International Journal of Adolescence and Youth (2016-10-01)

‘Fitting in’ in high school: how adolescent belonging is influenced by locus of control beliefs

  • Jacqueline Schall,
  • Tanner LeBaron Wallace,
  • Vichet Chhuon

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 21, no. 4
pp. 462 – 475


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Social interactions in the high school context are the source material for more enduring perceptions of fitting in for adolescents. Prior research demonstrates that perceptions of belonging relate to school engagement and academic outcomes. This study extends theories of adolescent belonging in school to highlight how individual differences in locus of control exist across adolescents' with disparate levels of belonging. In-depth, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 34 adolescents. The methods of interpretive science were used to explore adolescent sense-making around navigating fitting in with peers. This analysis identified that adolescents' locus of control beliefs differed across levels of perceived belonging. Results provide evidence for both the need to account for individual differences in conceptualising adolescent belonging in school and the consideration of teaching practice and task structure when designing school-based interventions.