The Benefits of Believing in Chance or Fate: External Locus of Control as a Protective Factor for Coping with the Death of a Spouse
The death of a spouse is an extremely stressful life event that consequently causes a large drop in life satisfaction. Reactivity to the loss, however, varies markedly, a phenomenon that is currently not well understood. Because lack of controllability essentially contributes to the stressful nature of this incident, we analyzed whether individual differences in the belief in external control influence the coping process. To examine this issue, widowed individuals (N = 414) from a large-scaled panel study were followed for the 4 years before and after the loss by using a latent growth model. Results showed that belief in external control led to a considerably smaller decline in life satisfaction and higher scores in the year of the loss. Thus, although usually regarded as a risk factor, belief in external control acts as a protective factor for coping with the death of a spouse.
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