, being the new kid is not easy. “Nadine Khalil”, the teacher called my name. “Why don’t you tell us a bit about yourself Nadine”, she continued, gesturing to the classroom. “Uhh hi everyone. I’m Nadine. I just moved here,” I hesitantly said. “Alright then, moving on to...” the teacher dragged on shortly after. We should have just stayed back home, where I belonged somewhere.
Nadine is not an uncommon character found in school. Others, like Nadine, struggle to find belonging. One of the largely discussed factors that have been associated with the sense of belonging is the locus of control. The concept of locus of control was developed by Julian Rotter. The psychological framework’s focal point determines the degree in which a person generally believes that their life’s outcomes are determined purely by their own actions and responsibilities, rather than other factors such as ‘fate’. Rotter categorized the locus of control into two main continuums, namely, internal and external control.
An individual with an external locus of control would generally blame external factors over their life’s outcomes such as divine intervention, poverty, and even unlikely other people’s interferences. In Nadine’s case, she seems to blame her family for putting her in an uncomfortable situation (being new). She believes that it is her family’s fault for letting her fail to gain a sense of belonging in the new environment. Therefore, Nadine is resorting to the external locus of control.
Enrolling in a new school provides students with an opportunity to cultivate new peer relations and strengthen interpersonal skills. In a case where Nadine would have chosen to internalize her locus of control, she may have secured a higher self-esteem when introducing herself to others, believing that it is her sole responsibility to acquire a sense of belonging or ‘fitting in’ in a new school setting. She is more likely to gain quality peer relationships if she believes that her outcome in the school is mostly run by her actions and interventions.
According to recent research, youth that believed in order to fit in, they must conform, are more likely to possess lower levels of social competence. These individuals are more prone to becoming bullies. Moreover, the participants in the research that displayed incongruity between their internal perception of self and their view of what others regard them as, are more likely to develop identity disparities. The feeling of loss of control due to external factors posits a regressive attitude when it comes to the ability to achieve.
When looking at the participants who displayed a higher level of social competency, they defined ‘fitting in’ as being able to communicate and work with others who are different from you. Therefore, these individuals believed that they have more control over their sense of belonging in school. Furthermore, the influence of the locus of control on an individual’s perception of obtaining peer acceptance, sheds light on the implications of attaining a higher degree of social competence in school-based interactions.
In the interest of gaining an internal locus of control, it is best to focus on what can be controlled in life. Beginning the process of gaining a perception of control over a person’s life initially requires recognizing the events and pieces in life that can be controlled. After understanding the primary point of the process, planning comes after. Taking initiative and becoming more action-oriented are some of the most crucial points to take into account when internalizing the locus of control.
It is within your hands to find your sense of belonging. Your actions and choices build the pathway and trajectory in your own life. It is important to find ways to cope with external factors that may seem to be out of your hands, however, it is in your best interest to mainly focus on the decisions that you have control over.
Kang, H., Chang, K., Chen, C. and Greenberger, E., 2013. Locus of Control and Peer Relationships Among Caucasian, Hispanic, Asian, and African American Adolescents. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 44(1), pp.184-194.
Schall, J., Wallace, T. and Chhuon, V., 2013. ‘Fitting in’ in high school: how adolescent belonging is influenced by locus of control beliefs. International Journal of Adolescence and Youth, 21(4), pp.462-475.
Tartakovsky, M., 2018. Cultivating An Internal Locus Of Control — And Why It's Crucial. [online] Psych Central. Available at: <https://psychcentral.com/blog/cultivating-an-internal-locus-of-control-and-why-its-crucial/> [Accessed 10 December 2020].