Annamaria Cavaleri ‘22
A recent longitudinal study, conducted at the University of Bristol, suggests that having a positive attitude during pregnancy has a strong impact on child development later in life. Researchers used data from Bristol’s “Children of the 90s” study, which involved a questionnaire given to over 1600 pregnant women. The researchers also administered specially designed tests to study the mathematical and scientific problem-solving as well as reasoning skills of the offspring of the participants in the study over 20 years later. Their goal was to detect a correlation between the women’s responses to the questionnaire, and the overall skill sets of their offspring later in life. The research group focused on a psychological measure called a “locus of control” (1).
A “locus of control” measures the extent to which one believes that events in their life are controlled by oneself or by an external force beyond their control (1). A person with an external locus of control is likely to think that there is little point in making an effort because luck and circumstances determine life events, such as succeeding in school or doing well on an exam, whereas, an individual with an internal locus of control would be motivated to play an active role in events in their life because they feel that they have control over these events. Researchers studied locus of control by looking at responses of pregnant women to the questionnaire given during the “Children of the 90s” study.
The researchers found that mothers who were shown to have an internal locus of control during pregnancy were more likely to have a child who performed successfully on the tests. In addition to this, mothers with an internal locus of control were likely to raise their children on a nutritious diet and demonstrated an increased interest in their child’s academic abilities.
This study demonstrates the benefits of the use of longitudinal data,, and in this case, emphasizes the influence of a mother’s positivity during her pregnancy. Further research may be conducted to find replication of this study internationally. Other studies were performed that demonstrated that encouraging an internal locus of control benefited children in the long-term.
- J. Golding, et. al., Maternal prenatal external locus of control and reduced mathematical and science abilities in their offspring: a longitudinal birth cohort study. Frontiers in Psychology 10, (2019). doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00194.
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