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Open Access Research article

Relationship between parental locus of control and caries experience in preschool children – cross-sectional survey

Erika Lenčová1*, Hynek Pikhart2, Zdeněk Broukal1 and Georgios Tsakos2

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Dental Research – 1st Faculty of Medicine of the Charles University and General Teaching Hospital, Prague, the Czech Republic

2 Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, London, UK

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BMC Public Health 2008, 8:208  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-8-208

Published: 12 June 2008



Due to high prevalence and serious impacts, childhood caries represents a public health issue. Behavioural risk factors such as locus of health control have been implicated in the development of the disease; however their association with childhood caries has not been thoroughly studied. The aim of this cross-sectional survey was to assess the relationship between parental locus of health control and caries experience and untreated caries of their preschool children in a representative sample in Czech Republic, adjusting for relevant sociodemographic characteristics.


A representative sample of 285 preschool children and their parents was recruited. Study data included children's dental status recorded in nurseries and parental questionnaires with 13 attitudinal items regarding locus of control (LoC) in caries prevention. The association between parental locus of control and children's caries experience and level of untreated caries was analysed using logistic regression, adjusting for the effect of key sociodemographic variables.


There was a statistically highly significant linear trend between increased parental LoC and higher probability of the children to be free from untreated caries, independent from the effect of sociodemographic variables of children and parents. A similar highly statistically significant trend, although not entirely linear, and independent from sociodemographic variables was observed with respect to the chance of the children to be free from caries experience with increasing strength of parental LoC. After full adjustment, children in the strongest parental LoC quintile were 2.81 (1.23–6.42, p< 0.05) times more likely to be free from untreated caries in comparison to the weakest parental LoC quintile and 2.32 (1.02–5.25, p< 0.05) times more likely to be free from caries experience in comparison to the weakest parental LoC quintile.


The findings support the hypothesis that higher internal parental LoC is associated with better control of both untreated caries and caries experience in their preschool children and highlight that a more internal LoC within the family is advantageous in the prevention of dental caries.