Working Paper

Natural disasters, home damage, and the eroding locus of control

Published: 2024

Natural disasters have demonstrably profound social and economic consequences on a global scale. As concerns over the increasing frequency and intensity of natural disasters escalate, research examining their psychological impacts has gained significant momentum. However, a critical gap exists in our understanding of how natural disasters influence individuals’ locus of control. Locus of control, defined as the belief in one’s ability to influence life outcomes, has been shown to be associated with various socio-economic outcomes and may play a crucial role in shaping coping mechanisms and resilience. Investigating how natural disasters impact individuals’ perception of control over their lives is vital for developing effective disaster preparedness and recovery strategies.

This study aims to address this gap by being the first to investigate the causal effects of natural disaster-induced home damage on locus of control. Utilizing Australian longitudinal data, we implement an individual fixed effects instrumental variables approach leveraging time-varying, exogenous exposure to local natural disasters to address confounding factors. Our findings provide compelling evidence: natural disaster-induced home damage significantly diminishes individuals’ perception of control, especially for those at the lower end of the locus of control distribution. The effect is disproportionately heightened for women, older individuals, wealthier households, those without prior insurance, urban or inland residents, and those in historically cyclone-free regions.

The results presented in this study have significant methodological and policy implications. Methodologically, our findings highlight the importance of adequately addressing the endogeneity of self-reported natural disaster-related home damage when quantifying its impacts on locus of control. This study also demonstrates the benefits of examining the effects of natural disaster exposure beyond the mean of the locus of control distribution. Our novel finding of the negative and substantial impacts of weather-related home damage on internal locus of control indicates that locus of control can be altered under specific conditions. From a policy perspective, this insight offers valuable guidance for developing effective policies and interventions to support affected populations, especially those disproportionately impacted by natural disasters.


Nguyen, H.T., & Mitrou, F. (2024). ‘Natural disasters, home damage, and the eroding locus of control’, Life Course Centre Working Paper Series, 2024-19. Institute for Social Science Research, The University of Queensland. DOI: 10.14264/4c0b8fe